With the United State National Championships bearing down upon us, speculation is rife about who will take home this year’s set of stars and stripes. Jake Sisson, who has been keeping tabs on the top ten riders on the United States Cyclocross circuit, takes a look at who to watch for in Bend, Oregon on Sunday. Today’s look at the Elite Men’s favorites is the first in a series of three, where he’ll also look at the Elite Women’s favorites and the favorites amongst the Espoirs and Elite Junior Men. The powers that be at www.crossresults.com have crunched the numbers and rendered their own ranking, noted for each rider. Full race predictions from CrossResults.com can be found here.
Four Star Favorites
- Todd Wells (Specialized) CR Ranking: 5th (156.1)
It’s crowded at the top of the heap, and Wells just barely edges out Page for the number one favorite status. Wells closed down all of his competition with ease in Portland, and it took Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com’s two strongest riders to see him lose a two up sprint to Jeremy Powers on Sunday. Wells is fresher than his competition, and that winning snap may be present in his legs where it isn’t in the rest of the field. Wells has the experience to take the top step of the podium, as he’s done so before.
Three Star Favorites
- Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) CR Ranking: 7th (160.4)
If you had said two, even as close as one week ago if Jonathan Page was going to be a huge factor in Bend, let alone a three star favorite, I’d have laughed at you. Page cemented his reputation and his form with an 8th place finish at the World Cup in Igorre. 8th place in a World Cup should make you the top favorite, right? Well, there’s that worrisome transfer from Europe to the West Coast, and jet lag is always an issue. How well Page is rested will dictate how well he races in Bend
- Tim Johnson (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com) CR Ranking: 1st (140.8)
Before Portland, Johnson was at the top of this list going away. Now, the popular conception is that he has lost a step to his rivals after a fourth and a third place finish. Somehow, a bad day, and a strong day spent in service of a teammate is not enough to take him out of the top three in terms of favorites. A rider is free to have a bad day now and again, and it’s good for Johnson to get it out of his system now rather than in Bend. A good week of training, and he’s a deciding factor again.
Two Star Favorites
- Jeremy Powers (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com) CR Ranking: 2nd (144.6)
Powers has all the momentum heading into Bend. His win in Portland sets him in the right direction, and it was a psychological boost for Powers to know that he could overcome his second place finish with a win on Sunday. Powers and Nationals do not have a very good relationship, and his failures at Nationals have led people to believe that he fades away on the nation’s biggest stages. Portland, however, could be said to be the nation’s second biggest stage, so Powers will be primed for victory.
- Ryan Trebon (Kona/FSA) CR Ranking: 4th (154.9)
Trebon will benefit most from having Nationals in Bend this year. He’s not had the best of seasons in the Stars and Stripes, and he’ll be keen on holding on to the jersey for another year. Trebon has won nationals, and he knows how to perform on the biggest stages. Still, the momentum has left Trebon, and his fitness is a question mark. Trebon hasn’t won since day one of the Mercer Cup, so his winning edge may be dulled a bit.
- Adam Craig (Giant Factory Team) CR Ranking: 8th (164.0)
Craig, too, calls Bend home, and will be eager to finally get a win this year. Craig has showed tons of promise this season, but has never quite lived up to the expectations placed upon him. For the first part of the year, he struggled with poor starting positions and mechanicals. Later on, however, Craig has found his stride, and came up with a fourth place ride in Portland on Sunday. Craig will have to be brilliant to have a shot at a nationals podium.
- Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com) CR Ranking: 3rd (148.3)
Driscoll had the best start to a season that anyone could hope for after showing great poise and strength in winning CrossVegas. Since then, Driscoll has stood in the shadow of his teammates as they’ve pulled out victory after victory. Still Driscoll’s third best status on the team meant third best overall in most cases, and he’s got the talent to pick up where his teammates may let off. Driscoll can “salvage” his season with a strong ride in Bend, something that he’s more than capable of.
- Chris Jones (Champion Systems) CR Ranking: 6th (158.9)
Jones may be the man most hurt by the possible conditions in Bend. He’s been super strong when the ground is hard and the road is flat, but there’s little promise of those conditions this weekend. Jones’ bike driving abilities have come a long way this year and he’s been a real revelation, racing as strong as he has this late into the season. If he wants to get a call to the big show in Europe, he’s going to have to impress at Nationals.
One Star Favorites
- Barry Wicks (Kona/FSA) CR Ranking: 10th (176.5)
Two years ago, it would have been a surprise to see Wicks anywhere but the two or three star category. Wicks was the only man to hold on to Erwin Vervecken when he came over in 2007. This year, Wicks’ season hasn’t gone quite as well, and he needs a good performance on the national level to take any good feelings away from 2007. Wicks has a bunch of local wins in Oregon, but for a man of his caliber, he needs something more. Nationals is his last chance to shine.
- Dan Timmerman (RGM Watches – Richard Sachs – Radix) CR Ranking: 9th (166.1)
Timmerman’s abilities to mix it up with the big boys has never been on real display this year, as he’s kept to himself in the Verge New England Cyclocross Championship Series, taking home a number of wins and the overall leader’s jersey. When the big boys have come to play, Timmerman has routinely been the last one on their wheel, and that bodes well for the man from Upstate New York. Timmerman can sneak into the top ten, and a top five is possible if he has one of the best days of his life.
- Jesse Anthony (Jamis Bicycles) CR Ranking: 13th (182.2)
Anthony has been the farthest off his best of all the men on this list. It is essential for Anthony to have a good ride at Nationals to save his season, a season that has been wrecked by sickness and injury. Anthony has the pedigree, as shown by his seven National Championships across all age groups. His speed hasn’t been what it once was, but his track record keeps him on the list of favorites. Last year’s ride at Nationals was impressive, and it would be no surprise to see a repeat of that.
- Troy Wells (Clif Bar) CR Ranking: 20th (189.6)
Wells has been a quick starter, but not quite the quick finisher that he needs to be. He’s strong when he’s on, but not so strong when he’s not. You’d expect to see the Wells that is on at Nationals rather than the Wells that is off, and you may see Wells put in some early surges to help out his brother, who has to fancy his chances at the victory. A victory for Todd and a good ride for Troy at his side will be a victory for Troy.
- Carl Decker (Giant Factory Team) CR Ranking: 11th (177.3)
Decker has been lurking around and inside the top fifteen all season. He had a couple of strong rides in Portland and if you take Espoirs and foreigners out of the mix, Decker is a top ten threat with strong credentials. Decker will be peaking for Nationals before heading into the off-season, and he’d love nothing more than to go out on the top of his game. Decker could even hit the top five with a bit of luck and a great ride.