Over one thousand cyclists from across the country will leave something behind at Valmont Bike Park over five winter days in January. Patches of serrated skin on icy steps. Pools of sweat. Flattened dreams. But only three dozen will exit USA Cycling’s Cyclo-cross National Championships from January 8 through 12 with stars and stripes jerseys.
No one knows when the event will return to the region, so for locally-based pros and amateurs, 2014 offers a singular opportunity to compete in the presence of family and friends who provide an emotional edge of encouragement and help calm frazzled nerves. For spectators it should just be a good time. Here’s who to watch for next month:
Sunday’s elite/pro races will draw world-class Americans. Many consider nationals the penultimate U.S. matchup—winning generates an automatic ticket to world championships. Weather and luck could settle the podium.
“There could always be something crazy like a freak snow storm or even a hot sunny day in January,” pro Danny Summerhill says, “that will throw even the most experienced racers off their game and make some potential underdog or unheard of name shine out.”
Summerhill (K-Edge/Felt) has long-awaited nationals at altitude. The Denverite hungers for an elite/pro win to cap off his junior and under-23 championships. Former champions Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus), Ryan Trebon and Tim Johnson of the Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com team, and defending champion Jonathan Page (Fuji/Spy/Competitive Cyclist) are expected to vie for top honors as well.
Colorado Springs’ Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) will attempt a tenth straight victory. Ladies itching to defeat her include young break-out rider Elle Anderson (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) along with teammate and Boulder resident Meredith Miller. Pro mountain bikers with strong ‘cross results like Judy Freeman and Chloe Woodruff with Crankbrothers Race Club could also stand out.
Watch Boulder’s Nicole Duke (Marin/Spy) and Adam Craig (Giant Factory Off-Road Team) rip down sketchy descents. Craig is also a favorite for the single speed contest which often supplies big air entertainment. Muddy conditions favor Durango’s Todd Wells (Specialized Factory Racing).
Many Colorado cyclo-cross amateur women balance the demands of kids, jobs, and partners with competition. They may take notes with red crayons on Fridays then test themselves against the likes of Compton on Saturdays. Expect to see Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport), current masters world champion Kristal Boni (Rapid Racing), and Karen Hogan (Team Kappius) among talented moms in elite/pro and age group races. Weber’s excited to race at Valmont. “…to win or podium in the presence of my community would be remarkable to say the least,” says the mother of three, “and what a beautiful thing to do that in front of my kids, to see their 40 year-old mom surprising even herself!”
Current under-23 champion and Boulder resident Yannick Eckmann (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) must fend off teammate Logan Owen, third-ranked in the world last season, as well as Fort Lewis College student Skyler Trujillo (Boo Bicycles). Trujillo should also hop over obstacles in the collegiate races.
Raw emotion will flow at the finish of Friday’s and Sunday’s competitions for juniors aged 10 to 18. Can Parker’s 15 year-old Gage Hecht (Specialized Racing Team) extend his four-year winning streak? Will Boulder’s Garrett Gerchar avoid crashes that delayed him this year to capture the 17-18 year-old title when guys like Clif Bar Devo teammate Maxx Chance want it bad too?
Expect fierce rides from young ladies like Katie Clouse (Canyon Bicycles), Ashley Zoerner (Groove Subaru-Alpha Bicycle Co), and Mina Anderberg (Team Fuji). Clouse, 12, travels regularly from Park City to Colorado to find strong competition.
The Best Views
Want a bird’s eye view? Choose a grassy hill on either side of the start/finish area. Love raucous cheering? Lean in along the 5280 Run-up. Or hang out near the pit to see riders change bikes while crews blast mud from their machines with steaming power washers.
Locate a course map, schedule, lists of riders and information about planned live streaming of the elite/pro events at usacycling.org/cx.
For More Fun When doing beats watching, head to Boulder with wheels. Bike industry employees can enter an industry race scheduled for January 8. Fun rides for kids aged 6 through 9 run Wednesday through Friday. Online race registration closes January 3, so take a crack at that dream of glory.