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USGP of Cyclocross #5 - Portland Cup - C1
Portland, Oregon, USA, December 6, 2008
By Laura Weislo
The last two races of the US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross in Portland, Oregon this weekend will have much more at stake than just UCI points. For the elite men, the weekend will decide the series champion in a contest which is still wide open. In the women's race, it is a battle between teammates Georgia Gould and Katerina Nash (Luna), who have traded blows in the first four events.
The weekend races will also be decisive for the junior men's field, who will not only earn UCI points, but will have the eyes of the USA Cycling coaches on them as the two races are one of the criteria which will be used to select the junior team for the world championships.
The under-23 men will race with the elites, but like the juniors, the espoirs will also be strutting their stuff for the national selectors.
With 50 points for the winner each day, there are six or seven riders in the elite men's field who could take the series title this weekend. Todd Wells (GT) took only one win on the second day in New Jersey, but consistent high placings put him into the lead with 147 points. Jeremy Powers (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) lies in second with 132 points, while his teammate and national champion Tim Johnson is in third with 123.
Johnson missed out on the second race in New Jersey after he injured his knee, but is still in the running for the series after coming in second place last year. He's trailed by last year's series champion Ryan Trebon (Kona) who dropped out of the second race in Louisville, Kentucky after taking the win in the opening round.
Trebon is tied for fourth with Troy Wells at 107 points, and Jessie Anthony is just one point behind. Even Jamey Driscoll, with 90 points in seventh place cannot be counted out.
"With the under-23's and junior racing for selection, and the close race in the men's series, we'll see some intense racing," said series director Joan Hanscom.
On the women's side, last year's winner Georgia Gould has already racked up three series wins, and with 184 points has a sizeable lead over her teammate Katerina Nash of 14 points. Rachel Lloyd sits in third with 138, while Maureen Bruno-Roy is the only other rider to crack 100 points in fourth.
One plus for the women will be a prize purse which will be equal to the men's for the top three finishers. "We haven't really been tooting our own horn over the equal prize purse, but the women podium finishers will get the same money as the men," said Hanscom.
The racers also have a most aggressive rider prize as an added incentive. "The SRAM most aggressive rider competition is awarded for each race to someone who shows extra sportsmanship or aggression. For example, someone who fights back from a flat, or poor starting position and might not win, but puts in a great display of racing," explained Hanscom.
"It's been a different person each time. Laura Van Gilder won one day in Kentucky - she kept herself in the game even though it was her first season. Will Dugan won once - he is an under-23 who races against the elites and overcame a really bad starting position and finished first under-23."
The US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross is in its fourth year, and Hanscom was pleased with the number of entrants, even with the awful weather riders encountered in the last weekend of racing in the Mercer Cup in New Jersey. "We had Portland weather in New Jersey," Hanscom said, describing the driving rain which turned the courses into thick mud before the sun finally emerged.
The forecast for this weekend in Portland is unusually pleasant with relatively mild temperatures expected and only a chance of light rain. However, the famed Portland mud is still guaranteed to be a factor, race director Brad Ross said.
"Part of the course is on a moto-cross track, and even if we had a week of sun it would still be a mud bog," Ross explained.
Last year's race was held under conditions which were quite the opposite: a bone-chilling mix of snow, wind and rain made the generally not-so-selective course into a true test of skill and power.
"There are some risers, but no sustained climbs," Ross described. "It's about two-thirds grass and the rest is pavement. But last year we had one of those storms you get only once every 50 years, so it was a bit harder."
Even epic weather conditions didn't keep away the 'cross-crazy Portland fans, and Ross expects the "usual suspects" to be back in action. The amateur races draw up to 800 racers alone, and hundreds more non-racing fans will line the course with plenty of the fun-loving character which makes Portland such a special place.
"There's a group called the Gentle Lovers - I don't know why they call themselves that, but they have a wood fired hot tub that they set up at the course and sit in. I'm sure they'll have that going and be serving hot toddy's during the race," Ross said.
"That's the difference between the US and Europe, is it's more inclusive here. People here race because it's fun, everyone's invited to do it - you don't have to be elite athletes. Here, everyone's welcome to participate."
2007 Tim Johnson (Cannondale/Leer/Cyclo-crossworld.com) Georgia Gould (Luna) 2006 Ryan Trebon (Kona) Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com) 2005 Ryan Trebon (Kona) Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com) 2004 Daniele Pontoni (Ita) Selle Italia-Elite Ann Knapp (USA) Kona 2003 Erwin Vervecken (Bel) Spaar Select Alison Dunlap (USA) Luna 2002 Todd Wells (Mongoose) Gina Hall (Cliff Bar)