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Cyclocross

‘Cross series comes down to the wire this weekend

It's showdown time in the Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross. Going into the final two races this coming weekend, Canadian Geoff Kabush has a slight advantage in the race for the final podium's top step, leading perennial American favorite Marc Gullickson (Redline) by just 34 points. Three other Americans - Ryan Trebon (Kona), Adam Craig (Maxxis Giant) and Mark McCormack (Clif Bar-Colavita) - are each within striking distance and have plenty of motivation to do well. If an American can clinch the series victory, he's assured of a spot on the U.S. team headed to the World

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Will Kabush still be celebrating on Sunday?

Will Kabush still be celebrating on Sunday?

Photo: Chris Milliman

It’s showdown time in the Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross.

Going into the final two races this coming weekend, Canadian Geoff Kabush has a slight advantage in the race for the final podium’s top step, leading perennial American favorite Marc Gullickson (Redline) by just 34 points. Three other Americans – Ryan Trebon (Kona), Adam Craig (Maxxis Giant) and Mark McCormack (Clif Bar-Colavita) – are each within striking distance and have plenty of motivation to do well. If an American can clinch the series victory, he’s assured of a spot on the U.S. team headed to the World Championships in St. Wendel, Germany.

On the women’s side the picture is a little clearer, but the final outcome still not a certainty. Kona’s Ann Knapp and Missing Link’s Gina Hall have dueled all fall, jumping clear of some of the deepest, most competitive women’s fields ever assembled on North American soil.

The two have claimed all four victories in the Crank Brothers series to date -Knapp has three to Hall’s single win – but the battle (Knapp has 170 points to Hall’s 156) would be even tighter had Hall not fallen victim to a bad crash while in the lead at the Michelob ULTRA Gran Prix of Gloucester No. 2 in Gloucester, Mass. last month.

Not if Gully can help it.

Not if Gully can help it.

Photo:

Trailing the two are Rhonda Mazza of Vanilla-S&M with 96 points and the Velo Bella one-two punch of Sarah Kerlin and Barbara Howe, each with 94 points. Although they remain mathematically in contention, overtaking the leaders at this point would require nothing short than a miracle — or a disaster, depending on your point of view.

With 50 points awarded for each victory, this weekend’s events — the Beacon Cyclocross in Bridgeton, N.J. and the Highland Park Cyclocross in Highland Park, N.J. — will prove decisive in the Crank Brothers national series, which has renewed broad interest in the growing sport by pitting the best racers in North America in head-to-head combat.

Kabush and his Maxxis Giant team would appear to hold the best hand in the men’s races. With Craig still in contention and riding well, the Canadian can afford to ride defensively knowing Trebon, Gullickson and McCormack can’t let Craig jump away early. But Gullickson is riding with extra motivation this year, having recently announced it would be his last at the elite level.

McCormack, meanwhile, seems to be peaking, as demonstrated in his victory last week at the UCI Cat. 1 Cycle-Smart International race in Amherst, Mass. And Trebon remains arguably the most electric racer on the circuit, with his ability to blast away from even the most select group.

In addition to the men’s and women’s leaders, the overall winners in the U-23 and junior categories will also qualify for the U.S. world’s team. Matt White of NCC-BikeReg.com holds a 46-point lead over defending U.S. champion Jesse Anthony (Cyclocrossworld.com), 180-134, while Zachary Grabowski (TIAA-Creff/Clif Bar) sits a further 13 points back.

The junior field has provided the most drama of any category, with Braden Kappius (TIAA-Creff/Clif Bar) leading Charles “Toby” Marzot by a whisker, 140-137. Just four points back is Adam McGrath (Excel Sports), who has a first and second place finish in his last two races.

Saturday’s race, the Beacon Cyclocross, features a number of challenges, including a trip across the beach, a sand pit, two sets of steps and a couple of trips through the legendary “Amphitheater of Pain.” Racing gets underway with preliminary events starting at 10 a.m. Elite women take the start at 1:30, while Elite men and U-23 racers begin at 2:30.

On Sunday, racers at the Highland Park Cyclocross will test themselves on a fast, challenging and spectator friendly course along the banks of the Raritan River. The schedule is virtually the same — preliminary events starting at 10 a.m., elite women at 1:30, and Elite men/U-23 racers at 2:45.

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