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By Robbie Stout
National level cyclocross begins this weekend with the Full Speed Ahead Star Crossed on Saturday, and the Rad Racing Gran Prix on Sunday. This is also the first of five weekends of the North American Cyclocross Trophy (NACT).
Star Crossed is under the lights of the Marymoor velodrome in Seattle, Washington. Racers will put their early-season cyclocross ability to the test. Star Crossed is known for its boisterous atmosphere, thanks to the 360-degree viewing, beer garden, deep prize list and DJs.
In 2008, Star Crossed was a game of who could remain upright. The muddy course proved to be challenging as riders bobbled their way around, hoping to rediscover their mud-riding skills that had gone into remission during the summer. Adam Craig dropped his chain and never regained contact with the front group. Tim Johnson went down and never regained contact either—the race came down to a head-to-head battle between Jeremy Powers (Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com) and Ryan Trebon.
On the final lap, Trebon collided with a lapped rider, an all too familiar experience for the tall Kona team member, who had a serious collision with another rider at the 2007 cyclocross national championships. In the end, the stars were aligned just right for Powers to take the early-season win.
Powers just capped off his 2009 road season with an aggressive showing at the Tour of Missouri where he was part of a short-lived breakaway during stage 1 and finished 12th on stage 4. Now it’s time for him get off the road and lower his tire pressure by about 90psi.
“Star Crossed is cool,” Powers said, “because it is the first race of the year … I’m always excited about the first race of the year … It’s the first real test for how things are going to go for the rest of the year.”
While Star Crossed will be a fairly straight forward ’cross race with off-camber corners, grass, mud and relatively normal barrier sections, the following day’s Rad Racing Gran Prix may prove to be more challenging with the 80-meter “Knapp run-up.”
Not even the pros attempt to ride the 80-meter run-up. It is very steep and very long and will certainly be a slap in the face to those that don’t have a descent running foundation. And to those that do … well it’s still going to hurt.
Johnson, just finishing off a long road season with OUCH-Maxxis, ended his
season with the Tour of Missouri. Of last year and the first cyclocross race
of the season, he said, “It’s all about pushing through the cobwebs in our
In 2008, Powers struggled with the long run and was forced to chase back to the Trebon-Johnson duo almost every lap. By the last couple laps he knew the run-up would end his chances at a repeat win from the day before. His Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com teammate, Johnson went onto win with Trebon finishing in second.
While a repeat of last year’s Star Crossed and Rad Racing GP podiums is a possibility, it is likely that this year’s heavily stacked men and women’s fields will produce a new winner.
The top men expected to start are: Jesse Anthony, Jamey Driscoll, Andy Jacques-Maynes, Jonathan Page, Christian Huele, Jonathan Baker and of course Trebon, Powers and Johnson.
The 2008 women’s Star Crossed saw Sue Butler (Monavie-Cannondale) light up the field from the gun. Wendy Simms hung tight throughout the race but she did not have the gas to get around Butler in the final lap.
The next day, at the Rad Racing GP, the roles were reversed. Perhaps more determined than the day prior, Simms bested Butler to take the win and earn some valuable NACT series points.
Butler and Simms are expected to defend their titles this year but they will have their work cut out fending off Alison Dunlap (Luna), whom is fresh off of retirement. As her first race back as a professional rider, it will be a crapshoot whether or not Dunlap can rekindle what it takes to win races. But as we’ve seen with riders like Armstrong and Basso, the greats don’t come back unless they know they can compete at the top level.
Butler will also have to defend against three time mountain bike world champion Alison Sydor (Luna) and Helen Wyman (Kona), a two-time British national cyclocross champion.
As with all of the NACT races, riders of all levels are welcome to compete within their racing category. And to all those cat. 3 cyclocross pros, Cascade Bicycle Studio is awarding the winner of the cat. 3 Star Crossed race with a new Seven Cycles Tsunami steel frame. In addition, the winner will also receive $777 worth of Seven gear: soft goods, titanium stem, seatpost, components.
Check back later for the Star Crossed and Rad Racing GP race reports, photo galleries and video.