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USA Cross Recap: Week One
WORDS & PHOTOS: Jeremy Dunn
The cyclocross season is now in full swing. The hot fluorescent lights of Vegas have died away and been replaced by somewhat muddier conditions. Gone, but not forgotten as we take a look back at a few of the things that have been going on with the Cross scene and the Rapha-FOCUS Cyclocross Team. Take a look through this recap to see what they were up to for the first few weeks of the season, an update to our Cross Clash program and the addition of new teammate Julie Krasniak. The only one that seems to be missing from the bunch is returning member Chris Jones. Fear not, his road campaign kept him on a bit longer this season to compete in the Tour of Britain. Chris will be back this weekend for the races in Gloucester and here next week with a fantastic interview with professional Rapha Condor Sharp's Tom Southam.
PHOTO: Dain C. Zaffke
The main event at Interbike each year (besides looking at all the new product for the season) is the Cross Vegas cyclocross race. Sure, distributors and salesmen alike would have you think that it is more about that large, dry, building with everyone inside talking about stem length, psi and msrp, but let us face it here, people need action! There used to be a Criterium element to the week as well (remember that year when Cippolini raced?) but it has been distilled to two amazingly fast professional cyclocross races and one fast-but-fun industry race (with over 150 racers this year).
Well, we banked on that idea, got together with our team sponsors and added one to the fun this year by pitting former teammates Jeremy Powers (now part of the Rapha-FOCUS team) and Tim Johnson against each other. The lower level housed the Circulus perfectly, transported and assembled by Portland Design Works themselves. The short, wooden track was the perfect place to pit these two against each other in a friendly and competitive fashion, complete with boxing robes (or in the case of Johnson a stolen hotel bathrobe) and a good old fashion weigh in session.
This was in part to help promote this idea of a true Cross Clash. Cross Clash came about earlier this year when we were talking about what Cyclocross racing means to us here in the Rapha North America office. While the Professional side of racing is one aspect that many of us get excited about watching the real excitement comes in the form of racing and more importantly — racing against your peers. For the good majority of us we may never see the sharp end of a Cyclocross race, but that does not mean that our personal battles are any less important in 12th, 24th or 45th place. This is exactly why we teamed up with CrossResults.com the "race predictor" and "nemesis" options that founder Colin Reuter created were the perfect way to keep track of your personal competitions. Sign up and participate to Keep Cross and Clash On (the Brits love this t-shirt.)
The fans that came out to watch the Circulus race even rivaled that of the actual Cross Vegas cross race itself. That might be a bit of a stretch, but they crowded in to watch these two go head to head. The format was best of three with Johnson taking the first race by actually catching Powers on the track. Something that none of us actually thought possible based on the athletic merits of these two. Jeremy came back in the second to look good and possibly instill a little fear in the heart of Mr. Johnson, but it was the grizzled veteran Johnson who won out over the young buck in the last race.
But all of this was really to get people excited for the real main event of Cross Vegas later in the evening.
Cross Clash Battle #1: Tim Johnson 1 - Jeremy Powers 0
PHOTO: Dain C. Zaffke
To describe CrossVegas as "fast" is a bit of an understatement. The race has grown to incorporate more and more of the European Professionals in the past few years and this year was no exception. They took command of the race early on, but, that doesn't mean that the US Contingent were absent from the action. Not only were our men Powers and McDonald aggressive from the gun, but the final lap saw Jeremy Powers on the front giving it his absolute best. Going into the last right handed run-up, which was actually four short reinforced wood steps it looked as though Powers had the whole thing wrapped up. He rode these stairs and was the first man up and rounding the corner before a few of the racers in the lead group (of 12! 14!) were even off their bikes at the bottom. The long straights at the top of the course were more than enough for Ryan Trebon (LTS-FELT), Christian Heule (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) and the eventual race winner Lars Van Der Haar (Rabbobank) to bring him back. His 4th place finish on the day was a testament to how fast that race really gets, but it should not overshadow the fact that he took home the win for his second Cross Clash of the day.
Cross Clash Battle #2: Jeremy Powers 1 - Tim Johnson 1
The good people of Seattle (if you didn't know it there is a longstanding rivalry between the two Pacific Northwest cities of Portland, OR and Seattle, WA) put on some fantastic races each year. No matter what the people of Portland have to say about them. This years Starcrossed, in its 10th year, and the newly christened Rapha-FOCUS Gran Prix. The Euro's stuck around for some racing and made this race into something amazing to behold. Watching Rob Peeters and former two-time World Cyclocross Champion Bart Wellens work over the domestic scene (and then discuss it in a thoughtful and meaningful way) was a treat for cyclocross fans anywhere. Katerinia Nash had a similar hold over the crowd as she blasted her way to wins on both days with French National Champion Caroline Mani and fan favorite Maureen Bruno-Roy close behind.
Zach McDonald toed the start line on day two and was promptly brought down in one of the first corners of the race. He boldly fought his way back into 8th on the day. Keep an eye on this "kid" as he starts right where he left off last season and only continues to improve on his deep mountain bike skill-set to create a depth rarely seen over here.
The Rapha-FOCUS GP was also the first of our participation in the venue aspects of the cyclocross scene. Along with some fantastic food and coffee options set up on the infield of the race course there were also a few vendors selling their wares. We had a selection of our Cyclocross Collection, mostly just the Winter Hats (which completely sold out on the first day) and the a few of the Pro Team Jersey and Pro Team Cross Bib Shorts. As the weather starts to get cooler you may see some of the Cross Jersey which Daisuke could be seen racing in, start to appear on the scene. This setup will be available at the remainder of the USGP's along with these rider cards.
The Starcrossed/Rapha-FOCUS GP weekend of racing was hot on the heels of Interbike and CrossVegas and the rider cards came in just as the racing was getting underway. There is one for each of the riders and one for their head mechanic Brian Dallas. Collect all four (see below, there may be five by the end of the season) as these will be available at the Rapha-FOCUS tent throughout the season. Check their schedule HERE to find out where they will be racing, if you are in the Massachusetts area, this weekends Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester where they will be focusing their efforts at one of the premiere Cyclocross races in the country. This will also be the first spot where Jeremy and Zach will be joined with their teammate Chris Jones. The most recent addition to the team, Ms. Julie Krasniak will be competing halfway around the world in Luxembourg.
There has been a new addition to the Rapha-FOCUS family of riders. French National racer Julie Kransniak has an extensive background in the U23 arena in almost all aspects of cycle racing (Time Trial, MTB and Road). She participated last weekend in the World Championship road race and has has done Mountain Bike Worlds more than a few times. This year she will join the guys in the States to try out some of the Exergy USGP races before heading back to European soil for the Christmas Cross season and gear up for the World Championships in Belgium.