Can you hear it, cyclocross? The clanging of cowbells, the pumping of tires, the soft stampede of feet thumping over the barriers – the 2012/13 season is here. Already racers across the States have begun putting their early season fitness to the test in local and UCI C2 events, but it is to Las Vegas, Interbike, and the sixth edition of the Clif Bar CrossVegas that we turn, anxious, to unleash the season. Ladies and Gentlemen—let’s get ready to rumble.
As the unofficial official start to the major UCI cyclocross season, CrossVegas is the chance for racers to show off their new sponsors, for manufacturers to show off their new gear, and for fans to show their unrestrained passion for our sport. On the grassy off-cambers, windy open stretches, three sets of stairs and new fly-over, expect this race to be fast, packed, and intense.
“This is the race where all the Americans come together, and the European [teams] like Fidea and Rabobank-Giant come to race,” says promoter Brook Watts. “They come just for this race, they aren’t going to stay.”
When he fires the gun the best in the US will once again sprint for the holeshot alongside a European contingent, each ready to test their fitness and nab some early season points in the first international C1 race of the season. Last year, it was a seven-man sprint to the line after Ryan Trebon clawed back Bart Wellens’ late-race escape, allowing U23 World Champion Lars van der Haar (Rabobank-Giant) the opportunity to slip past at the line and take the 2011 CrossVegas win ahead of Christian Huele (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) and Telenet Fidea’s Rob Peeters.
This year, Van der Haar—now officially an Elite racer—returns to the City of Lights to defend his title. Coming with him across the ocean are Telenet Fidea’s Rob Peeters, who took third last year, as well as Swiss National Champion Lukas Fluckinger and his compatriot Lukas Winterberg (Müller Gartengestaltung-BH Bikes). Belgium’s Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement), The Netherlands’ Niels Wubben (Rabobank-Giant), and France’s former Junior World Champ Arnoud Jouffrey (Telenet-Fidea) will make the race a truly international experience.
Hoping to keep the Euro invasion from sweeping the podium for two straight years are the Titans of US Cross: US National Champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus), who took top US honors last year with his fourth place finish, will be representing the stars and stripes. Rapha teammates Chris Jones and U23 National Champion Zach McDonald will testing their mettle, as well. Two-time winner Ryan Trebon will show how well he plays with new teammates Jamey Driscoll, who won in 2009 and is well known for his love of fliers at Vegas, and three-time US champion Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com). Three-time national champions Jonathan Page and Todd Wells (Specialized-Cal Giant) along with former Canadian champ Geoff Kabush (SCOTT-3rox Racing) will also be throwing the dice.
The CrossVegas 2011 Men’s Sprint Finish Video
In the women’s field, two-time CrossVegas Queen Katerina Nash has vacated her throne, and US National Champ Katie Compton will be skipping the event for the second year in a row, allowing a full court of international women to compete for the crown. For the Americans, Georgia Gould, fresh from her Olympic Bronze in mountain biking, will carry the Luna torch against former podium finishers Amy Dombroski and Kelli Emmett. Lea Davison, Chloe Woodruff, Nicole Duke (Raleigh-Clement), Teal Stetson-Lee and Meredith Miller will all keep the competition fierce.
But victory for the US riders won’t be easy, as 2011 overall World Cup winner Sanne van Paassen (Rabobank-Giant), who placed fourth at the World Championships at Koksijde in 2012, brings with her a host of her European competitors. Among them are Caroline Mani (Raleigh-Clement), Gabby Day (Rapha-Focus), Sabine Scweitzer, and Julie Krasniak. Sophie de Boer (Telnet-Fidea) had been scheduled to race, but contracted a lung infection and will stay home on doctor’s orders.
Along with a modified course—a third set of stairs, sponsored by Lazer Helmets, leads to a Knog-light-lit back stretch, and the aforementioned “Spy-over”, sponsored by Spy Optics, will offer spectators an elevated view of the racers—the event features a few other changes, as well.
“The pit has changed,” said promoter Brook Watts. “It’s been moved to the north, which most people think of as the bowl area. This allows for a proper pit—a non-reversed pit, and allows us to do more where the pit used to be. We’ve added a second beer area, so people can be down in the bowl watching the race, and not have to back up the hill if they want another beer.”
New as well are a number of lap primes to keep the opening laps hard and fast: the Milagro Tequila Whole Shot Award; the Second Lap Sprint Award; and, returning from last year, the WickWerks Fast Lap Award, which honors the fastest lap time of the race.
“The pre-event ticket sales are the biggest they’ve ever been,” said Watts. “The participation of industry partners has been bigger than anything in the past. Based on estimates, we’re looking at about 10,000 spectators.
“I want to see Lars van der Haar and Rob Peeters in their grudge match. I want to see if Ryan Trebon is riding as well in September as he was at Dealer Camp and if he’s truly back. And I believe he is. I want to see Jeremy Powers carry the stars and stripes. I want to see how the wide open women’s race goes. People like Amy Dombroski, Kelli Emmett, Mary McConneloug—there’s a lot of dark horses in that race. I’m really excited for it.”
Starting at 8pm Pacific time, Wednesday, CrossVegas will be hosting a live webcast of the event, featuring six cameras, race previews and announcers. You can watch the live feed, right here, on Cxmagazine.com. “This is not your dad’s webcast,” said Watts. “We don’t do things in a small way at CrossVegas. It’s like I tell the racers at the line—Guys, we’re in Vegas. Let’s put on a show.”
Check back in throughout the week right here at Cyclocross Magazine for a full report, results, and video interviews after the race!