Horner set to race U.S. Gran Prix finale

With East Coast weather getting more ‘cross like with each passing day - think rain, cold, and wind - racers in the coming weekend's finals of the 2005 Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross will revel in the sun bathed tradition of West Coast cyclocross in San Francisco's Bay Area. Saturday's Surf City Cyclocross, at the Watsonville Fairgrounds outside Santa Cruz , and Sunday's Clark Natwick Grand Prix, in San Francisco 's Golden Gate Park , will close out the second edition of North America 's only coast-to-coast national cyclocross series.

Top U.S. pro road racer Chris Horner (Saunier Duval-Prodir) is scheduled to make his major ‘cross debut in Santa Cruz Elite Men's race, hitting the challenging course to see if his legs and skills are up to those of U.S. Gran Prix strongmen Tim Johnson (Cyclocrossworld.com-Louis Garneau), Mark McCormack (Team Clif Bar) and Barry Wicks (Kona). On the women's side, the pink and purple armada of Northern California 's own Velo Bella squad, six-women strong, will try to use the homecourse advantage to unseat Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com-Louis Garneau), winner of the opening four rounds of the U.S. Gran Prix.

The Santa Cruz Surf City Cyclocross Series started 30 years ago, with the Watsonville Fairgrounds as one of the standard bearers for the region's “jungle ‘cross” tradition. But 2005 and the arrival of the U.S. Gran Prix to Watsonville marks the first UCI Cat 1 race in the series' history. No Santa Cruz ‘cross race would be complete without a theme and this year's falls into the surf lifestyle Surf/Tiki realm. A Kiddie Kross 12-and-under race will also highlight the day on a purpose built mini ‘cross course for the next generation of ‘cross champions.

Inspired by the energy and trailblazing of NorCal's own godfather of cyclocross, Sunday's Clark Natwick Grand Prix, will close out the 2005 U.S. Gran Prix on the legendary Polo Grounds of San Francisco's world renowned Golden Gate Park . The fast, technical course promises racing that remains faithful to the tradition of Clark Natwick's legacy in the sport: American riders daring to take cyclocross seriously. With U.S. Gran Prix Series leader Ryan Trebon (Kona) missing the final weekend due to his European racing schedule, the final day in San Francisco could see any one of several Elite Men pulling on the overall champion's white jersey. Tacoma winner, McCormack, and Gloucester winner, Johnson, lead the list of candidates for the U.S. Gran prix title coming out of Golden Gate Park .

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