After last weekend’s showdown in Kentucky, the bulk of the US cyclocross field headed to Colorado for Rounds Five and Six of the NACT. Saturday’s race picked-up right where last weekend’s races left-off as Jeremy Powers took the hole-shot and used his trademark first lap attack to get a gap on Ryan Trebon, Tim Johnson, and Todd Wells. While Powers’ gap stretched, Trebon abruptly dropped-out after pulling a muscle, leaving Wells and Johnson to chase down the lone rider.
Wells was forced to set the pace as Johnson rode shotgun in pursuit of his teammate until a minor bobble by Wells in one of the sand sections gave Johnson the room he needed to make his move for second place, fifteen seconds behind Powers. Wells came in another 30-seconds later for third. Behind the first three, Canadian National Champion Geoff Kabush rode an impressive race to finish fourth. Alex Candelario picked-up fifth place after spending nearly a decade away from the competitive cyclocross scene.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned this season it’s that Johnson and Powers usually swap wins—and podium positions. Sunday’s race in Boulder proved that to be true as Johnson picked-up an impressive victory to extend his NACT lead. With Trebon absent, all three Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com riders (Powers, Johnson, and Jamey Driscoll) occupied the first three starting positions. Once again, Jeremy Powers took-off on the first lap, but this time, he was joined a lap later by Wells and Danny Summerhill. Unfortuantely, Powers suffered an ill-timed flat, dropping him from the leading group.
But Powers’ loss was Johnson’s gain, he joined the leading duo a few laps later, as a large chase group formed behind. Summerhill soon flatted leaving Wells and Johnson alone at the head of the race, while Driscoll attacked the chase to bridge across. With four laps remaining, Johnson attacked and never looked back, taking the win in a race that seemed nothing more than a formality for the national champion. Wells gapped Driscoll after bunny hopping the barriers and help his small lead to the line. Kabush finished fourth again, while Adam Craig earned a solid fifth-place finish.
Back east, with the bulk of the nation’s best racing in Colorado, a surprisingly strong field took the line for a pair of UCI C2 races in New Jersey. As both races were events in the MAC series, it’s no surprise that Valentin Scherz showed-up ready to win and extend his lead in the series. Other notable riders included Adam Myerson (fresh off his first UCI win last weekend in New England), Luca Damiani (returning from Korea), Adam McGrath, and Ryan Knapp.
Saturday’s Beacon Cross saw a talented six-man leading group remain intact for most of the race. After a bit of a selection on the final lap, all eyes were on Scherz and Myerson as they cruised toward the line with McGrath. Unfortunately, Myerson flatted inside the final 500 meters, leaving Scherz able to hold-off McGrath for his first UCI victory. Behind, Knapp rolled-in for third, while local cross star Wes Schempf finished fourth ahead of Canadian Craig Richey. Myerson hung-in for sixth, a disappointment considering he was in contention for the win until the race’s final moments.
With a more technical course Sunday, many thought that Scherz would take back-to-back UCI victories. However, Luca Damiani surprised everyone by jumping out to an early lead. Scherz rode in second place for the bulk of the race until Damiani suffered a mechanical, at which point Scherz took the lead and never looked back (Daminai would finish seventh). Myerson won the sprint for second ahead of Richey while Jerome Townsend finished fourth and Knapp fifth.
So in both Colorado and New Jersey, the usual cast of characters prevailed thanks to impressive rides—and a little bit of luck. Yet injuries, mechanicals and other problems still plagued a few of riders in the rankings. How does that affect them this week? Let’s find out:
Domestic Power Rankings – Week 8
1. Jeremy Powers (1) – Ordinarily, coming in over two minutes down would net you the #1 position in our Power Ranking, but when looking at Powers’ weekend, I still think he’s the best rider in the US. Powers stormed to victory on Saturday, virtually attacking from the gun. Sunday he took the early lead again, only to be undone by a mechanical. Luckily, with Johnson skipping the final two rounds of the NACT, it looks as if Powers has a clear shot to becoming this year’s overall champion.
2. Tim Johnson (2) – The US National Champion continued trading wins with Powers this past weekend following his teammate’s winning performance Saturday with one of his own Sunday. His second-place Saturday was pretty much a shoe-in after Powers got away—it was only a matter of time before he attacked Wells. Johnson later admitted he has bigger fish to fry: he’s returning to Europe in a few weeks.
3. Todd Wells (4) – Wells moves-up another spot this week, proving that taking a break in October is really starting to pay-off. He looked very strong both days in Colorado and looks poised for a victory at some point this season—if he can find a way to beat Powers and Johnson.
4. Valentin Scherz (8) – Making the biggest jump this week is Valentin Scherz. His pair of UCI wins came in exciting fashion—Scherz looked very, very good. At this point in the season, he still seems as if he would struggle to win a major race (USGP, NACT, etc.) against the nation’s best competition, but he’s young and there’s plenty of time left. For now though, he’s certainly one of the top five riders in the US. Can he climb higher between now and his eventual return to Europe?
5. Ryan Trebon (3) – Trebon pulled his groin early in Saturday’s race, ending the day and his weekend. That said, he’s already saying he feels better, keeping him on track for the weeks to come. The fact remains: Trebon is one of the top riders in the US; but until he gets healthy and shows what he can do, he’ll remain there.
6. Geoff Kabush (na) – Kabush enters the ranking after being dropped last week. My issue with Kabush has always been his consistency, or lack thereof. Still, his pair of fourth-place finishes proves that the “Maple Leaf Man” is enjoying good form. If he can remain consistent, he’ll remain in the rankings.
7. Jamey Driscoll (6) – Driscoll had another solid weekend of racing with a seventh-place Saturday and a third-place Sunday. Sunday’s ride was most impressive as Driscoll escaped from a large chase group and made it across the gap to Wells. If it weren’t for Wells bunny hoping the barriers (which were close to the finish line), Driscoll might have finished second.
8. Luca Damiani (10) – Damiani suffered from a bit of bad luck in New Jersey this past weekend. On Saturday, he trashed his rear derailleur and was unable to make it back to the lead group. On Sunday, he suffered yet another mechanical after taking the lead in a solo effort that looked as if it could stick. Clearly, it wasn’t the return to cyclocross Damiani was hoping for. The good news is, aside from his technical issues, Damiani appears as if he hasn’t lost a step following his trip to Korea.
9. Tristan Schouten (5) – Schouten drops down this week after taking a well-deserved break. It appears he’s also skipping this weekend’s racing ahead of the next two rounds of the USGP. A mid-season break has worked for many—Todd Wells comes to mind—will it work for Schouten as well?
10. Davide Frattini (7) – Frattini had a rough go of it in Colorado, failing to finish on Saturday and winding-up 28th on Sunday. Otherwise, the Italian has enjoyed a superb season so far. Hopefully this weekend was just a case of bad luck.
Dropped this week: Jesse Anthony (9).
This weekend there are two pairs of UCI races in Massachusetts and in Los Angeles, California. Instead of my usual ultra-brief preview here, I’m debuting a new column on Friday with my predictions for this weekend’s action. Come back to check it out.
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