It was a wild weekend for everyone involved in the US Cyclocross scene this past weekend as a last-minute venue change had the NACT finale at the two-day UCI Cat. 2 Baystate Cyclocross race in Sterling, MA. Unfortunately, the change resulted in a diminished field compared with other rounds of the NACT. In the end, Jeremy Powers won both days, wrapping-up the NACT overall title. On Saturday, he put 35-seconds into Canadian Derrick St. John and almost a minute into New England stalwart, Adam Myerson. On Sunday, Luke Keough was the last man able to with Powers after he whittled down a large leading group one-by-one. In the end, Keough cracked, coming-in 12-seconds behind Powers, while Myerson edged Justin Lindine for third.
A bit further West, Iowa has become a hotbed of Thanksgiving cyclocross as the three-day UCI Jingle Cross Rock event has continued to grow over the past few years. Friday night offered its traditional UCI Cat. 2 event followed by a pair of races on Saturday and Sunday. This year though, Sunday’s race was a UCI Cat. 1 race, making it a definite stop for those looking to grab UCI points ahead of Nationals ten days from now.
Cross Rock 1 was held in below-freezing temperatures at the Johnson Fairgrounds in Iowa City. The course was a technical, lung-busting circuit that featured a 40-second climb every lap. Teammates Barry Wicks and Ryan Trebon (Kona) were able to get away early, opening a 20 second gap to a stellar chase group. Unfortunately, Trebon soon crashed-out, while Jamey Driscoll bridged across the gap to Wicks. Wicks, who was clearly gassed, was hoping for a bit of cooperation from Driscoll, but it was not meant to be as Driscoll took-off on his own to win by nearly 30 seconds. Behind, Wicks held-off a hard-charging Chris Jones—who ended up flatting with half a lap to go—for second.
Saturday’s race featured a similar course to Friday’s, except it was a bit longer and very twisty. Driscoll elected not to start, conserving energy for Sunday’s Cat. 1 event. Soon after the race began, Trebon, Wicks, Jones, and Todd Wells formed a leading group. Trebon used the course’s challenging climb and run-up to gain about a 10-second gap each lap. However, he took the decent carefully after the previous day’s crash. As a result, Wells was able to rejoin the Kona rider until about three to go, at which point he was forced to settle for second. Jones rolled across the line one minute after Trebon for third on the day.
On Sunday, Driscoll proved that there is something to be said for taking a day off as he picked-up his second—and most important—victory of the weekend in Cross Rock 3. After the race, Driscoll admitted that he used the break to do some studying even though he knew that this weekend was all about points and money as the season winds down. Behind Driscoll, Todd Wells took second-place after battling it out with Trebon who rolled a tire during the penultimate lap, which allowed Jones to slip by for his third third-place finish of the weekend.
One final note: Tim Johnson stayed in Europe to race Round Three of the World Cup in Koksijde, Belgium. The notoriously sandy course will host the 2012 World Championships, but unfortunately proved too much for the National Champion. Johnson’s first row start was rendered moot and he quickly found himself riding outside the top-30. Unable to move up, he was pulled with two laps to go.
That said, it was a wild weekend of domestic cyclocross. How will the action affect the rankings? Let’s find out:
Domestic Power Rankings – Week #11
1. Jeremy Powers (2) – Powers moves up to #1 this week despite the fact that he raced against considerably smaller and weaker fields than the rest of the riders in the rankings. However, his solid season and impressive rides in New England prove he’s a national title contender. Next weekend will be a real test for Powers as the USGP heads to Oregon. In my opinion, winning the USGP overall would be a bigger accomplishment for Powers than the NACT title.
2. Tim Johnson (1) – After finishing just outside the top-10 last weekend in Gavere, expectations were high heading into Round Three of the World Cup. But Johnson seemed to struggle right from the start en route to a disappointing DNF. However, Johnson is now the UCI’s top-ranked American and will have a guaranteed front row start for Nationals. That said, I think it’s important for Johnson to win in Oregon next weekend to keep his confidence high for Nationals.
3. Jamey Driscoll (6) – The “studious one” picked-up a pair of victories in Iowa this past weekend. He was very impressive in both races and is now a prime candidate for a national title. Driscoll’s smartest move may have been his decision to rest on Saturday. Not only did it allow him to win on Sunday, but it also gives him a slight edge over everyone else as the cross world moves to the Northwest.
4. Todd Wells (4) – Last year, Wells announced himself as a national title contender by winning all three rounds in Iowa. This year, Wells finished sixth on Friday and second on Saturday and Sunday. I really like Wells’ chances if the conditions are tough in Oregon, which is almost a guarantee. He’s raced consistently all year, and think a breakout victory in Portland is a distinct possibility.
5. Ryan Trebon (5) – Trebon continues to struggle with staying upright and finishing races. He dropped-out Friday night after a nasty crash, but was able to bounce back with a win on Saturday and a fourth-place ride Sunday. After a season of travel, America’s best will head to Trebon’s back yard for the USGP finale and Nationals. Hopefully he can handle the pressure and pick-up some huge wins.
6. Geoff Kabush (3) – Kabush will head to Portland for his last races of the season on US soil. After taking some time off, I’m sure he’ll be ready to go—and looking for a few victories. With just about everyone peaking right now, it’s going to be a very tough order.
7. Chris Jones (n/a) – Jones has been just off the radar for a while now. But his three third-place finishes in Iowa show that he’s coming around at just the right time. Still known as more of a roadie, it will be interesting to see how Jones does in the muck and sludge of the Northwest.
8. Adam Craig (8) – Over the past few weeks, Craig has quietly ridden his way into a wildcard kind position. If anyone can surprise the US’s best in the Northwest, Craig is that guy. I’m not saying he’ll win in Portland or Bend, but he could destroy the hopes of others with a stellar ride.
9. Barry Wicks (n/a) – If you asked at the beginning of the season who was going to have the toughest year, I would have said Wicks. He’s been Trebon’s right hand man for years, but has been unable to really help him in recent years. However, like Trebon, Wicks is an Oregon native, so he cannot be counted out. A podium spot on Friday, a top-five on Saturday, and a top-ten on Sunday in Iowa, prove that the Oregonian is enjoying his best form of the season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the top-5 this weekend, but a lack of UCI points may hinder his chances in Bend.
10. Troy Wells (n/a) – Some of Wells’ best results have come in adverse conditions, much like the ones we expect to see in Oregon. With a pair of fifth-places in Iowa, Wells makes the rankings for the first time this year. His seventh on Saturday is also worth noting. The key for Wells—who will have a significantly better starting position after his breakout weekend—comes in this weekend’s USGP events. A pair of top-10’s would put him right in line for Nationals.
Dropped this week: Valentin Scherz (7), Luca Damiani (9).
One final note regarding the two riders to have dropped this week. Both Scherz and Damiani went back to Europe after solid US campaigns. Valentin Scherz struggled in his European debut, finishing outside the top-thirty at the U23 race in Koksijde. Hopefully, after some more time at home he’ll rebound with the great results he’s capable of. Meanwhile, Luca Damiani went back to Italy still recovering from his crash in early November. With 16 stitches in his leg, Damiani flew back last week after an abrupt, and disappointing end to his US season. I wish both riders luck with their European campaigns—we’ll continue follow them with great interest.
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