The 2011-2012 US cross season will see a bevy of new changes across the board. Several riders, including Jeremy Powers and Ryan Trebon, have changed teams. The UCI schedule in the US has changed drastically and as a result, new series have popped up and others have disappeared. Not to mention, the US schedule has been extended by a month with Nationals moving to January. With all the changes, it promises to be an exciting and challenging season for everyone. Here’s our list of riders to watch:
Tim Johnson – After a mixed 2010 cross season, Johnson decided to hang up his road bike and focus on fun and cross. This summer, Johnson was found across the country at events like the Cascade Classi, the Leadville 100 and a variety of cycling related rides and races. For the 2011-2012 season Johnson will engage in a solid US campaign mixed with top European races, including the World Cup races. Johnson will have a formidable ally in Swiss Champion Christian Heule, who signed with the team this summer.
Jeremy Powers – Powers 2010 cross campaign was one of the best seasons any rider has every had in the US. He won 10 races as well as the NACT and USGP overalls and his worst result was a seventh place finish (at CrossVegas). Obviously, his US campaign came to a screeching halt at Nationals, when he hit the deck allowing Todd Wells to ride away with the title. Powers moved to the Rapha-FOCUS team this year leaving the dominant Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com team. It will be interesting to see how this affects his season.
Ryan Trebon – All things considered, Trebon had a pretty decent 2010 season. His season was marred by mechanicals and injuries. Yet, he picked up two victories, ten podium appearances and never finished outside the top-10. Like Powers, Trebon is moving away from his long standing Kona team to a new squad powered by Felt bicycles. If Trebon can stay upright and healthy, he could once again be America’s top crosser.
Todd Wells – After a relatively quiet 2010 cross season, Wells picked up his only victory of the season when it really mattered, at Nationals. With the Stars and Stripes on his back, Wells will race a longer season then in years past, beginning with CrossVegas. Wells has mastered racing half of a cross season in years past and with nearly five months separating CrossVegas from Nationals, it will be interesting to see how he handles the longer season.
Chris Jones – With nine podium appearances and only two non top-10 finishes, Jones proved that he’s a force to be reckoned with when it comes to cross. Jones’ new teammate, Jeremy Powers, will surely bring some added attention to the Rapha-FOCUS team. As long as the added attention doesn’t bring added pressure, Jones should finally pick up a UCI cross victory along with some podium appearances.
Jamey Driscoll – “The Studious One” has graduated and finally can turn his attention, full-time, to cross racing. Each year, Driscoll continues to surprise and last year was no exception. Driscoll’s best results over the past few years have come at CrossVegas and Nationals. In between he mixes consistent results with moments of greatness. With school no longer occupying most of his time, Driscoll should be able to have even more moments of greatness this season.
Adam Myerson – Last year, Myerson picked up his first ever UCI victory en route to a NECCS title. Myerson seems to be even more focused on cross this year, deciding to end his road season earlier then usual to prepare for the cross season. The real question Myerson has to answer was whether last year was the pinnacle of a long cross career, or a breakout season which he can build on.
Clearly cross has come a long way in the US. No longer are roadies racing cross part time in towns that we’ve never heard of with little media attention. Cross is a big deal in the states and this year a large number of Europeans are making the trip across the pond to see what it’s all about ahead of the 2013 World Championships in Louisville. While they’re not unbeatable, the European contingent usually spends a few weeks in September beating up on the domestic US riders.
However, this year, there are a large number of European based riders who will spend their time in the US for the entire season. One country that stands out is Switzerland, who will have four riders racing full time in the US. Notably absent from the Swiss crew is two-time MAC Champion, Valentin Scherz, who has hung up his bike to attend medical school. Following in his footsteps will be three young Swiss riders: Lukas Muller, Lukas Winterberg and Eric Brungger. And of course, the biggest Swiss star of them all, six-time Swiss National Champion, Christian Heule will race a full season in the US for the first time.
Beyond Switzerland, riders from cross crazy Belgium, Britain and the Netherlands, just to name a few, will be making their season debuts on this side of the Atlantic. Their presence here is not only a testament to the growing US scene, but a bit of a challenge as they go head-to-head with America’s best on US soil.
All-in-all it promise to be one of the best seasons ever for US cross. Will the perennial favorites continue their domination? Is it time for a wildcard to take the country by storm? What impact will the Europeans have? In a matter of days, we will find out.