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Cyclocross

U.S. GP of Cyclocross kicks off Saturday

The six-race Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross kicks off Saturday, with top 'cross racers from across the country convening in Portland, Oregon, for the first event, the Cannondale Stümptown Gran Prix. Racing continues Sunday in Tacoma, Washington, at the Clif Bar Grand Prix of cyclo-cross. "We're excited that the first weekend of the inaugural Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross has finally arrived,” said Paul Salvucci, director of operations for the series. “It's expected that there will be a great turnout of racers cranking up the competitive heat to the delight of the

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By Press release

The six-race Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross kicks off Saturday, with top ‘cross racers from across the country convening in Portland, Oregon, for the first event, the Cannondale Stümptown Gran Prix. Racing continues Sunday in Tacoma, Washington, at the Clif Bar Grand Prix of cyclo-cross.

“We’re excited that the first weekend of the inaugural Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross has finally arrived,” said Paul Salvucci, director of operations for the series. “It’s expected that there will be a great turnout of racers cranking up the competitive heat to the delight of the spectators.”

Held on the grounds of Alpenrose Dairy in the heart of downtown Portland, the Cannondale Stümptown Gran Prix’s course lies on dairy pastures adjacent to the Alpenrose velodrome, providing a unique venue that is as enticing to spectators as it will be brutal to the racers. Race promoter Brad Ross describes the course as fairly flat, with a tough 30-meter run-up section.

The course won’t be the only challenge that domestic racers like Todd Wells (GT-Hyundai), Carl Decker (Giant-Pearl Izumi) and Adam Craig (Maxxis-Giant) will confront. Making his first North American appearance in several years will be Italian national champion Daniele Pontoni, already tipped as the favorite for the weekend. Pontoni, who already owns two world championship jerseys, finished fourth in February’s 2004 world championship.

Ross says he expects Ryan Trebon and Barry Wicks (Kona), Mark McCormack (Clif Bar-Colavita Olive Oil), and Jonny Sundt and Canada’s Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Giant) to be among the top finishers as well. Local favorite Eric Tonkin is also a wheel to watch and could surprise. On the women’s side, the favorites include Anna Milkowski (Rona), Christine Vardaros (Velo Bella) and Northwest favorite Ann Knapp (Kona).

A full day of racing kicks off at 9:30 a.m. with morning preliminary events. The elite women and junior races begin at 12:30 p.m. the elite men and espoirs (under-23 racers) are set to go at 3 p.m.

BATTLE NEAR SEATTLE

Racing continues 24 hours later in Tacoma, Washington, with the Clif Bar Grand Prix of Cyclo-Cross at Fort Steilacoom Park.

Like the Alpenrose course, Fort Steilacoom Park is a mainstay in the Northwest cyclo-cross scene. The course features sandy soils, wild open fields and some hairpin curves. All of the climbing arrives in the second half of the circuit, which comes to a head at the “Kona Knapp Time Run-up,” an 80-meter, thigh-busting steep run-up that is a huge hit with the fans.

A strong contingent of Northwest riders will try to outdo Pontoni, McCormack, and Kabush, but promoter Jim Brown says to keep an eye on an old favorite, Marc Gullickson.

“The course favors runners who can get a gap on the ‘Kona Knapp Time Run-up,’ but there is a lot of flat fast racing below the hill which will make it hard for a solo rider to get away,” Brown predicts.

Brown says a high-speed technical descent challenges even the savviest racers as it ends in yet another hairpin corner and leads back to the start-finish area.

Preliminary events start at 9 a.m., with the elite women and junior racers taking the start line at 2 p.m. Elite men and espoirs are scheduled to take the field at 3 p.m.

Winners from this weekend races will undoubtedly hold the early advantage in the series contest. Overall winners in the elite men, elite women, U-23, and junior men categories will receive automatic selection to the world cyclo-cross championships in St. Wendel, Germany, in February 2005. Master Men 35+ will also be ranked in the series.

Along with title sponsor Crank Brothers and presenting sponsor VeloNews, additional U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross sponsors include Selle Italia, Mavic, Clif Bar, Adidas, and BikeReg.com.

The 2004 Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross Series schedule:
Race 1: October 9 – Cannondale Stumptown Cyclocross Classic, Portland, OR.
Race 2: October 10 – Clif Bar Grand Prix, Ft. Steilacoom Park, Tacoma, WA.
Race 3: Oct. 30- Michelob ULTRA Gran Prix of Gloucester Race #1, Stage Fort Park, Gloucester, MA.
Race 4: Oct. 31- Michelob ULTRA Gran Prix of Gloucester Race #2, Stage Fort Park, Gloucester, MA.
Race 5: November 20- Beacon CX, Bridgeton, NJ.
Race 6: November 21- Highland Park Cyclocross, Donaldson Park, Highland Park, NJ.

For complete U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross details, go to www.usgpcyclocross.com.

For more information about the Cannondale Stumptown Classic, please visit: www.crosscrusade.com/

For more information about the Clif Bar Grand Prix, please visit: www.radracingnw.org/Clifbar_GP/clifBar_gp.htm