Domestic Cyclocross Report & Power Ranking – Week #8

2010 NECCS - Round 6 - L. Damiani

Photo by Natalia Boltukhova, Pedal Power Photography, 2010

This past weekend we were treated to exciting domestic action on both coasts. The 20th edition of the Cycle-Smart International saw New England’s best battling it out for UCI points in Massachusetts, while Los Angeles hosted a pair of UCI races under sunny skies and warm weather. Although several riders, including Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers, took the weekend off, both events enjoyed quality fields and exciting racing from start to finish.

The Cycle-Smart International celebrated its 20th Anniversary with a pair of UCI Cat. 2 races at Look Park in Northampton, Massachusetts. With the Verge NECCS overall still far from decided, both days promised exciting action—and a very tense atmosphere. Surprising pretty much everyone, Luke Keough, swept both races, going toe-to-toe with Luca Damiani on Day 1. Keough was able to stay with Damiani despite several attacks and accelerations, and the youngster has just enough kick left to out-sprint Damiani at the end. Luke’s brother Nick finished third, while Adam Myerson and Wes Schempf held-on for fourth and fifth, respectively.

Day 2 featured a fast, technical course that saw a large group of riders emerge after the first few laps containing Luke Keough, Damiani, Myerson, NECCS leader Justin Lindine, and Dylan McNicholas. By the midway point of the race, Myerson and McNicholas had dropped-off the pace and a repeat of Saturday’s dramatic action seemed imminent. Then suddenly, Lindine crashed in a corner, taking-out Damiani and handing Keough the lead. As a result, Damiani was forced to bandon due to a badly cut leg while Lindine was quickly caught by Myerson and McNicholas.  But the trio couldn’t reel-in Keough; Myerson won the sprint for second ahead of Lindine while McNicholas held-on for fourth. Nick Keough rounded-out the podium in fifth.

While most fans focused on the UCI races in the heart of cross-crazy New England, Griffith Park in Los Angeles hosted its first ever Dam Cross UCI weekend in sunny Southern California. With the warm temperatures and blue skies, some of America’s best headed for the Hollywood Hills to pick-up valuable UCI points. Adam Craig was the surprise on Day 1, finishing 27-seconds ahead of heavily-favored Ryan Trebon. Trebon set the early pace ahead of mountain bike superstar Sid Tiberlay, Adam Craig and Chris Jones. Chris Horner, the crowd favorite, was involved in an early crash that saw him chase the entire race.

After dropping Tiberlay, Trebon took off on a solo effort that looked promising. Jones rode into second until a bobble in a corner gave Craig the room he needed to make his move. Quickly catching and passing Trebon, Craig put time into Trebon lap after lap, gaining nearly 30-seconds by day’s end. Jones finished third, almost a minute behind Craig; while Tiberlay got by Zach McDonald to finish fourth.

Day 2 at Dam Cross weekend was a virtual repeat of Day 1. Trebon tried to jump out early, but was slowly reeled-in and passed by Craig. Once again, Jones came in nearly a minute later to finish third. Tiberlay put in an identical performance en route to another fourth place, while McDonald came across the line in fifth position. Talk about déjà vu.

With all the action in the US, it was easy to forget that the Great White North crowned its National Champion in Toronto. Geoff Kabush decided not the make the trip, leaving the door wide open for a new champ. After a poor start, heavy favorite Derrick St. John saw his hopes evaporate, leaving him in tenth position by the end of the first lap. Aaron Schooler did the bulk of the pace making up front, shredding the field almost immediately. Clinging to his wheel were Chris Sheppard and 2007 National Champion, Mike Garrigan. However, Schooler soon tired and dropped off the pace, leaving Sheppard and Garrigan.

Garrigan and Sheppard decided not to cooperate and spent much of the last half of the race attacking one another—to no avail. The duo came into the final half lap together, but what could have been an all-out brawl to the finish was cut short when Garrigan rolled a tire, leaving Sheppard all alone to solo to his first national title. Garrigan held-on for second ahead of Schooler, while St. John rebounded from his poor start to finish fourth, just ahead of Craig Richey.

All in all, there was plenty of great action all over North America this past weekend, even with most of the sport’s biggest names taking a breather before of the last half of the season. How did the affect the Power Rankings? Time to find out:

US Power Rankings – Week 9

1. Jeremy Powers (1) – All eyes will be on Powers this weekend as the USGP heads to Colorado for a pair of UCI races. Powers’ win on Day 2 in Kentucky netted him the series leader’s jersey; with only four rounds left, now is the time for him to cement his advantage.

2. Tim Johnson (2) – Johnson will spend the rest of the season splitting time between Europe and the US. After finishing 14th at World’s last year, it appears he has the desire to shoot for a top-10 finish. As a result, he’ll miss some key US races, including the final round of the USGG. But European success is key to a run at Worlds, which is where he seems to be focused.

3. Todd Wells (3) – After taking a big break near the end of October, Wells took a weekend off before he begins the last half of his season. Last year, Wells stormed through November and early-December before putting in a solid ride at Nationals. He’s still missing a big win this year, but I think it will only be a couple of weeks before he reaches the top step of the podium somewhere.

4. Ryan Trebon (5) – After dropping-out of last weekend’s NACT rounds with a groin injury, Trebon is forced to chase UCI points. However, his pair of second-place finishes in Los Angeles were a bit disappointing. I understand that he’s battling an injury, but this was his chance to prove that he can still win. It will be interesting to see how he does when all the big boys line-up in Colorado this weekend.

5. Valentin Scherz (4) – Scherz will head back to Europe in a few weeks after an excellent season in the US. He’s a lock for the MAC title again and has made a name for himself among America’s best cross racers. I expect him to end his US season with a bang before embarking on what he hopes will be an equally impressive European campaign.

6. Geoff Kabush (6) – The biggest name missing from this weekend’s Canadian National Championships was Kabush who elected not to travel to Toronto to defend his title. Instead, he used the weekend to rest before heading to Colorado for the next two rounds of the USGP. He’s continued to improve over the past few weeks; we will soon see how the time off affects his racing.

7. Luca Damiani (8) – The past few weeks have brought nothing but bad luck for Damiani. He suffered mechanicals in New Jersey, costing him at least one UCI win. Then this past weekend, after a solid second place Saturday, he was taken down in a crash and forced to abandon Sunday. If he can overcome this rough patch, look for the Italian to take at least one well-deserved UCI victory this year.

8. Jamey Driscoll (7) – Surprisingly, Driscoll is steadily sliding down the rankings. He started-off super strong, but keeps slipping further and further down the top-10 after inconsistent results. I’d really like to see him land on the podium over the next few weeks at one or two major events. Only then will he start moving back up.

9. Davide Frattini (10) – Like virtually many this past weekend, Frattini took some time off. He’s had an impressive season thus far, racking-up four UCI Cat. 2 victories, and he will surely make the Italian Worlds squad—should he choose to accept the invitation. If he decides to extend his season beyond December, it will be interesting to see how he fairs in Europe.

10. Adam Craig (n/a) – Craig hasn’t raced much this year, but has finished in the top-10 in every race he’s entered. His pair of UCI wins this past weekend has put him on the map once again though. Much like Todd Wells, Craig races a full mountain bike season and usually makes a late charge at a national title. Was this weekend the start of something special for Craig?

Dropped this week: Tristan Schouten (9)

So that’s it for this week’s Domestic Report and Power Ranking.  All the big boys will be back in action this weekend at the USGP in Colorado. For a full preview and predictions, come back Friday.

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