After two weekends of action, the USA Cycling Professional Cyclo-cross Calendar grabs another gear Wednesday night with the first of six UCI Category 1 races on the 45-race schedule. The Clif Bar CrossVegas race under the bright lights of Nevada's Sin City will pit the top US riders against some of the world's best, including two-time and current world champion Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony).
With the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross (USGP) folding up its tent after last season, the USA Cycling Pro CX Calendar has stepped up as the premiere national series, offering a $40,000 prize purse that will be split at the end of the season between the top 20 riders in each of the men's and women's standings. The calendar, which runs through January 5, has at least one event in 19 different states around the country. The UCI C1 events offer triple points for the competitors.
After nine seasons of USGP-spurred momentum that culminated with the first-ever US cyclo-cross world championships last year in Louisville, Kentucky, many saw the national series' demise as a bad omen for 'cross in the states, but two-time US champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) wrote recently that he believes US cyclo-cross is better than ever.
"In a post USGP year, I feel cyclo-cross in the USA is in a better place then we've ever been," Powers wrote last week on his blog. "By the USGP falling away, it puts the independent organizers back in prime time and if one event falls away moving forward, our entire USA ‘calendar' isn't gone. … I see USAC's commitment to CX very clearly here, and I'm excited to try and win that Pro CX title this season."
But if Powers wants to take home the lion's share of that $40,000 purse, he'll need to get by current men's leader Todd Wells (Specialized), who took the early series lead with back-to-back wins at the Nittany Lion Cross races in Pennsylvania. Wells currently leads Stephen Hyde (JAM Fund-NCC) by 11 points and Justin Lindine (Redline) by 24.
Former national champions Powers, Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) and his teammate, Ryan Trebon, are also in the hunt. Johnson took first and second at the Green Mountain races last weekend in Vermont, while Powers won StarCrossed in Seattle ahead of Trebon, Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement) and reigning US champion Jonathan Page (Fuji-Spy).
Gabby Day (Rapha-Focus) currently leads the women's standings with consistent performances, including a win at StarCrossed and second at Nittany Lion. C3-Twenty20's Arley Kemmerer trails Day by 13 points. Kona's Helen Wyman, winner of both days at the Green Mountain races, is 18 back.
Euro stars fill CrossVegas field
Any men hoping to pad their points this week in Las Vegas will have to overcome an all-star field led by Nys, who also brought teammate Sven Vanthourenhout along for the ride. Fellow Belgian stars Bart Wellens, Wout van Aert and Quinten Hermans of the Telenet-Fidea team are also in Vegas, along with Luxembourg's Christian Helmig (Trisport-Echternach).
Wells, Powers, Trebon, Johnson and Page will all toe the start line as well, along with Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus) and Canadian Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox racing). K-Edge/Felt's Danny Summerhill, the 2009 and 2010 U23 US champion and Junior silver medalist at the 2007 'cross world championships, will be in Vegas, as will Cal Giant-Specialized's Eckmann brothers, Yannick and Robin.
The US women will face the usual foreign suspects on the domestic circuit. Czech champion Katerina Nash will line up with the Luna Pro Team. Day will be on hand to defend her lead, with Raleigh-Clement's Caroline Mani also hoping to get in on the triple-points. Argentina's Carolina Gomez Villafane will round out the non-North American riders.
Although eight-time US champion Katie Compton won't be in Vegas, the US will have strong representation with Georgia Gould (Luna) and Amy Dombroski (Telenet-Fidea), who will be making her first appearance in the US this year. Other contenders include last year's CrossVegas runner-up Lea Davison (Specialized), Optum Pro Cycling's Crystal Anthony, as well as Meredith Miller (Cal Giant), Nicole Duke (Marin-Spy), and Laura Van Gilder (Van Dessel).
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