U.S. Cycling This Week: ’Cross Festivus for the best of us

Festivus for the best of us: Cyclocross festivals in Ohio and Rhode Island draw the big names, while Oregon's Cross Crusade draws the big crowds.

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2009 Cincinnati Cyclocross Festival, Katie Compton and Sue Butler Katie Compton marks Sue Butler early on day 2 of the 2009 Cincinnati festival

It’s festival time for U.S. ’cross racers this week as the Cincinnati UCI3 and Providence, Rhode Island events get underway Friday. Most of the nation’s top pros are split between the two, with top money drawing the strongest women’s field to Ohio. Cyclocross is in full swing in early October and we’re nearly a month into the season.

Cincinnati UCI3 Cyclocross Festival – Ohio, Kentucky
October 8 – Devou Park in Covington, Kentucky
2:45 p.m. (women) / 3:45 p.m. (men)

October 9 – Sunset Park in Middletown, Ohio
3:00 p.m. (women) / 4:00 p.m. (men)

October 10 – William Harbin Park in Fairfield, Ohio
3:00 p.m. (women) / 4:00 p.m. (men)

Cincinnati UC13 Cyclocross Festival
The UCI3 festival in southern Ohio and northern Kentucky has gained steam over the last couple of years and the event will bring three days of cutthroat UCI racing — including Sunday’s category 1 main event — to the Cincinnati area this weekend. With everything from the fast, flowy course at Sunset Park to the excruciating climbs and monster sandpit at William Harbin, rowdy fans and equal payouts for the men’s and women’s top-five have the festival on the rise.

Jeremy Powers (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) and Katie Compton (Planet Bike) have made a habit of winning at the festival and both will be back this year, but against arguably the strongest fields in the event’s history.

Powers will be isolated for the first time this season and if Kona-FSA’s Ryan Trebon continues to show strong early season form after an early end to his mountain bike season, he is a top favorite each day. Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus), Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), Joachim Parbo (CCV Leopard Cycles) and USGP Planet Bike Cup breakout Tristan Schouten (cyclocrossracing-Blue) should also be active on the sharp end.

Sunday is one of — if not the — biggest paydays of the year on the women’s circuit and while Compton enters the overwhelming favorite, if she falters, one of a number of elite women will be there to take advantage. Sue Butler (Hudz-Subaru) is off to a solid start and took the Cross Crusade opener in Portland on Sunday; Laura Van Gilder (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes) leads the MAC and won day one at GP Gloucester last weekend. Maureen Bruno-Roy (Bob’s Red Mill-Seven Cycles) is looking for her season best result in Cincinnati, while Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) continues her apprenticeship as well and should find herself in the running for big money.

We shouldn’t see a repeat of last year’s mud bath, with clear skies and temperatures in the area of 75 F heading into the weekend. We should, however, see frenetic racing, big crowds and a good piece of Midwest cross culture.

Providence Cyclocross Festival – Providence, Rhode Island

October 9-10 2:00 p.m. (women) / 3:00 p.m. (men)

Providence Cyclocross Festival
The Providence festival, held in conjunction with Interbike’s East Coast retailer and consumer demo, kicks off Friday, with racing getting underway Saturday afternoon just south of downtown. Expansive Roger Williams Park boasts a smooth, fast surface and Saturday’s course design will resemble the 2005 national championships – open and full gas. Designer Tom Stevens has unveiled a new course for Sunday, narrower and more technical than in years past.

2009 Providence Cyclocross Festival, Jamey Driscoll and Tom Johnson
Jamey Driscoll puts it to teammate Tim Johnson at the 2009 Providence race

Part of a three-week East Coast run that began last weekend at the GP of Gloucester, the two category 22 races in Providence pull many of the country’s big guns. Tim Johnson and Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) headline the men’s roster and will look to continue the team’s dominance of the U.S. ’cross season thus far. To do so, Johnson and Driscoll will have to fight off Luca Damiani (Kenda-Geargrinder), who’s having his best season in years, Mid-Atlantic Championship series leader Valentin Scherz (Cyfac-Champion Systems) and the Bikereg.com-Joe’s Garage tandem of Jerome Townsend and Justine Lindine.

In the women’s races, Meredith Miller (Cal Giant-Specialized) is on a hot streak, winning one day at Gloucester and the mid-week Night Weasel event Wednesday (Lindine won the men’s race at the Night weasel). Miller will hope to keep the momentum going in her pink breast cancer awareness skinsuit this weekend when she’ll face off with Luna’s Amy Dombroski and Ladies First locals Andrea Smith and Crystal Anthony.

It’s been raining in New England all week, but riders should get respite as the weather changes headed into the weekend. If the ground can dry out by Saturday, temperatures in the 60’s F should make the Providence weekend a clean, fast affair.

Cross Crusade #2 – Rainier, Oregon
October 10 3:00 p.m. (men and women A)

Cross Crusade round 2
A tip of the hat goes to the second round of the nation’s largest — in participation — ’cross series, the Cross Crusade. The series hit out with its first stop at the Alpenrose Dairy in Portland last weekend and Pat Malach provided full coverage of the elite races for VeloNews.com. 1,500 riders took the start on Sunday and series promoter Brad Ross told VeloNews this week that and he expected nearly as many in Rainier. With the top PNW pros on assignment in Ohio and Rhode Island, Rainier should be a battle of the best of the regional elite riders.

On a (somewhat) related note, Ross also said that preparation for the national championships in Bend, Oregon, in December are on track and the city is showing the value they place in the event, which he said brought more than $2 million into the local economy last year. They’re still two months away, but nationals will be here before we know it.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.