US Gran Prix of Cyclocross series heads for Bend finale

The possibility of wet weather, typically enthusiastic Bend crowds and a championship-caliber course should provide plenty of excitement during the final round of the 2012 Trek US Gran Prix of Cyclocross (USGP) Dec. 8 and 9 in Central Oregon, but the series finalè will have to get along without its current Elite men's and women's leaders.

Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) and Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) will skip the final two races of the USGP, choosing instead to focus on their European campaigns and defending their stars-and-stripes jerseys in the run up to February's world championships in Kentucky. Powers has already clinched his third consecutive overall USGP win, while Compton's decision to miss the final weekend could cost her the women's series crown.

Weather in Central Oregon leading up to this weekend has been cold and wet, which could turn the 2010 and 2011 national championships course on the grounds of the Deschutes Brewery into a muddy, technical challenge featuring off-camber grass, lots of tight turns and a fair share of rocks. Current forecasts call for high temperatures in the mid-to-low 40s, with a slight chance of rain each day. Previous forecasts for overnight temperatures in the teens have been revised to reflect early morning temperatures hovering around the 30s. The setting should provide a good rehearsal for the national championships in Wisconsin next month.

Gould has shot at overall, Nash favorite for final races

Compton has been perfect so far this year at the USGP, piling up six consecutive wins over the three previous weekends. But with the current UCI World Cup leader hanging in Europe, her series lead could fall to current runner-up Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team), the only rider who has a chance to overtake Compton.

The final overall standings are based on all eight races, and Gould, who was runner-up to Compton in each of the first four races and ran third during the last two in Louisville, trails Compton by just 72 points. She can win the 2012 series by finishing at least second and third in the final two races this weekend. Gould missed both Bend USGP races last year but is familiar with the course after having raced it during the 2010 nationals.

"It's a good mix of power sections with some technical short little uphills," Gould said while en route from Colorado to Bend on Thursday. "You have to decide whether to run them or ride them. There's a little bit of everything, which is what I think makes a good 'cross course. Obviously, if it's a muddy mess, that sort of favors people with better handling skills, but beyond that I wouldn't say the course favors anyone over anyone else."

Gould's biggest competition this weekend will likely come from teammate Katerina Nash. Although Nash missed the first four races of the series and is out of the overall running, the 2011 USGP champion is a favorite for the top podium spots this weekend. The Czech national won both races in Bend last year and recently finished second to Compton both days of the Derby City Cup in Louisville, her only other USGP appearance this year. Nash also won both UCI races last weekend in Los Angeles, finishing ahead of Meredith Miller (Cal Giant-Specialized) on Saturday night and Rapha-Focus rider Julie Krasniak the following day.

Krasniak and Miller are just two of the riders the Luna teammates will need to fight for this weekend's podium spots. Krasniak is third overall in the series, 62 points behind Gould. Luna's Teal Stetson-Lee is in fourth, 94 points behind her teammate Gould. Pepper Harlton (Juventus Cycling Team) is fifth, another 16 points behind Lee, while Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld) is sixth, four more points in arrears.

Other podium contenders to keep an eye on include Canadian champion Mical Dyck (Stan's NoTubes), Nicole Duke (Alchemy Bicycle Company), Caroline Mani (Raleigh-Clement) and Oregon local Jade Wilcoxson (Optum Pro Cycling), a neo-pro on the road this year who is trying her hand at 'cross and has already notched several UCI podium results. Wilcoxson won both days of the local Cross Crusade series on the same course back in October.

With the overall podium spots still in play and Worlds team selections on the line, the women's start list for Saturday and Sunday should provide more than enough contenders to incite a furious battle for the podiums. Gould expects everyone to come out swinging while Compton is sitting out.

"Katerina is not messing around, and neither are any of the other top handful of women," Gould said. "Whether it's Teal or Nicole or Caroline or all of those chicks who have super strong starts, I don't expect that anyone's going to be lollygagging around at the beginning, the middle or at the end. There are a lot of motivated people trying to get those few remaining spots for Worlds."

Powers has series wrapped up, Trebon hopes for hometown win

Powers, the two-time defending champion, has been in a league of his own throughout the 2012 series. He's won five of the six races so far, finishing third during the second day of the opening round in Madison, Wisconsin. With the series win in Powers' pocket, the battle this weekend will be for the remaining podium places.

Two-time national champion Ryan Trebon ( trails Powers by 101 points and sits second overall. Even if Trebon wins both races this weekend, he can only pull within one point of Powers. The two-time national champion from Bend got off to a slow start at the USGP this year, finishing a disappointing sixth at the series opener. He has come back strong since then, challenging Powers in each race and coming second three times, but his inconsistency has cost him. He finished 11th during the second day in Colorado and was fourth at the most recent race in Louisville.

Trebon will likely find extra motivation to bring home a win in front of his hometown crowd after having missed both days last year at the inaugural Deschutes Brewery Cup. He was second both years when the national championships were held on the same course in 2009 and 2010.

Trebon holds a slim eight-point lead for second over Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement) and leads teammate Tim Johnson by 31. Each of those riders has finished second to Powers once so far during the series. Johnson won the second race last weekend at the UCI event in Los Angeles, where Trebon was runner-up both days. Their teammate Jamey Driscoll won the opening race in L.A.

Rapha-Focus rider Chris Jones sits fifth overall in the series, 39 points behind Trebon, while Danny Summerhill (Chipotle-First Solar) is another 38 points back. Jones and Summerhill will be road teammates next year on the UnitedHealthcare Pro Continental team, which is having its first training camp this weekend in Arizona. Summerhill told Cyclingnews he and Jones "got a hall pass" to show up late for the camp, and will fly from Bend to Arizona first thing Monday morning.

Other riders to watch include recently crowned Canadian national champion Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox Racing), Driscoll and Bend local Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant), who won a singlespeed championship on the same course in 2011.

Three-time national champion Todd Wells (Specialized), who started his 'cross season relatively late after a long Olympic year on the mountain bike, will make his first USGP appearance this season and will be hoping to put in a bid for a spot on the world championship team in February. Lukas Flukiger (Trek World Racing), the only rider besides Powers to win a series race this season, has been competing in Europe and has not raced the USGP since the first weekend in Wisconsin

2012 USGP overall standings after six rounds

Elite Women
1. Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) 300
2. Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) 228
3. Julie Krasniak (Rapha-Focus) 166
4. Teal Stetson-Lee (Luna Pro Team) 134
5. Pepper Harlton (Juventus Cycling) 118

Elite Men
1. Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) 284
2. Ryan Trebon (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld) 183
3. Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld) 175
4. Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement) 152
5. Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus) 144

U23 Men
1. Yannick Eckmann (Cal Giant-Specialized) 260
2. Evan McNeely (Specialized-Canada) 217
3. Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus) 150
4. Cody Kaiser (Cal Giant-Specialized) 147
5. Tobin Ortenblad (Cal Giant-Specialized) 128

Junior Men 17-18
1. Maxx Chance (Clif Bar Junior Development) 144
2. Tyler Schwartz (SDG-Felt) 138
3. David Lombardo (Verdigris-Village CX) 111
4. Ian McPherson (Boulder Junior Cycling) 107
5. Logan Owen (Redline) 100

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