After a mid-week showdown in Vegas, the biggest names in cross converge on Wisconsin for the first two rounds of the USGP. While the series ran into some financial struggles about a month ago, the fields look bigger and better than ever. With two days of racing, including a C1 race on Saturday, this weekend promises some exciting action and great racing.
The Planet Bike Cup – USGP Rounds 1 & 2 (C1/C2)
Jeremy Powers – Powers looked unstoppable on Wednesday night as he stormed to victory in Vegas. I saw Powers last weekend at Nittany cross and while he looked strong, his emphasis seemed to be on January and February. As a result, I figured the early season didn’t matter to him. Boy was I wrong. The defending USGP champ will be on the podium both days, taking the top-step at least once.
Tim Johnson – like Powers, Johnson showed he’s on great form in Vegas. He looked really good in Vermont, but was unable to capture a victory. It would appear that the Powers-Johnson rivalry is back and I expect the Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com rider to get his first victory of the season this weekend.
Ben Berden – In 1994, Berden finished on the third step of the U23 World Championship podium on Koksijde, Belgium. Fast forward nearly two decades and Berden is back in the thick of things, in the US at least. Berden looked solid on Wednesday night and while he will surely pick up some wins this year, I’m not sure he can do it this weekend. He could easily podium both days though.
Jonathan Page – in what appears to be a transition year for Page, he has been battling for the win at nearly every race this season. However, he hasn’t reached the top step. Page has had success in Wisconsin in the past and would love to win a round of the USGP. I just don’t think he’ll do it, but he’s good for a podium appearance.
Charm City MAC Rounds 3&4 (UCI C2)
The MAC series continues this weekend in Baltimore, MD. Last weekend Jeremy Powers took day one, while mid-Atlantic standout Jared Nieters took day two. Nicolas Bazin is venturing down from New England where he has been nearly unbeatable, while Ian Field crosses the pond for a mini US campaign.
Nicolas Bazin – Bazin has been killing it stateside with three victories and one second place in four races. The Frenchman looks prime for another victory this weekend, if not two. For some reason, I think Field will get the better of him one day this weekend.
Ian Field – a winner here last year, Field comes over from England following a non-UCI victory last weekend. Bazin whill give him a run for his money, but a repeat victory seems certain for Field. He should finish on the podium both days and I expect him to trade the top-step with Bazin,
Ryan Knapp – Before Nittany, Knapp was low on my riders to watch list. In fact, I only mentioned him in the last sentence of my predictions and even got his state wrong (I’ve sinced apologized to the man from Indiana). Knapp rode well last weekend with a third and fourth place finish. I expect him to land on the podium one day this weekend.
Jared Nieters – Last weekend I was critical of the mid-Atlantic, proclaiming that no mid-Atlantic rider would finish on the podium. Nieters proved me wrong. To my credit, I kept an eye on Nieters and his teammate Weston Schempf, both of whom should be in the mix this weekend. Look for Nieters to land on the podium one of those days.