With five UCI races on tap, all eyes were focused on Ohio and Rhode Island this past weekend. The 3-day Cincinnati International Cross Festival offered three UCI races, including a C1 race on Sunday. Meanwhile, the New England crowd headed to Providence for a pair of UCI races in Roger Williams Park. The weekend’s biggest news might have been the split of the Cyclocrossworld.com team—Jeremy Powers went to Cincinnati, while Tim Johnson and Jamey Driscoll went to Providence.
Jeremy Powers was the odds-on favorite to win the Cincinnati Cross Festival as he has won all three races for the past two years. However, right from the start, this year appeared to be a bit different. Lacking his usual team support, Powers was unable to overcome strong rides by Ryan Trebon and Barry Wicks on Friday. Powers jumped-out early but Wicks and Trebon bridged across. In a reversal of roles, Powers became the victim of the Kona riders’ team tactics as Trebon escaped, leaving Powers to chase with Wicks. Wicks soon shed Powers as well, giving the Kona riders the top two spots on the day.
Vowing revenge, Powers went into Saturday’s race expecting to pick-up the victory. However, in a continued reversal of roles, Powers found himself chasing from the gun. Trebon launched a vicious early attack, but would fade as Powers joined him. A last lap move separated the two riders, with Powers coming out on top. Trebon rolled across the line second and Tristan Schouten soloed-in for third.
With the battle tied at one race apiece, Sunday’s finale was all about Trebon and Powers—and the two did not disappoint. Showing signs of fatigue, the two riders hit it hard from the gun, but failed to drop Geoff Kabush and Chris Jones. Eventually, the duo dropped the rest of the leaders, battling it out mano-e-mano. On the final lap, Powers was able to get a small gap and hold it to the line, with Trebon coming-in second. Chris Jones rounded-out the podium in third.
Proving that they’re the best team in the country, Tim Johnson matched Powers with a pair of victories with two of his own in Providence, RI. As Johnson toed the line on Saturday, all expectations were that the National Champion would ride away from everyone else. By the second lap, everything was going according to plan as Johnson soloed away from the rest of the field. However, Johnson’s teammate, Jamey Driscoll, wasn’t going to settle for second. He embarked on one of the most impressive individual rides in recent memory, finally making contact inside the last half-lap. The duo hit the line for a surprising photo finish, with Johnson edging-out Driscoll by half a wheel. Luca Damiani (who wowed the crowd by bunny hopping the barriers) finished the podium in third.
After Saturday’s excitement, everyone expected another great Cyclocrossworld.com showdown between Johnson and Driscoll on Sunday. But Driscoll skipped Sunday’s race for some schoolwork, leaving all eyes on Johnson. On the first lap, a large lead group formed containing Johnson, Damiani, Nick Weighall, and Saturday’s top U23 rider, Valentin Scherz. Johnson attacked the group at the start of the second lap and never looked back. Damiani and Scherz went head-to-head for second on the day, with Damiani coming-out on top due to a mishap that briefly left Scherz on the ground. Luckily, Scherz battled back to take the final spot on the podium.
It was a whirlwind weekend filled with great battles and spectacular races. After winning 4 of 5 races, it’s easy to see why Team Cyclocrossworld.com is in control of the domestic cross scene right now. That said, Ryan Trebon finally picked-up a UCI victory and seemed to reveal some cracks in Powers’. So where will everyone fall in this week’s Power Ranking? Time to find out:
Domestic Power Rankings – Week #4
1. Tim Johnson (1) – With a pair of stellar victories, Johnson remains the #1 rider in the US this week. At this point, I’m not sure there’s anybody (domestically) who can beat him and the fact that he rode solo virtually all weekend speaks volumes about his fitness and skills. Johnson’s heading to Europe this weekend for the World Cup in Switzerland, it will be interesting to see how he does.
2. Jeremy Powers (2) – Powers’ Ohio win streak ended Friday, but he rebounded in impressive fashion to take wins Saturday and Sunday. Unlike Johnson though, Powers doesn’t seem to dominate without the support of his team. I have confidence that Powers can win on any given day, but I would like to see him dominate more races without teammates.
3. Ryan Trebon (3) – Friday’s victory was the first for the Oregon rider this season. He ended-up second on Saturday and Sunday, but was in contention for the victory both days. Trebon has been all over the podium this year and has consistently put in solid rides. If anybody can break Cyclocrossworld.com’s domination, Trebon’s the one.
4. Jamey Driscoll (4) – While I’m not going to slight getting an education, it appears that schoolwork got in the way of a truly great weekend for Driscoll. In fact, his performance Saturday was so remarkable, that I considered bumping him up a notch in the rankings—even though I still think he lags behind the first three riders on this list. Driscoll is young and his time will come. For now, he’s just super exciting to watch.
5. Luca Damiani (9) – Damiani reminded me why I first put him in the rankings this weekend with a pair of podium finishes. I’m not sure he would have been able to beat Scherz on Sunday if it weren’t for that mishap, but that’s cross. He still needs to pick-up a big win this season—it might come sooner then expected.
6. Valentin Scherz (7) – Scherz stepped-up his game last weekend in Gloucester and continued that success this weekend. I honestly thought he would take the victory in Providence if Johnson had a mishap or a bad day. Scherz finished fourth on Saturday and third on Sunday, the top U23 finisher both days. It appears a victory for Scherz is right around the corner.
7. Tristan Schouten (6) – Schouten moves up a spot this week after two very impressive rides in Ohio. He finished third on Saturday and seventh on Sunday. However, I still consider him chase group fodder. CX is all about progression and I think if Schouten can land on the podium at some major races that would be a huge step forward.
8. Geoff Kabush – The “Maple Leaf Man” finally makes it into the Power Rankings this week three fourth-place finishes in Ohio. He’ll most likely return to Canada for a pair of UCI races in Toronto this weekend. If he does, he’s the odds-on favorite for victory.
9. Davide Frattini (5) – After an impressive start to the season, Frattini took a well-deserved weekend off. He’s now in Canada and will most likely race in Toronto, where he could very well pick-up another UCI victory.
10. Todd Wells (10) – No word on where Wells is headed this weekend, but it will be interesting to see how he does after taking a few weeks off. I’m keeping him at #10 because I still think he’s one of the ten best riders in the country. But it’s time for him to get back to racing.
Dropped this week: Justin Lindine (8).
All eyes will be focused on Wilmington, Delaware and Toronto, Ontario this weekend as both venues feature a pair of UCI C2 races. The Toronto races are a largely all-Canadian affair, except for a few years ago when they were part of the NACT. As I mentioned, Davide Frattini is in Canada and should be racing in Toronto. The other two favorites for victory are Geoff Kabush and Derrick St. John.
The Granogue cross race features a pair of firsts for the “Queen of the MAC.” First, Granogue moves to two-days this year; it will be interesting to see what course configurations they use. Second, Granogue is one of two races in the US to offer UCI Junior races making the event a huge opportunity for the best juniors in the country to pick-up UCI points ahead of Nationals and any potential European trips. Ryan Trebon has owned Granogue in past years and will be the favorite for victory. Current MAC leader Valetin Scherz had a break-out race at Granogue last year though, and is still looking for his first UCI victory this season.
All in all, it promises to be an exciting weekend in North America. I will be at Granogue both days, so if you’re around be sure to say hello.
Lastly, I think it’s time for a primer on UCI categories and points—I’m writing a special column this week to explain how it all works. I’ll also be explaining why Johnson, Driscoll, Powers and Adam Craig are all heading to Europe this weekend. (Trust me, it’s not what you think.) Be sure to check it out.
Share your comments below—who are your picks for the weekend?