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Cyclocross

Jeremy Powers and Tim Johnson lead U.S. cyclocross world championship team, Jones out

Jeremy Powers and Tim Johnson are set to lead the U.S. elite men’s team into the cyclocross world championships later this month in St. Wendel, Germany. USA Cycling will announce the final five-man squad following a selection committee meeting Friday morning, but the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com are both automatic selections. “If Tim…

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Jeremy Powers and Tim Johnson are set to lead the U.S. elite men’s team into the cyclocross world championships later this month in St. Wendel, Germany. USA Cycling will announce the final five-man squad following a selection committee meeting Friday morning, but the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com are both automatic selections.

“If Tim and I weren’t selected, it would be a huge disappointment,” Powers told VeloNews Thursday from the team’s rental house in Belgium. “For us, it’s a little bit easier knowing that we had a good year and we don’t have anything to worry about,” he said.

Related: U.S women’s, U23 and junior men’s team selections were announced last week.

Todd Wells (Specialized) was the top U.S. automatic qualifier by way of his national championship in December, but declined nomination to the team. Wells told VeloNews that “I’d really like to, but the one time I did ’cross worlds, I had a terrible mountain bike season.”

With the Olympics less than two years away, Wells can’t afford a down season. Johnson was disappointed that Wells wouldn’t take the invitation. “I understand where he’s coming from, but I think it’s a shame he’s not able to make it happen,” said Johnson. “He’s a great athlete. He’s an Olympian and he really helps us all when he’s racing with us, not only in the States, but for him to represent on a world level is key. He’s not just there on a whim. He’s a legit, world-class athlete.”

Wells’ absence leaves Powers (top American in UCI standings, most accumulated C1 points in North America) and Johnson (second American in UCI standings) as the only auto qualifiers to accept the invitation. The teammates finished one-two in the final U.S. Grand Prix of Cyclocross and North American Cyclocross Trophy standings this season. Powers and Johnson arrived in Europe Wednesday for the final two World Cups ahead of worlds.

“For us as a team, we can bring over all of our equipment, have all of our riders here and it’s status quo,” said Powers. “We have all of our accommodations set up ahead of time. We have our whole trip planned, so doing well at these last two World Cups, the only thing we have to focus on is racing.”

USA Cycling cyclocross program manager Marc Gullickson told VeloNews that Wells’ name would be removed from the maximum five-man roster, leaving three discretionary picks for the men’s team. The 12-person panel responsible for the picks comprises former Olympic and world championship cyclists across the sport’s disciplines, including former mountain bike world champ Alison Dunlap, Olympic silver medal BMX rider Mike Day and world pursuit champion Mike McCarthy. According to Gullickson, the committee will evaluate the recommendations of USAC sports directors on a Friday morning conference call.

“We try to go straight off of results and future medal potential,” he said.

Gullickson would not confirm any of the names up for discretionary nomination, but did say that he expected the selection to be “fairly straightforward.”

Rapha-Focus’ Chris Jones told VeloNews that he did not petition for a discretionary pick. “I didn’t this year because Trebon and Driscoll were riding better than me,” he said. “We decided that if I didn’t get a top three at nationals, we would call it a season — and a successful one.”

(Jones was 15th at nationals)

With Jones out of the picture, the discretionary picks are likely to be Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale), Jonathan Page (Planet Bikes-Blue) and Ryan Trebon (Kona-FSA).

The Diesel

Driscoll is a rider for the future and according to Gullickson, the committee considers future medal prospects important in the selection process. The former elite nationals silver medalist nearly repeated his 2009 win at the season’s first C1 event, CrossVegas, in September before French champ Francis Mourey pipped him at the line.

The University of Vermont student was hit or miss in October, but came roaring back in November, finishing second in the slick mud at the first day of the New Belgium Cup USGP and winning both races he contested, including a C1, at Jingle Cross Rock. Johnson called him “Mr. Consistent.”

When he was rested this year, Driscoll held his own in North America. The 25-year-old closed the U.S. season with a third-place ride behind his teammates at the final USGP before riding back from an early mishap to slot in between Powers and Johnson for fourth at nationals. He should see his sixth invite to the world championships Friday morning.

The Old Hand

At 35, Page will be the eldest member of the worlds team. The European-based pro has faced a challenging season with a series of injuries and illness taking the edge off his top-end fitness, but he has been the most consistent American male in Europe.

“Jonathan’s had some really good results,” said Johnson. “I don’t know how he’s riding at the particular moment, but he’s certainly earned his spot.”

Page struggled with the two-headed Cannondale attack in the States early and a lower back injury in October, but showed improving form before injuring his ankle before the Christmas week races. The 2007 worlds silver medalist has been on the verge of a top-10 in a number of GVA and SuperPrestige events and appears to be overcoming his ruptured tendon ahead of the final build-up to St. Wendel.

Tree Farm

Trebon was the strongest American to go without a major win this season. The former national champion was the most persistent challenger to Powers and Johnson, despite dealing with a mid-season groin injury and illness. Trebon earned wins over Powers at the Darkhorse Stampede in Cincinnati and Wells at Jingle Cross, as well as a run of podiums at the USGP.

A first lap crash took Trebon out of contention for the win at nationals, but he kept his cool and clawed back for second behind Wells. “Ryan finished up great at nationals,” said Johnson. Two weeks later, Trebon had a forgettable European trip, registering a 32nd place at the Zolder World Cup, but is back on track to attend the Hoogerheide World Cup a week before worlds. It will be the former national champion’s fifth invitation to the world championships.

Stay tuned to VeloNews.com for the announcement Friday of the U.S. elite men’s team for the world cyclocross championships.

VeloNews projected U.S. elite men’s team

Cyclocross World Championship
St. Wendel, Germany 2011

Jeremy Powers, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com *automatic
Tim Johnson, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com *automatic
Jamey Driscoll, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com
Jonathan Page, Planet Bike-Blue
Ryan Trebon, Kona-FSA