With the first weekend of UCI cross races out of the way, itâ€™s time to get down to business in the US. This weekend there are four UCI races on the East coast and Vegas and the USGP are right around the corner. As a result, all the top cross racers will be making their final preparations before starting this season in earnest. Every year, we try and break our season preview down into two or three separate chunks. In previous years weâ€™ve done the US vs. Europe, the Old Guard vs. the Young Guns, etc.
This offseason saw two moves that will have a major impact on racing in the US. Ryan Trebon, joined the East coast based Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com team and Jonathan Page moved West to Idaho in search of a more permenant home in the US. While Trebon didnâ€™t make a literal move east, his change in teams brought up many questions about the classic East vs. West cross rivalry. So, this year, we decided to break our preview into East coast riders to watch and West coast ones. Weâ€™ll begin with the East.
Powers had a stellar season last year culminating with his first ever elite National Championship. He also won the USGP, finished three World Cup races in the top-15 and was the highest ranked American with nearly 1,000 UCI points. In addition, Powers never finished outside the top-10 in the US. This season should see Powers on top of the podium a lot, with a definite eye towards a repeat at nationals in Madison. Heâ€™ll have his hands full stateside, but heâ€™s still a heavy favorite for the USGP and another World Cup top-ten. His 26th at worlds was a disappointment, something he surely is looking work on for Louisville.
Last season was all about cross for Johnson. He essentially retired from road racing to enjoy his summer and get ready for a solid cross campaign. Unfortunately, things didnâ€™t go his way in a season that can only be called disappointing. Johnson only won two races last year in late November/early December. He posted two top-20 finishes at the first two rounds of the World Cup, but struggled to stay consistent throughout the entire season. With that said, anyone who knows Johnson knows not to write him off. With Worlds in Louisville this year and a new ally in Ryan Trebon, Johnson looks primed to make an impact and prove why heâ€™s one of the best American cross racers.
The â€œstudious oneâ€ is often one of the most overlooked racers in the US. Despite only taking the top step of the podium once last year, Driscoll placed in the top-5 16 times and, like Powers, never finished outside the top-10 in the US. With his studies long behind him and a solid road season in his legs, Driscoll will once again be a podium contender. Whether or not he can stand on the top step of the podium more than once remains to be seen. However, his steady improvement and consistent racing are signs that things are headed in the right direction.
The revelation of the 2011/12 season, Lindine took New England by storm winning five straight races (including two in the mid-Atlantic). In fact, Lindineâ€™s worst finish was a 15th place at round five of the USGP. In nearly 20 races, he only finished outside the top-10 twice. Lindine started off his 2012 season on a similar foot, despite suffering an injury to his hand. Once that heals, he should be back at the front of the field battling for the win. Outside of New England, Lindine should be a podium contender at the USGP races, and, perhaps, at Nationals.
With the extensive traveling that the aforementioned riders will be doing in order to race the USGP, World Cups, etc, the door could be left open for several riders to make their bid to be the East coasts next star. Dylan McNicholas and Travis Livermon both put in a solid season last year, culminating with top-ten finishes at Nationals. Meanwhile, Luke Keough won the inaugural Shimano NECX series a head of the likes of Christian Heule, Lindine and Powers. With riders like these, and UCI races nearly every weekend, this season promises to be one of the most exciting in recent memory.
Stay tuned for part two of our preview where we switch over to the left coast and talk about their cross stars.