Where did the season go? Here we are on the eve of the last big weekend of racing this season, the finale of the Exergy US Gran Prix of Cyclocross in Bend, Oregon. So much has happened since our last Impressions: Ryan Trebon (LTS/Felt) crashed violently on the second day in Louisville which forced him off his bike until January, Jeremy Powers (Rapha Focus) showed that he was the best in early November by racing himself into the USGP leader’s jersey after sweeping the Louisville races. Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) finally won a race, and then another one. The period also saw victories by Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com) and Ben Berden (Ops Ale-Stoemper), and a surging Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus) who had amazing comebacks in the JingleCross races.
However, the top of the top of the Elite men have not faced each since USGP Derby City Cup. Powers went to Belgium, to test himself on the 2012 Worlds course at the Koksijde World Cup and then he took a break from racing to focus on resting and re-building for the season finale. While the others stayed and raced in the USA. Is Powers still carrying that top form which was a step above (almost everyone) for two months? Will Johnson be able to carry his momentum and fitness for a third weekend in a row? Can Justin Lindine (BikeReg.com / Joe’s Garage) breakthrough at a USGP race?
Striking disaster, the overall USGP is pretty much in Powers’ pocket, so this weekend is all about the wins, especially Saturday’s C1 race. Given this season the favorite going in has to be Powers with Johnson a close second. The battle for the win should also include Berden, Jones and Canadian Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) on his final cross weekend of racing. The conditions, so different than previous years in Bend where mud and snow favored Johnson, are quite different this year – dry, sunny and cold are in the forecast which equalizes the playing field. Of course, others such as Troy Wells (Clif Bar), Allen Krughoff (Boulder Cycle Sports), Tristan Schouten (cyclocrossracing.com), Christian Heule (Cannondale cyclocrossworld.com) will be vying to get on the podium.
The race within the race, the fight for the U23 USGP overall win will be a heated affair with only six points separating leader Yannick Eckmann (Pearl Izumi) and Zach McDonald (Rapha Focus). The two, along with Cody Kaiser (CalGiant) have been fighting it off all year, and all three have had great showings in the elite races this past month. Overall winner of the Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series presented by Verge U23 rider Luke Keough (Champion System/Keough Cyclocross), who had an amazing year both on the road and in cross, will not be in Bend after deciding to hang up the cross bike.
Katerina Nash (Luna) who has a commanding lead, is the favorite for the Elite women even though she hasn’t been racing in the USA since then, but the fight for the remainder of the podium spots will be heated. Meredith Miller (CalGiant) has been on a roll, taking four wins in the last month, and more importantly showing composure and focus to recover from bobbles to go for the win. Her power on this dry course gives her the advantage especially given that she finished on the podium the past two Nationals on a very similar course. U23 rider Kaitie Antonneau (cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com) pulled off a strong third at Cincy3 making her a podium contender for this weekend. She should be in a fight with Oregon resident Sue Butler (River City Bicycles), Julie Krasniak (Rapha-Focus), Teal Stetson-Lee (CalGiant) and Andrea Smith (LadiesFirst Racing) should also be up there in the final split. Smith is coming off a very strong weekend at NBX, sweeping the final weekend of the Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series. Also, watch Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt) who is on the cusp on a breakthrough.
Seven-time and reigning USA Cyclocross National Champion Katie Compton (Rabobank Giant) stayed in Europe to continue to train after the Koksijde World Cup. In order to minimize travel, Compton will not return to the US until the holidays and then Nationals. She is doing all she can to focus on her very clear goal, win the goal at 2012 World Championships. Also, after a disappointing run of races, Georgia Gould (Luna) pulled the plug on her cross season. For her, it’s all about the 2012 London Olympic Games.
A small but powerful field of the Junior 17/18 will be interesting to watch. Drew Dillman (Bob’s Red Mill) took commanding solo wins at USGP Louisville making him the favorite going in. USGP leader Zane Godby (Clif Bar) has a commanding lead and can focus on trying to beat Dillman.
Follow @podium_live for all the actions this weekend.