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By Neal Rogers
Demonstrating why they were crowned the overall winners of this year’s Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross, Kona-YourKey.com rider Ryan Trebon and Luna’s Georgia Gould each soloed to victory on Sunday in wet and windy Portland, Oregon.
Trebon’s competition for series supremacy was Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Leer-Cyclocrossworld.com), who won Saturday but finished a distant second on Sunday.
Gould, who had the series wrapped up after winning Saturday, outlasted perennial rivals Katie Compton (Spike Shooter) and Lyne Bessette (cyclocrossworld.com), who both abandoned the cold, mud-splattered contest.
In other racing, Jamey Driscoll (Fiordifrutta) and Luke Keough (CL Noonan-Coast to Coast-KAM) also wrapped up the under-23 and junior series with wins. While the U23 competition is held concurrently within the elite men’s race, Driscoll finished an impressive sixth in the elite men’s battle for a second consecutive day.
All series winners were awarded automatic selection to USA Cycling’s world cyclocross championships squads.
Although temperatures were warmer than on Saturday, with a high near 48 degrees, steady rain and winds up to 40 miles per hour made for epic conditions that saw expo tents blown down, a 50-foot tree topple near the finish line during the elite men’s race and a spectacular start-line pile-up on pavement during the first 400 meters of the men’s B race.
The harsh weather also prompted Bessette and Compton to leave the elite women’s race early. Bessette, who has been battling illness for much of the 2007 ’cross season, had a poor start and struggled to stay with the race leaders before crashing in one of the course’s many large mud puddles. Hypothermia soon set in, and the Canadian left the race on lap three for the shelter of a heated SRAM neutral race support car.
“I was up to my neck in freezing water when I crashed,” Bessette said. “I tried to get going again, but when I got to the barriers I couldn’t lift my legs. I was frozen stiff.”
Compton, who has also been sick since returning from her campaign in Europe that included a World Cup win, started the race with a 10-second gap over Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain-Haywood) and Wendy Simms (Kona-YourKey.com) on the first lap but abandoned shortly after both Gould and her Luna teammate Katerina Nash overtook her.
Compton rode into the mechanical pit area on lap three, and upon dismounting her bike, collapsed to the ground. The national champ could not be reached for comment Sunday night.
At the head of the race Gould simply rode as she did all week, steadily and smoothly, to finish well ahead of Nash. Sydor finished third, with Rachel Lloyd (Proman-Paradigm) in fourth and Simms in fifth. Emily Van Meter of River City Bicycles was crowned as the SRAM most aggressive rider.
Gould, the current national cross-country champion, said that although she enjoys cyclocross and would like to pursue it further, she would continue to focus on mountain-bike racing with a spot on the U.S. team for the Beijing Olympics as her primary goal. Gould added that it’s unlikely she will continue to race ’cross beyond this month’s national championships in Kansas City, meaning she was not expecting to take USA Cycling up on her automatic selection to the world’s ’cross team.
“I never like to say never,” Gould said. “But I would say it’s not very likely.”
Gould won the series with 240 points to Sydor’s 166.
In men’s racing it was Trebon, also a national mountain-bike champion (in short-track cross-country), dominating the race from start to finish. As is customary in most of Trebon’s wins, the national ’cross champ went to the front early on, opened a gap and never looked back, spending the entire 60-minute men’s race alone.
Trebon, who rode much more assuredly than during his second-place finish Saturday, admitted that the pressure of the battle for the USGP series title between him and Johnson helped carry him to victory.
“It was all or nothing today,” Trebon said. “I felt good. I didn’t feel bad yesterday, I was just lacking some power. Today it was there when I needed it.”
Johnson crossed the line for second place over a minute down, and as he did he wiped clean his muddy USGP leader’s jersey, pointing to it and shaking his head.
“It’s just frustrating that I’ve started with the series lead twice in three years now and lost it on the final day,” Johnson explained later. “I also had the lead on the last day of the SuperCup (in 2001) and lost it to Marc Gullickson.”
Though he snapped a rear derailleur while with Johnson and Wicks and was forced to trudge through the mud to the pit, Todd Wells (GT) finished the day in third place. Canadian Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) took fourth and Trebon’s Kona teammate Barry Wicks finished fifth. Andy Jacques-Maynes (California Giant Strawberries-Specialized) was named SRAM’s most aggressive rider.
Despite his disapppointment, Johnson — who had been critical in recent days of the USGP series rule that allows for the lowest score in six races to be thrown out — conceded that Trebon deserved the series win. Heading into Sunday’s race, Johnson led Trebon, 214 points to 210. With their lowest scores removed, Trebon defeated Johnson 230 to 220. However, even with all points included, Trebon’s total was 260 to Johnson’s 254, giving the win full legitimacy.
“Ryan deserves the win, he’s one of the best cyclocross racers in the world,” Johnson said. “It’s just hard for me, because he’s so talented, and on some days he’s so much better than others.”
For his part, USGP director Bruce Fina said that although he understood Johnson’s frustration with the throw-out rule, USA Cycling required it.
“It isn’t ideal,” Fina said, “but it’s what the federation demanded in order for the USGP to award automatic world’s selection to series winners.”
In U23 racing Driscoll took the series title with 224 points to Clif Bar Development Team rider Danny Summerhill’s 210. Bjorn Selander (Ridley) was third in the competition with 188 points. Keough won the junior series with 250 points — a perfect five wins in five races.
In addition to the USGP series winners, the 2007 national champions, to be crowned December 13-16 in Kansas City, Kansas, will also be automatically selected to the world’s team.
Nationals, last held in Kansas City in December 2000, were contested in sub-freezing conditions; elite titles went to Johnson and Alison Dunlap. In order for Johnson to return to glory in KC, he will have to fight against the likes of Trebon, Wells and three-time national champion Jonathan Page, who is expected to return to the U.S. from Europe.
Likewise, in order for Gould to take the stars-and-stripes jersey, she will have to dethrone Compton, who is the three-time consecutive and reigning national champ.
In U23 racing, nationals looks to be a three-way battle between 2004 junior national champ Driscoll, two-time junior national champ Summerhill and Selander. However, as Driscoll proved this weekend in Portland, if conditions are muddy and nasty, he has to be considered the favorite.
Toyota Portland Cup
Portland, OR. Dec. 2
1. Ryan Trebon, Kona-YourKey.com (2007 USGP champion)
2. Tim Johnson, Cannondale-Leer-Cyclocrossworld.com
3. Todd Wells, GT
4. Geoff Kabush, Maxxis-Litespeed
5. Barry Wicks, Kona-YourKey.com
6. Jamey Driscoll, Fiordifrutta
7. Troy Wells, Team Clif Bar
8. Matthieu Toulouse (Can), Maxxis-Litespeed
9. Chris Sheppard, Santa Cruz Bicycles
10. Andy Jacques-Maynes, California Giant Berry Farms-Specialized
1. Georgia Gould, Luna (2007 USGP champion)
2. Katerina Nash, Luna
3. Alison Sydor (Can), Rocky Mountain-Haywood
4. Rachael Lloyd, Proman-Paradigm
5. Wendy Simms, Kona-YourKey
6. Kerry Barnholt, Tokyo Joe’s-Van Dessel
7. Amy Dombroski, Velo Bella-Kona
8. Kathy Sherwin, Velo Bella-Kona
9. Emily Van Meter, River City Bicycle Team
10. Barbara Howe, Velo Bella-Kona
1. Jamey Driscoll, Fiordifrutta (2007 USGP champion)
2. Bjorn Selander, Ridley
3. Danny Summerhill, Clif Bar Development Cyclocross Team
1. Luke Keough, CLNoonan Coast to Coast KAM (2007 USGP champion)
2. Simon Lambert Lemay, Hot Tubes
3. Jacob Rathe, Redline
4. David Larson, Juventus
5. Eric Emsky, Rad Racing NW