One month into the cross season and on the eve the second weekend of both the Exergy US Gran Prix of Cyclocross (USGP) and Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series presented by Verge (NEPCX), it’s time to go over what happened and what didn’t happen.
First, the facts. A total of 14 UCI races over 28 days in nine states were held since Nittany Lion Cross on September 10th, 2011. Two women dominated with Helen Wyman (KONA/FSA) and Katerina Nash (Luna) each winning every race they started though the two never raced against each other, with Wyman choosing to stay on the East Coast and Nash taking CrossVegas & the USGP opening weekend. While no rider dominated in the elite men’s race, ten of the races were won by European riders who have returned to Europe, well all but one.
The early season showed two distinct racing circuits in the US, with many riders rarely switching from one to the other and therefore not competing head to head. One on side, the USGP races with CrossVegas and the other side, the New England and Mid-Atlantic races with only a few overlaps. Belgium superstar Bart Wellens and his Telenet-Fidea teammate Rob Peeters came over to check out the racing, and left with three wins, the USGP leader’s jersey, and new found respect for the North American racers.
The big talk of course has been the “CrossClash” between Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) and former teammate Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com). Let’s be honest, so far most of the clash has been hype through twitter and the event at Interbike until the second day of the Great Bewers Gran Prix of Gloucester when the two went head to head after Powers chased Johnson down and then went on to claim victory. Coming off from a strong end to his road season, Powers showed good form in the early races with his trademark fast starts and his three wins propelled him to the top of the USA Cycling Cross Standings. Two things got my attention regarding Powers this year, first he’s racing and traveling a lot maybe more than any of the other top riders and second, he’s willing to risk to go for the win as shown by his bunny hopping the barriers at the first USGP race. But so far however, that C1 win is still eluding Powers.
Johnson said that he would have a slow start this year after not racing a full road season for the first time since, well, ever. His goal is very clear, to peak later this season and it’s too early to tell if his plan is working or not.
A new team for Ryan Trebon (LTS/Felt) seems to have brought the Trebon of old. His focus and determination is showing again when he speaks and when he races, pushing the pace at the USGP weekend opener to take the win.
The change in teams also brought a new collaboration between Powers and Trebon to fight against the European armada and the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com trio. It will be interesting to watch how far that goes.
With Wyman not back in Belgium, the USGP crown seems to be a match up between Luna teammates Nash and Georgia Gould with Nash having the edge right now. The two will go head to head once again this weekend at USGP New Belgium Cup but will have to deal with US Cross Champion Katie Compton (Rabobank) who will take the start, a rare one for her this year in the US.
The door is wide open for the NEPCX with Wyman now back racing in Belgium.
Of course, there are other riders and the next month of racing should be interesting to show who’s coming into form as the racing only intensifies starting with this weekend’s races, which include conflicting C1s. On the East Coast in warm sunny conditions, the Providence Cyclocross, second weekend of NEPCX and in cold, windy, rainy, snowy Ft Collins, New Belgium Cup, second weekend of USGP.
Next week, we’ll look at the other riders including the U23s coming up.