Analysis: The projected U.S. team for the 2013 elite cyclocross world championships
VERONA, Wisconsin (VN) — Newly crowned national champions Jonathan Page (ENGVT) and Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective), and the rest of the men’s and women’s elite fields, are still shivering after a frigid USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships on Sunday, but all eyes have already turned south to Louisville, Kentucky, and the elite world championships.
Elite worlds are for the first time being held outside the sport’s historic epicenter in Europe. As hosts, USA Cycling wants to send an experienced, competitive squad to the February 2-3 event; if Sunday told us anything, it’s that the competition is as deep as ever. So, who will represent the United States at worlds?
USA Cycling’s cyclocross program director, Marc Gullickson, plans to fill every one of the United States’ 22 worlds spots. Though a number of riders have made the team by meeting USA Cycling’s criteria for automatic qualification, there still remain a number of discretionary selections for the elite men’s and women’s, and junior and U23 men’s categories. There are a number of picks that need to be made before USA Cycling announces its team selection today, just hours after the final rider crossed the finish line at nationals. This, in turn, will give those riders selected only three weeks to wrap their heads around what they need to do to be at their best for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Let’s take a look at the elite men’s, women’s, U23, and junior team selections.
Four men should secure automatic qualifications to the team. Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) does so based on three criteria — he is the highest ranked U.S. rider in the UCI rankings, he earned a seventh-place finish at the Tabor World Cup, and he is the top points holder from the North American C1 events. Likewise, newly crowned national champion Jonathan Page — already an automatic qualifier for his top-15 ride at the Namur World Cup — gets the nod for his win in Wisconsin. Joining them will be Ryan Trebon and Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com), currently the second- and third-ranked U.S. men in the UCI standings.
With a third place at nationals, Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale) — already having performed well at UCI C1 events in North America, which Gullickson says are heavily weighted in the selection process — should have locked up his position on the team. This is bolstered by the fact that his form seems to be peaking, evidenced by his victory and a second place at the recent Chicago Cyclocross Cup New Year’s Resolution. And good form is also important in the selection process, according to Gullickson.
Chris Jones (Rapha), already on the bubble for a selection, had a setback at nationals before the gun even went off. He didn’t take the start after injuring his thumb in a crash during course inspection. Unable to have an x-ray before the start on what he suspected could be a broken thumb, he decided to sit the race out. His chances at worlds selection may have faded with the mishap.
So it was Danny Summerhill (UnitedHealthcare) that may have stepped into the void. Already this season he has shown the most promise when he’s been able to hit the UCI races on the national circuit. Summerhill lacks the points he likely would hold if he had full team support for ’cross. Some doubt existed about his ability to make a run at worlds with his neo-pro road contract about to commence with UnitedHealthcare. But he’s all in.
“Yeah man! For sure I’m in for worlds,” he told VeloNews before nationals. “I’m hoping I get that fifth or sixth spot. Consistency wise I would have thought I was there, but I don’t have the money to go to all these other UCI races everyone’s been at lately.” After his fourth-place performance at nationals, it’s a good bet that his limited schedule will still land him a coveted spot on the team.
“Danny is the youngest of those likely to get a [discretionary] spot. And he has a good history at worlds as a junior so that may be considered if it’s looking close,” said Gullickson.
Projected elite men’s roster:
Jonathan Page, EGNVT
Jeremy Powers, Rapha-Focus
Ryan Trebon, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com
Tim Johnson, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com
Jamey Driscoll, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com
Danny Summerhill, UnitedHealthcare
Katie Compton qualifies based on three criteria: she won three rounds of the World Cup this season (she also won the overall title, which allows the U.S. to select a sixth team member), she is the top points holder from the North American C1 events, and she won yet another national title.
Certain to join her is Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale), who finished ninth in the elite women’s World Cup opener in Tabor, Czech Republic. Beyond that, and given the addition of a sixth member to the team, the battle for the other four discretionary spots is feisty. Almost certain to get the nod are Georgia Gould (Luna) and Amy Dombroski (Telenet-Fidea). While Gould, who came into the ’cross season fresh off her bronze-medal rides in the Olympic and world championship cross-country races, hasn’t raced in Europe this year, history — and her 2012 results, which include a slew of seconds and thirds to Compton — has proven that she’ll likely be able to ride from the U.S. circuit onto the worlds team. Her fourth place at nationals, after battling back from an early mishap, only helped her cause.
“With her strength in the domestic C1 races distinguishes her in my mind as a strong candidate,” said Gullickson.
Dombroski brings the valuable mix of being young, capable of a top-15 (with two 11th-place finishes in World Cups this year), and employed by the highest-profile team in the sport. But, she did not make the trip over for nationals.
“Of course, I’m disappointed she’s not here (at nationals) but I know that she doesn’t have a huge budget and she has a contract for a race next weekend and she wants to do Hoogerheide (World Cup),” said Gullickson. “She had to make a decision. I told her if she’s on the bubble it could hurt her not coming back, but her two World Cups (where she almost qualified) were really strong rides.”
Given her recent performances in Europe, which include an eleventh place at the Namur World Cup, Meredith Miller (Cal Giant-Specialized) is another likely choice for one of the discretionary selections.
“I missed two months of racing and that was two months that people didn’t see me racing against my competition,” Miller told VeloNews. “But then I came back (to racing), and with the exception of Bend, which wasn’t so great, I went over to Europe, and those are the people I’m going to be competing against at worlds, and I’m right there with them. A lot of the Americans were there and, with the exception of Katie Compton, the five races that I did, most often I was second American.”
She rode well for much of the national championship race, getting off to her best start yet in a ’cross nationals race and riding much of the 40 minutes in the top three. Miller was ultimately disappointed after falling to eighth, finishing distantly to a number of riders also pressing for selectiong. However, Miller’s recent form, her European success, and her abilities on a power rider’s track — like Eva Bandman Park in Louisville — tilt the selection in her favor.
For the final spot, USA Cycling has a tough decision. In the running are Nicole Duke (Alchemy Bicycle Company), Maureen Bruno-Roy (Bob’s Red Mill-Seven), Crystal Anthony (Cyclocrossworld.com), and Teal Stetson-Lee (Luna).
Jade Wilcoxson, who came off of nine days of track training to notch a jaw-dropping second place at nationals, did not apply for a discretionary selection. However, Gullickson said he was willing to see if an exemption could be pressed so that Wilcoxson could at least be considered. It is unknown how that would alter the decision-making process for worlds selection; the process for picking the four open elite women’s slots may be the most difficult that USA Cycling faces.
Duke rode to a very strong third place at nationals — for the second year in a row — to redeem her season and strengthen her chances for the team. It is difficult to imagine a worlds team without the two-times consecutive nationals bronze medalist.
Bruno-Roy, however boasts a good deal of European experience, a solid seventh place at nationals, and the “it” factor that the selection committee looks for in supporting cast members.
Emerging talent Anthony rode to a fine fifth at nationals and dipped her feet in Europe over the Kerstperiode with some success. She and Stetson-Lee, who has had strong results in UCI C1 races domestically through the season, and was sixth at nationals, have a case for the selection committee’s criteria as riders for the future.
“I’m glad we got that sixth spot for the team, because [the women] are going to be the toughest category to choose, because we have so many good women in comparison to the rest of the world,” said Gullickson. “So, I’m pretty excited.”
Projected elite women’s roster:
Katie Compton, Trek Cyclocross Collective
Kaitlin Antonneau, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com
Georgia Gould, Luna
Amy Dombroski, Telenet-Fidea
Meredith Miller, Cal Giant-Specialized
Nicole Duke, Alchemy Bicycle Company
Zach McDonald (Rapha) is the only automatic qualifier to the team, as he finished fourth for U23 men at the Tabor World Cup. He opted for the elite race at nationals, finishing second to Page, instead of the U23 race, and Yannick Eckmann (Cal Giant) took the title, but is ineligible to represent the U.S. at worlds because of citizenship issues. So, first-year U23 Andrew Dillman (Bob’s Red Mill) looks to have seriously bolstered his worlds selection with a second-place finish in Verona. The other important factor for the selection committee to consider is results from the Kerstperiode European swing, where Dillman finished 37th at the Zolder World Cup, the second American behind McDonald.
“Dillman really stepped up (Saturday) and he really had the most consistent European holiday race series over there, aside from Zach,” said Gullickson. “He impressed me over there and did again yesterday.”
Beyond Dillman, things get a little less clear, at least based on pure results. Tobin Ortenblad (Cal Giant) claimed third yesterday at nationals, but his European campaign was inconsistent. Others seemed to follow a similar pattern.
“It showed yesterday: Ortenblad, Skyler Trujillo (Boo Bicycles), and Josh Johnson (Bissell-ABG), all those guys, including Dillman, were in Europe and those were the four guys with varying degrees of success,” said Gullickson. “But that time, and Geoff Proctor’s (EuroCrossCamp), proved itself out there (Saturday). Those were the guys that rose above.”
And what of Cody Kaiser (Cal Giant), who has two previous world championship appearances on his resume? That prior experience may help his cause, but the past doesn’t guarantee a selection this time around.
“He’s got that, but I can’t say if he’s going to be on the team or not,” said Gullickson. “You would think that him racing that many world championships, and having that experience, we would have seen that yesterday but… I think he knew that yesterday was important for his selection.”
Projected U23 men’s roster:
Zach McDonald, Rapha-Focus
Andrew Dillman, Bob’s Red Mill
Tobin Ortenblad, Cal Giant-Specialized
Skyler Trujillo, Boo Bicycles
Josh Johnson, Bissell-ABG
Junior men 17-18
Logan Owen (Redline) and Curtis White (Hot Tubes) have automatically qualified based on their World Cup results and both have realistic shots at the podium in Louisville. Beyond that, the junior men are difficult to predict — and select.
“The juniors are a tougher selection,” said Gullickson. “No three juniors clearly made it, easy.”
There are only four selection races for the juniors: the two Trek U.S. Gran Prix stops in Louisville, Kentucky, and the two in Bend, Oregon. The USA Cycling selection committee will have made the roster choices based on these races, combined with results from the European camp and nationals. But the task has been made difficult by the inconsistencies in results by each of the riders in the mix.
“Some of them had good selection races and poor European races, or good nationals and vice versa. So, none of them were lined up consistently when you track it all, ‘Oh, they’re the best, best, best,’” said Gullickson. “There are too many, and it’s too close to name. There are probably six or seven for the three spots that we have to discuss with the selection committee.”
Nationals only confused the matter. A crash in the starting straight took out many in the field, including some of those in the mix for the worlds team.
“Unfortunately, there was a crash at the start of the junior race because I know there were a couple of good guys who were involved in that, but we don’t have a clause in the selection that says if there’s a crash we’ll consider your lap times — it’s just off of your finish place,” said Gullickson. “And I’m not even going to go there with the long list because it’s too close to call.”
Usually the final selection process would take place over the course of a week, with Gullickson sharing his choices with the committee, who would then have time to process and evaluate his selections. But with so few days between nationals and worlds, the schedule is shortened considerably.
“The turnaround on this is pretty tight, but usually it comes down to that final spot, or final couple spots in the case of the juniors. The elites are easier. If it’s an easy selection, it means that trends continue, which is nice when you’re selecting a team like this,” said Gullickson.
Projected junior men’s roster:
Logan Owen, Redline
Curtis White, Hot Tubes
Peter Goguen, C.F. Racing
Maxx Chance, Cliff Bar Development
Nathaniel Morse, Hot Tubes
VeloNews.com editor Brian Holcombe and contributor Emily Zinn contributed to this report.