Preview: Wide-open USGP finale set for Bend without overall leaders
PORTLAND, Oregon (VN) — With its close proximately to copious amounts of beer and two days of potentially wet weather, the final stop of Trek U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross presented by Greenware and WD-40 is shaping up to be an epic weekend of racing.
The venue for this weekend’s action is the grounds of the famed Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. And as of midday Wednesday, the weather forecast was calling for highs in the low 40s and a 40-percent chance of rain and/or snow.
“I think it’s going to be a crapshoot because of the weather,” said Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant), who will be among a half-dozen riders with legitimate podium shots in the men’s elite race. Others on the list include the usual cast of U.S. ’cross scene hard men: Tim Johnson, Jamey Driscoll and Ryan Trebon (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld), Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement), Chris Jones and Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus), and Todd Wells (Specialized).
Notably missing is Jeremy Powers (Rapha), winner of five of the series’ first six races, which was more than enough to secure the overall USGP crown. Powers is fresh off a block of racing in Europe, and told VeloNews this week that he was 99-percent sure he was going to skip the series finale in Bend.
“I’ve had a really good year so far and won pretty much everything I set out to win,” said Powers, who instead is planning to head to Tucson, Arizona, for a 10-day training camp before heading back to Europe for another round of World Cup racing.
In his absence, Powers pointed to Bend locals Craig and Trebon as riders to watch Saturday and Sunday. “Tim is also coming on really strong right now,” said Powers. “It’ll be great racing.”
Trebon and Berden are second and third, respectively, in the series standings, but the points gap is just eight points, meaning the final two podium spots are still up for grabs. The difference between first and second place is 10 points per race.
It’s a similar scenario on the women’s side of the ledger, where Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) has won all six of the USGP races contested thus far. Like Powers, Compton has also wrapped the overall title and is not racing in Bend.
“I’m staying in Europe for the most of the season now,” said Compton. “I really want to win the World Cup overall and need to cut down on the jet lag and travel to do that.”
That leaves the likes of Georgia Gould, Katerina Nash and Teal Stetson-Lee (Luna), Julie Krasniak (Rapha), and Meredith Miller (Cal Giant-Specialized) all on the sort list of possible podium contenders this weekend in Bend.
This will be Miller’s first stop on the USGP since breaking her hand in October. Also seeking redemption is Nicole Duke (Alchemy Bicycle Company), whose season thus far has been derailed by health issues and an acrimonious split with her former Raleigh team.
Compton tabbed the Luna squad as the riders to beat. “I’d look at Katerina and Georgia for the top spots,” she predicted. “The French girls are always fast, and then Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale), Meredith, Teal will be good.”
For all the elite riders, Bend is the final chance to capture valuable UCI C1 points on U.S. soil this year. Those points will play a critical role in deciding the still-wide open battles for start spots on the U.S. world championships team headed to Louisville, Kentucky, February 2-3.
“It will also be an indicator to see who is maintaining their fitness and who is coming up,” said Marc Gullickson, USA Cycling’s mountain bike and cyclocross program director. “Of course, the European World Cup events will be more important as well as our national championships, but be we do look at all the domestic UCI C1 events when considering slots for elite worlds selection.”
The Deschutes Brewery Cup will play a major role in determining the junior and U23 men that will contest the World Cup in Zolder on December 26. That race, which falls in the middle of the Belgian Kerstperiode, will then be a key factor in determining the development teams for Louisville. With McDonald, Logan Owen (Redline) and Curtis White (Hot Tubes) prequalified for the worlds team, look for riders like Cody Kaiser (Cal Giant) and Andrew Dillman (Bob’s Red Mill) to try and make a strong case for themselves.
As for the Bend course, Powers calls it a well-balanced track that combines a lot of tricky off-camber sections with short, punchy efforts. Craig concurs, saying, “There are some decent power sections, but a bunch of nitpicky little terrain features will help keep the clever ones up in the mix.”
Stay tuned to VeloNews.com all weekend to find out who those clever riders are. The event will broadcast live here both days, starting with the elite women’s race at 2:15 p.m. PST Saturday and Sunday. The elite men will follow at 3:30 p.m. each day. The live broadcast will feature commentary from Rapha’s Jeremy Dunn and multiple-time Canadian national champion Lyne Bessette.
Correction: This article initially read that Meredith Miller will make her racing return in Bend. She returned last weekend at CXLA. We regret the error.