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CX Nationals: Top 10 women to watch

The USA Cycling National Cyclocross Championships are underway in Reno, Nevada with elite championships on Sunday, January 14.

Four of the five races taking place on super Sunday will be streamed live, right here on VeloNews.com. The coverage begins at noon EST.

Here are the top contenders for the elite women’s race which will start at 4:15 p.m. EST. We have also published a list of top-10 riders for the elite men’s race.

Katie Compton (KFC Racing-Trek-Knight Composites)

Katie Compton’s reign as national cyclocross champion began in 2004 and after 13 consecutive victories in the race, it is hard to bet against her. She is confident ahead of the race. It doesn’t hurt that she is having a stellar season that includes the overall title in the DVV Trofee series, which she solidified with a victory at the GP Sven Nys on January 1 with still one race to go. Compton has spent the 2017-2018 season racing in Europe full-time. Her season got off to a rocky start at the U.S. World Cups in Iowa City and Waterloo. Although she injured her shoulder at the former, Compton bounced back in October and beyond. She has hardly finished outside of the top-five, repeatedly going head-to-head with world champion Sanne Cant. Compton’s dominant victory to start 2018 makes it hard to imagine her losing the Stars and Stripes in Reno.

Kaitie Keough (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com)

If there is one rider that can defeat Compton, Kaitie Keough is the one that can do it. Keough has had a world-class year. She is currently ranked second in the UCI standings and second in the World Cup series. Plus, she won the overall title of the inaugural US Cup-CX series. She finished second at both the U.S. World Cups. Even more telling of her incredible form this year was her sixth-place finish at the muddy Namur World Cup. Namur is considered one of the most difficult courses in cyclocross. Compton finished only two places in front of Keough that day in fourth. The most recent head-to-head battle between Compton and Keough on American soil was at the Pan-Am championships in November. Compton was able to capitalize on a Keough mistake and ride to a comfortable win. For Keough to end Compton’s reign she must have a flawless race and hope Compton makes a mistake. On pure strength alone, the scale tips in Compton’s favor.

Ellen Noble (Aspire Racing)

Ellen Noble is the only rider on the start list that has beaten Compton in Europe this year in a race the national champion has finished. Noble went head-to-head with Compton and Cant at the DVV Flandriencross. The world champion won, but Noble beat Compton in the sprint for second. Noble was nearly flawless the entire race and even put in attacks of her own at the front. If the Noble that raced in Flandriencross shows up on Sunday, she will be a contender. However, Noble’s year has been up and down with victories coming few and far between. This is Noble’s first time competing in the elite race at the national championships. She won the U23 race for the past three years before aging out of the category. Unlike her stellar result in Flandriencross, Noble’s European campaign ended with a 29th place result in Namur, where Keough and Compton finished sixth and fourth, respectively. Noble last raced at that mid-December World Cup, so her form is a bit unknown.

Courtenay McFadden (Pivot Cycles-DNA Cycling)

Like Noble and many others, Courtenay McFadden last raced in mid-December. McFadden didn’t even know if she would be on the start line in September after having surgery to fix a hip-impingement on her right side after 2017 world championships in February. She is slated to go under the knife after nationals to fix an impingement in her left hip. However, the hip complications haven’t stopped McFadden from having a successful year. She captured wins at the U.S. Open of Cyclocross and Resolution Cross weekends. She finished fourth at the Pan-Am championships and was the third American behind Compton and Keough. McFadden continued her run of good form later in November when she finished 26th in both the German and Danish World Cups. While McFadden looks to be a step below the top-two riders on this list, she is definitely a contender for a podium spot. McFadden finished fifth last year in the Hartford snow.

Crystal Anthony (Maxxis-Shimano)

Crystal Anthony finished one place behind McFadden in Hartford. Anthony has had a consistent year, battling in the top-five at nearly every race she started. She last raced at the Resolution Cross in mid-December, winning the second day. She did not race in Europe over the Christmas period and instead focused on honing her fitness through training ahead of the national championships. Anthony finished third on day one of the Derby City Cup, showing she has the ability to secure a podium spot. As with McFadden, expect Anthony to battle in the top-five throughout the race and have a shot at the podium if momentum swings her way.

Rebecca Fahringer (Stan’s NoTubes-Maxxis)

Rebecca Fahringer has been a busy woman this year with the responsibilities of managing her own team, but that hasn’t stopped her from contending at the pointy end of races. While a UCI win has eluded her thus far this season, she has consistently placed in the top-five in the U.S. and powered to top-20 results in Europe. Her consistency paid off with a fifth-place finish in the overall standings of the US Cup-CX. Unlike McFadden and Anthony, Fahringer spent the holidays racing in Europe, not only gaining valuable experience but also getting a bump in form due to the extremely hard racing over there. Coming off the Europe block means that Fahringer should contend for a top-five placing and she’ll look to improve on her eighth-place finish from last year.

Other contenders

Arley Kemmerer (Fearless Femme Racing) will look to improve on her seventh-place finish from last year, but that may prove to be difficult. She has battled in the top-five when the field has not been as deep as it will be at nationals, even scoring a win on day one of the UCI C2 DCCX weekend. However, she has struggled to crack the top five at races with deep fields like the US Cup-CX. Expect her to be in the mix in the back half of the top 10 on Sunday.

A rider Kemmerer could be going shoulder to shoulder with is Sunny Gilbert (Van Dessel Factory Team). She has three UCI wins this year and captured top-20 finishes at premier races in Europe over the holidays. While her UCI wins have come against fields with notable riders absent, she has finished in the top 10 and top five in most of the races she has toed the line in. Expect Gilbert to be in the mix for the top-10 on Sunday and possibly fight for a top-five.

Gilbert’s teammate, Cassandra Maximenko, is another rider that has battled in the back half of the top-10 for much of the season and has been able to capitalize when the fields aren’t as deep and power into the top five. While she scored 19th at the national championships last year, her results made a jump this year and thus she could sneak into the top 10 on Sunday.

Samantha Runnels (Squid Bikes) could find her way into the top-10 on Sunday, but it won’t be easy. The back half of the top-10 thru to 15th place is always a highly competitive affair and expect Runnels to be right in the thick of it. Runnels did capture a pair of UCI wins at the HPCX weekend, but those came against a field unlike she will see at nationals. She also was victorious at the Rapha Supercross in Japan.

The elite women’s race is shaping up to be one of the most competitive and fascinating races to watch on Sunday at the 2018 U.S. national cyclocross championships. Expect battles to be had not only at the front for the win or the podium but for those trying to sneak their way into the top 10.

Editors note: Elle Anderson (Cycling.be-Alpha Motorhomes), who was fourth at the national championships the last two years, will not be racing. She has spent the season racing in Europe and opted not to come back for the national championships.

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