One weekend into the Greenware US Gran Prix of Cyclocross, an interesting duel is shaping up at the top of the standings. Two riders are tied at 90 points apiece, two riders with different skills, two riders that want to win the overall, two riders that are teammates on the Cannondale prepared by Cyclocrossworld.com squad. On one side, savvy Johnson, the mudder, skilled on tight technical courses, on the other Powers with blazing fast starts, skilled on punchy fast courses and a predilection for bunny hopping barriers. Friends, teammates and USGP rivals Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers.
“It’s a great problem to have.” laughed USA National Cross Champion Johnson.
“It will be another battle royale.” Powers quipped.
Each rider solo’d to victory in one of the race and finished second in the other with Johnson taking over the jersey on tie-breaking rules.
In the Saturday race in Madison, Powers shot out to get the holeshot and just kept on going, quickly getting a gap and staying away. He led from start to finish while Johnson powered away from the chase group to take a solo flyer for second.
In the Sunday race, Powers once again had a fast start to get the holeshot but Johnson is the one that got away, three laps in, to solo to victory. Powers broke away from chase group to take second.
Is is a good problem to have? “I don’t think it’s so much fighting for it, we’ve been in this situation before. Like yesterday, it was perfect he truly just disappeared, it’s like awesome, I’m not going to chase him and I’m going to watch the other guys trying to pull it together. Today, no one had really attacked, Jeremy had put on a good pace, it was pretty strung out and Christian Heule came around us and then I hit him.” Johnson replied that that question on Sunday.
He added, “I guess it’s two ways, we’re not only battling against each other and also we’re not only working for each other, it’s just a cross race is a cross race is a cross race and it shakes out however it shakes out. Usually the first 20 minutes dictate how it’s going to to but if I came back in the middle of the race today, Jeremy has a great sprint and he’s obviously riding really well so he would have waxed those guys.”
After being able to wear the jersey only one day, Powers stated that he was not “disappointed at all” to relinquish it on Sunday. “There’s going to be a lot more racing to go and I’m actually happy that I was able to sneak away and get second. I’m just not one hundred percent yet and that’s the good news. Tim and I are at a pretty similar level and I think from here on out, we’ll just see how the rest of it goes, his form is coming up, my form is coming up so it will be another battle royale.”
Going for the overall. “I love having the jersey, this a dream come true for me. I have a lot of respect for the guys that are racing on the road, the guys that are racing time trials and whatever else they’re doing and then I can win on cyclocross. ” Powers said after putting the green leader’s jersey on Saturday.
To focus on the series, the 27-year old is skipping a trip to Europe. “I’m not going to the World Cup in the Czech Republic so I can try to focus on this. It’s important to us, it’s important to our sponsors.”
Powers is not concerned about being too hot so early in the cross season. “Naw, because I haven’t been doing any intervals yet so we’re really trying to focus on the latter part of the season when we’re flying and traveling a lot. Obviously Vegas took a little but out of me but with some sleep we’ll be back.”
One thing that did slow him down is a broken finger. “It’s getting better now. When I shake it now it doesn’t hurt. It’s weird, it apparently takes four weeks for them to heal but it’s still really swollen. It’s still super-swollen. I can only tape it a certain way and I can only shift with my ring finger and I can only brake with my pinkie and ring finger together. I had to scoot the seat forwards to be able to grab the bars, I’ve had to make some adjustment.”
Powers added with a smile, “It feathered up the form because I was actually going well after Green Mountain – shout out to Andy Bajadali on the feathering the form quote – but yeah I was just going a little too quick. I hadn’t done a lot but I was going a little too fast after Green Mountain so the broken finger was a blessing in disguise.”
Johnson would also love to win the series but this year has modified his schedule with a long-term focus of the World Cross Championships in 2013 to be held in Louisville, KY.
“The USPG is always a goal because it’s our biggest series, it’s our best grouping of races, they put on the biggest show. I’d love to win it, I’ve only ever won it once and I’ve been second five times I think so it’s always on my list but this year I’m trying to expand a little bit, myself and the guys are going to Europe to do a few more World Cups in hopes of broadening our horizons a little bit. Hopefully not at the cost of a USGP overall because that’s not what we want, we don’t want to give up something to gain, we want to try and spread it out a little more and luckily with Cannondale support this year we have the ability to got hit those things. “ Johnson elaborated.
The 33-year old continued, “There is no such thing as a world-wide series, we don’t have that, it used to be the mountain bike world cup, the Grundig; go do the Grundig, it costs a lot of money and you get to do it. So for cross we don’t really have that so we’re trying to get a little look at some of the other races, one of the world cup is Koksijde which is the Worlds next year, hopefully by the time we get to Louisville we’re riding at a higher level.”
Competitors. “Of course there are other competitors. We show up at Gloucester, Providence, Ohio or Louisville, there’s always somebody going to try and win it, that’s what makes racing racing.” said Johnson.
The series is not over, not by a long shot. Swiss Christian Heule (Champion System) sits in 3rd overall but has returned to Europe to continue his season. USGP’s defending champion Ryan Trebon (Kona) had an off weekend with muscle spasms but can be counted to come back strong. Trebon sits in 14th overall with 14 points. Todd Wells (Specialized) is in 4th spot with 47 points.
“I hope Ryan comes back and I think he can drop two races, it would be good to see him come back.” Powers said.
But the battle, friendly but battle none-the-less, between teammates will continue with 6 more races over 3 weekends. Next up is Derby City Cup in Louisville on October 23 & 24, followed by New Belgium Cup in Fort Collins, CO on November 13 & 14. The series concludes with the Stanley Portland Cup in Portland OR on December 4 & 5.
“I’m good in Portland and Tim is better at altitude, it’s going to be interesting.” concluded Powers.