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BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — Many of the nation’s top cyclocross racers are descending on Boulder this weekend for a pair of UCI events that have become tradition for the Halloween weekend. But the few who are missing, among them reigning national champions Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) and Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective), both battling in the trenches of Czech Republic World Cups, will mean that the racing will take on a different appearance from many of the previous domestic UCI races this season. It should be wide open.
Saturday’s Colorado Cross Classic, a UCI C2 event in its third year, will take place along the sandy shores of the Boulder Reservoir. The Valmont Bike Park — host to the cyclocross national championships in 2014 — is the site for Sunday’s Victory Circle Graphix Boulder Cup, the seventh edition of the UCI C1.
The week leading into the action has seen skies turn from sunny to wintry — four inches of heavy snow fell on Wednesday and Thursday — but temperatures are expected to notch above 45 on Saturday, prime conditions to turn the sandy soils of the reservoir heavy, and the red dirt at the contoured Valmont Park into a slippery grind.
Powers out, Wells in
While Powers and Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) remain in Czech Republic for a second World Cup stop in Pilzen, the fight for victory should be no less ferocious. Last year’s Colorado Cross Classic victor and two-time national champion Ryan Trebon (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) will face off against three-time national cyclocross champion, Todd Wells (Specialized), a man known for coming out of nowhere to capture coveted race wins in recent seasons. He only won a single race in 2010; it happened to be the national championship. Though he hasn’t raced cyclocross in 2012, Wells will look to score another big win before he leaves to defend his title at La Ruta de los Conquistadores.
Out to spoil the party will be two racers who call the Colorado Front Range home. Danny Summerhill (Chipotle-First Solar) is fresh off an impressive weekend at the Smartwool Cup in Fort Collins. After his fourth-place ride on day one, Summerhill on Sunday flashed to a crowd-rousing, come-from-behind fourth place in a four-up sprint. He led for much of the first half of the race, then succumbed to a mechanical, only to charge back. This past weekend, to stay primed, he rode away from the field in each of the local Colorado races. He has proven that he can ride among the best American ’cross racers this season, even if his chances to prove so have been limited.
Not to be forgotten is last year’s Boulder Cup winner, Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement). The Belgian is calling Boulder home for the season and has been racking up a slew of consistent results. His season started with a third-place finish at Clif Bar CrossVegas. His first victory of the season came just a week-and-a-half later at the Gateway Cross Cup in Saint Louis. To date, the rest of his season has not seen him fall out of the top five, including a third at the Great Brewers Grand Prix of Gloucester, two podiums — a second on day one, and a third on day two — at the Providence Cyclocross Festival, and a solid weekend of racing at the Smartwool Cup, where he was third and fifth.
Other big names expected to take the start include Jesse Anthony, Alex Candelario, and Tristen Schouten (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies), Russell Finsterwald (Trek Cyclocross Collective), and inaugural Boulder Cup winner Barry Wicks (Kona).
Gould will have a go
As with the men’s race, some of the luster will be lost as the World Cup has pulled away the dominant Katie Compton. But that could well mean the racing is more exciting as a result.
After an historic mountain bike season that saw her capture both Olympic and world championship bronze, Georgia Gould (Luna) has been the best of the rest behind Compton, coming second in each of the first four USGP races. The two-time Boulder Cup winner and Fort Collins, Colorado, resident will look to score a hat trick at home.
Gould’s Luna teammate, Teal Stetson-Lee, comes into the weekend with a career-best third place result at a UCI C1, on the first day of competition at the Smartwool Cup. She battled with Canadian Pepper Harlton (Juventus Cycling Club) for that podium spot, and will battle again with the little-known Harlton, who is also on exceptional form. Stetson-Lee took the win at Spooky Cross last weekend and look for their battle to rage on.
Another Boulder-based veteran, Nicole Duke (Raleigh-Clement), will try to put her home field advantage to good use as she goes for the upset. Duke will be on the back foot this weekend however, if she starts, as she underwent oral surgery this week to correct a bone infection.
For both days, Colorado-based Rapid Racing has donated $20 per registered elite woman towards the women’s purse to help provide equality to prize lists. Inspired by Rapid Racing, locally-owned Cross Propz donated an additional $500 for the C1 purse on Sunday.