In the Elite Women’s race, Katie Compton (Rabobank-Giant) is looking for her eighth National title in as many years. Though last year’s runner up, Georgia Gould, is missing from the start list, that title will still not come easy. We’ve not seen Compton display her usual dominance this season, but with her focus clearly set on Worlds, we can be sure she’s coming into a January Nationals in top form. Compton will most certainly face challenges from Meredith Miller (Cal Giant) and Nicole Duke (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com), who both had strong showings at USGP Bend. Sue Butler (River City Cycles-Ridley), is looking fierce, as well, with her recent win at Chicago. A few riders not to count out for the podium will be Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushrooms), Teal Stetson-Lee (Cal Giant) and Sally Annis (crossresults.com). Missing from the start list is Amy Dombroski (Crank Brothers), who has decided to stay in Europe as she battles illness.
In the U23 race, Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) will be the top favorite and possibly finish with the Elite podium as well. Last year’s U23 winner, Antonneau has matured impressively this season, taking an incredible 10th place at World Cup Namur and 16th at World Cup Zolder. However, Antonneau’s friend and long-time rival Coryn Rivera (Exergy Twenty 12) will be looking to give her a run for her money. Rivera has been posting top tens in Elite races such as the USGP Bend and Jingle Cross.
Meredith Miller & Teal Stetson-Lee Pre-race Interview:
On the Elite Men’s side, the 2011 season has been dominated by two riders: last year’s silver medalist Ryan Trebon (LTS-Felt), and 2011’s Exergy US Gran Prix of Cyclocross overall series winner Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus). In the most recent throw-down between the two, at Chicago’s New Year’s Resolution weekend, Trebon emerged victorious on both days, stomping away from Powers on the first day, and narrowly eking a gap from the Rapha rider on day two. You can be sure, however, that Powers, who was looking strong at last year’s nats before a tangle with Wells ended his chances, is hungry for his first national title, and his consistent dominance across the season shows he has the legs to do it. Powers won five consecutive USGP races on his way to the title, his second in as many years. Yet Trebon’s display at Chicago showed us all that his mid-season injuries are a thing of the past, and we can expect an all-out fight for the 2012 title.
Though Tim Johnson’s (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) early season saw him chasing his rivals, don’t count the three-time Elite National Champion out – his recent wins at the third day of Jingle Cross and the first day of the Cyclocross LA UCI event, and his narrow loss to Powers at USGP Bend show that his form is coming around just in time. Johnson’s teammate, Jamey Driscoll, has been consistent all season with podium finishes, and a win at Jingle Cross Day 1, so look to see the two-time collegiate national champion in the mix, as well. The combination of Johnson/Driscoll could be a good counter against Power’s strong teammate, Chris Jones, who podiumed both days behind Trebon and Powers at Chicago and looks to be a dangerous competitor for Sunday.
Our favorite wildcard this year is Jonathan Page (Planet Bike), who opted out of racing Nationals last year and has been in Europe for most of the season. In one of his few US showings this year, at the Planet Bike Cup, Page placed second behind Telenet-Fidea rider Bart Wellens, but took Trebon by over 10 seconds. The day before? Page was down by over a minute. Though Page suffered from some health issues earlier on, his recent 10th place at GVA Baal shows he is in fine form. Page just arrived at Madison; will he have the legs to take his 4th Elite championship?
In the Dark Horse category, we’re tipping Brian Matter (Gear Grinder), based on his stellar rides in Chicago last week, where he took fourth both days behind Trebon, Powers and Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus).
Noticeably missing from the start list is last year’s champion, Todd Wells, who is focusing on his upcoming mountain biking season in hopes of making the Olympic Team.