All of the top domestic cross racers were back in the States this weekend, with the bulk of nation’s best heading to Rounds Three and Four of the USGP as Louisville, Kentucky—home to the 2013 World Championships—played host to two hot and exciting days of racing. As has become the norm in the US this season, the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com team dominated with Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers swapping first and third-places, sandwiching Ryan Trebon as the runner-up both days.
Saturday’s race started fast and hectic thanks to an early crash that knocked several riders out of contention. Valentin Scherz took the hole-shot over the likes of Trebon, Powers, and Johnson. Eventually, Trebon took over the pace-making and, along with Powers, established a small lead by the end of the first few laps. Johnson soon made his way across the gap to join the duo and shortly thereafter, Trebon put in a few attacks, shedding Powers. The race stayed this way until four laps-to-go when Johnson opened a 5-second gap through the sand pit and held it to the line.
Behind Johnson and Trebon, nearly half a dozen riders made a bid for the third spot on the podium. Eventually, Powers was joined by Todd Wells, Jesse Anthony, and Tristan Schouten. In the end, Powers held-on for third finishing 1:19 behind Johnson. Wells was fourth, with Schouten coming across the line in fifth. Early race leader Valentin Scherz suffered a bit under the intense heat (around 80 degrees) and dropped-out of the race along with a handful of others. In fact, it was so hot, Johnson elected to start with a water bottle on his bike, something virtually unseen in cyclocross.
Heading into Day Two, it was clear that the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com guys had Trebon and Co.’s number. The riders were greeted with a more technical—and longer—course that once again saw Scherz set the early pace. Eventually, the Swiss ride would drop-off the pace as Johnson, Powers, Trebon, and Chris Jones the lead group. Much like Saturday, Trebon put in some significant efforts in an attempt to shed at least one of the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com riders; his efforts paid-off, as Jones and Johnson were dropped.
With four laps to go, Powers finally pulled-away from Trebon thanks to some great technical riding and his ability to bunny-hop the barriers. Trebon immediately started to lose large amounts of time (he blamed the heat), but held-on for second. Behind, Tim Johnson rode a consistent, but hard pace to lock-up third. Unfortunately, a crash on Lap 6, left Jones in a rather large chase group containing Davide Frattini, Wells and Schouten. Wells again came across the line in fourth, while Schouten held-on for fifth.
Most eyes might have been focused on Louisville this past weekend, but the NECCS featured a pair of UCI Category 2 races in New Gloucester, Maine as some of the Northeast’s best gathered for an all-out battle for control of the NECCS leader’s jersey. On Saturday, pre-race favorite Justin Lindine suffered from an early crash and mechanical. He launched and impressive chase, reeling-in all but one rider: Dylan McNicholas, who picked-up his first UCI victory in the process. Behind McNicholas and Lindine, Christian Favata, Josh Dillon, and Peter Bradshaw rounded-out the podium.
Sunday’s Round Four came down to a three-up bunch sprint between Lindine, Adam Myerson, and McNicholas. The three leaders quickly escaped from the rest of the field, but were unable to shed each other. In the end, Myerson won the sprint, taking his first ever UCI victory. McNicholas was second and Lindine was third. Nick Keough came across the line fourth, while Josh Dillion rounded-out the podium in fifth.
All in all, it was another great weekend of domestic cross racing. The USGP is currently locked in a virtual tie between Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers. Meanwhile, Dylan McNicholas put his name into the running for a NECCS overall. Where has everyone ended-up in this week’s Power Rankings? Time to find out:
US Power Rankings – Week 7
1. Jeremy Powers (2) – Powers moves up one spot this week. His impressive ride last weekend in the Aigle World Cup combined with his great rides in Kentucky move him ahead of Tim Johnson. I often go back and forth on who’s truly better, but in this case it comes down to style. Powers is always active and aggressive. While he may not win every race, but he throws everything he has at it. And even when he fades, he still does well.
2. Tim Johnson (1) – As I said, it’s a tough call to choose between Powers and Johnson. At this point in the season, I think head-to-head Powers has a leg up. I’m sure these guys will swap positions several more times before the year is out, but for now, Johnson’s #2.
3. Ryan Trebon (3) – There’s only one reason why Trebon is not the best cross racer in America right now: the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com team. This weekend he came closer than ever to beating the juggernaut. However, he still has to work too hard to shed one of the two Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com riders he usually finds himself with. Trebon’s best shot a victory may be in Bend at Nationals. It might sound weird, but with a National Title on the line, we may finally see a little less cooperation from Johnson, Powers, and Driscoll.
4. Todd Wells (7) – Wells returned to cyclocross after a month-long absence. Clearly, with two fourth-places, his plan is paying-off. He’s a threat once again, and may be moving closer to a National title. Wells’ biggest issue right now is that he seems to be constantly chasing. If he were able to make the initial selection, he might be able to play-off the Trebon/Johnson/Powers battle and make a bid for victory.
5. Tristan Schouten (9) – Jumping up to the fifth spot is Schouten. One of several riders who took a break last week, Schouten continues to prove he’s a force to be reckoned wit after finishing fifth both days in Kentucky. To break through, Schouten needs a bit of luck and a perfect race. I can’t see him doing it this year, but he continues to surprise me.
6. Jamey Driscoll (4) – Driscoll went a bit unnoticed this weekend, but still managed to pick-up a pair of top-10’s in Kentucky. I would like to see Driscoll take a huge victory this year. He’s capable of it and has great help in his two teammates, Johnson and Powers.
7. Davide Frattini (5) – Frattini has criss-crossed the North American continent over the past few weeks and came to Kentucky in great form. Unfortunately, the heat and dust got to him (and virtually every other rider), but he still posted impressive results finishing eleventh on Saturday and sixth on Sunday. He continues to ride consistently, but he hasn’t been able to cross that gap to podium contender. Once he does, he’ll rise a few spots here.
8. Valentin Scherz (6) – Swiss Sensation Valentin Scherz continues to impress forcing everyone to take notice as he grabbed the hole-shot both days. He’s the best U23 rider in the US and could be one of the best in the World. I’m really interested to see what he does when he goes back to Europe. For now though, he needs a UCI victory to cement himself as one of the best.
9. Jesse Anthony (n/a) – It was a tough call to keep Anthony off the rankings last weekend. I’m still not convinced he’s back, but after a pair of UCI victory’s last weekend and a top-ten Saturday, he’s looking really good. The question, as usual with him, is can he remain consistent?
10. Luca Damiani (8) – I was disappointed Thursday morning when I received an email telling me that Damiani would miss this past weekend’s races. His road commitments forced the Italian to skip the USGP and head to Korea for the Tour de Seoul. Hopefully he’ll return sometime soon. For now, his place is safe, but for how long?
Dropped this week: Geoff Kabush (10).
Once again, there are two sets of UCI races this upcoming weekend. Virtually everyone from the USGP will head to Boulder for two days of UCI racing, including a C1 race on Sunday. The Mid-Atlantic will be active with a pair of UCI C2 races in New Jersey where Valentin Scherz is the heavy favorite. Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers look poised to continue their win streaks in Boulder. That said, each weekend holds its share of surprises, I’m sure this one will be no different.
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