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US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross kicks off at Planet Bike Cup

Jeremy Powers (Team Rapha-Focus) racing with the lead group.

Jeremy Powers (Team Rapha-Focus) racing with the lead group. (Image credit: Dave McElwaine/

The Exergy Cyclo-cross US Gran Prix p/b Greenware (USGP) series will begin this weekend at the Planet Bike Cup held on September 25 and 26 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Event organizers have committed to offering equal prize money for the top five places of the men and women elite categories where defending overall champions Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) and Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) are expected to participate.

Planet Bike Cup will open with a C1 event on Saturday and will follow with a C2 event on Sunday. Former teammates Powers and Tim Johnson (Cannondale p/b won the respective events last year. On the women’s side, US National Champion Katie Compton (Rabobank Giant Offroad Team) won back-to-back events, however, she will not be in attendance this year and will instead start her season at the second weekend of USGP racing in Fort Collins.

The USGP series will continue at the New Belgium Cup on October 8 and 9 in Fort Collins, Colorado. Last year, Johnson and Powers went on to secure a second win each while Gould pulled off her first set of double victories.

"We have great partnerships in these communities," said promoter Joan Hanscom. Great local volunteerism. Fun venues. I think the racers who come to the USGP really enjoy the courses and the race day experience. An enthusiastic community goes a long way towards making the events fun for everyone, so we are looking forward to more great racing everywhere this season. I mean beer service on golf carts in Sun Prairie and New Belgium Brewing bringing the "fun" element in Fort Collins. What's not to love."

The penultimate weekend of racing will take place at the Derby City Cup on November 12 and 13 in Louisville, Kentucky. Last year, Canadian Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain-Maxxis) pulled off the win on the opening day and Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) won the women’s race. On day two, it was Johnson and Compton who secured their third series wins each. The venue will provide the perfect test run for the upcoming 2012 Masters and 2013 Masters and Elite UCI World Cyclo-cross Championships.

"After a really wet and flooded spring, the venue is looking really good right now," Hanscom said. The grass that was absent last year because of a record draught has grown in with a vengeance and it's looking pretty lush down there. I've spoken about the need for strong local community support, and certainly we have that here in Louisville. Metro Parks has done great work on that venue. The course will likely not be exactly the same for USGP and Masters worlds but will surely be very close. With the USGP we have to be cognizant of creating a course that is ridable for the little juniors and challenging for the top pros. I think we will see a bit more technical course for Masters worlds, but very close to the USGP."

"The course in Louisville benefits from a lot of natural features including some challenging run ups and hillsides, a bunch of opportunities for challenging off-camber on the hillside, natural sand dunes," she said.

"Some interesting whoop-dee like bumps, a pretty long sandpit and some technical riding through the woods and down along the river. It's a big venue with areas for some wide open, pure power riding. The comment we heard the most last year was that the venue was challenging naturally. It didn't rely on man-made 180 degree turns to add technical riding. It was all there naturally. Hopefully we’ve tweaked and refined that even more this season."

The series will conclude at the Deschutes Brewery Cup on December 10 and 11 in Bend, Oregon, the former site of the national championships. Last year’s Elite national titles went to Compton and Todd Wells (Specialized Racing). However, the final USGP series has traditionally been held in Portland, where last year, Powers and Nash swept the final round.

"We are really excited about the move to Bend," Hansom said. "It's a great community for sports and they have tremendous enthusiasm for our events.

"At the USGP we have consistently sought to race in venues and communities where the local community wanted us. VisitBend is a great organization who has made the transition to Bend very easy and who really wanted to be a partner with the event. It's great when you have that type of support.

"The venue is super, downtown, and in the heart of "stuff" to do such as shopping and dining. Deschutes Brewing is also on board and so we should see some good fun off the bike too. Feedback from our other sponsors has been positive too."

"We will largely run on the same course as nationals was," she said. It's a tested venue at the UCI level, which is what enabled us to change from Portland to Bend and retain our C1 status. We may make a couple of changes but you'll largely see the same features with stairs, fly-over and surely lots of mud."