Words: Colin Meagher
The undercard battles have already started, with a variety of amateur divisions decided earlier this week. The main events are still to come, however, with Sunday being the big showdown: elite women followed by elite men (with an interlude, collegiate women, sandwiched in between). Adding to the drama is the latest forecast from the National Weather Service that predicts a mix of rain and snow. To be a 'cross racer is to know suffering.
For the men, look for a bare-knuckles, knockdown, drag-out battle royal. The course has lots of turns (requiring constant accelerations), a fair bit of elevation changes (so some power, too), and some technical sections (as in off-camber, dicey traction, and all the little things that could cause a race-altering bobble). None of the favorites will really have an advantage, as this course caters a bit to everyone's strengths.
So who to choose? Kona's Ryan Trebon is the hometown favorite, but Jonathon Page, the only U.S. racer to make his money racing 'cross full time in Europe is in the house. Then there are the Cannondale kids: Tim Johnson, Jamey Driscoll and Jeremy Powers. None of them are going to roll over for Trebon (or Page for that matter)—Johnson won the Stars and Stripes jersey twice before, Driscoll pulled silver in last year's race and wore the U23 National jersey once upon a time, and Powers beat everyone (except Page) last weekend in Portland. Add in a very on-form Todd Wells and Giant's Adam Craig (fourth last weekend in Portland) and it really becomes anybody's race. But it would be hard to select anyone over Page. The guy's been racing hard in Europe and has had two tough nationals back to back; he's due this year. After that could be a three-way battle for second between Johnson, Trebon and Wells. Wild card nod goes to Adam Craig if he can get a good start.
For the women, all I can say is Katie Compton. Barring illness, a mechanical, or alien abduction, it will be a battle for second place behind her. She's got five national titles under her belt and has been absolutely DOMINATING the European 'cross scene. There's not a single U.S. racer who can challenge her—Luna's Katerina Nash, the winner of the USGP Series, is a Czech citizen and can't compete in Bend. That's too bad—Nash vs. Compton would have been quite a battle.
So who takes second? Gould is taking some much-needed down time to prep for next year's mountain bike season, which leaves a five-way battle between Meredith Miller, Alison Dunlap, Amy Dombroski, Kelli Emmett and Sue Butler. Maureen Bruno-Roy has the most UCI points, but hasn't been as strong as the rest, and Mary McConneloug hasn't been racing against the others, so she's a bit of a wild card. Our money is on Amy Dombroski for second and Miller for third. But with the nasty weather predicted, anything can happen.