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 Women’s favorites is the second in a series of three, where he’ll also look at the Elite Men’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
- Katie Compton (Planet Bike) CR Ranking: 1st (259.3)
It’s a done deal. On paper there isn’t really even a reason to run the women’s event, as Compton is expected, and rightly so, to walk away with things in Bend. Still, that’s why they play the game, and a series of surprises could see Compton relegated from the top step of the podium. In her favor, however, is the fact that she’s easily the best women rider in the world. The rest of the American competition has been getting faster, but so has Compton and they’re not even close yet. By the way, did we mention she’s leading the UCI and World Cup standings?
Three Star Favorites
- Amy Dombroski (Schlamm p/b Clement & Primus Mootry) CR Ranking: 2nd (273.2)
Dombroski has had an extremely strong season, and has repeatedly looked the only one who might challenge Compton’s throne. Still, Dombroski seems to suffer a bit when the conditions turn sour, but if there’s room for Dombroski to turn on the power, she’ll be in the mix. Bend will probably not be the venue that’s best suited for Dombroski to assume the American cyclocross reigns but rest assured, in a few more years, she’ll be top of the class.
- Meredith Miller (Cal Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) CR Ranking: 4th (282.4)
Meredith Miller was the closest challenger to Katerina Nash on the last day of the USGP in Portland last weekend. She’s still getting a handle on this cyclocross thing, and her technical skills are still a little bit suspect. She’s easily got the power she needs to hang with Compton, but if things get slick, she may be off the pace a bit. The US Road Champion is definitely a gamer, but her ability in the slop may not be up to the overall podium where some of her mountain bike counterparts shine.
Two Star Favorites
- Alison Dunlap (Luna) CR Ranking: 5th (284.6)
Dunlap leads the list of mountain bike stars that will excel in the miserable conditions that are expected in Bend. Dunlap has five National titles to her name, a record that Compton is looking to eclipse this year. She’s no stranger to Nationals, and her wit and experience will get her far this season. Dunlap rode very well in Portland, even higher than she might have been expected to, which bodes well for her in Bend.
- Kelli Emmett (Giant Factory Team) CR Ranking: 9th (303.3)
Emmett is a real dark horse for a Nationals medal, if not one of the big three. Bad conditions play well into the hands of the experienced mountain bike specialist, and she’s been coming on very strong after missing some time early in the season with a broken wrist. Where the roadies of the field will lose ground, Emmett will make up ground and look to eclipse them. Nationals could be a real break out ride for Emmett.
- Sue Butler (Monavie-Cannondale.com) CR Ranking: 8th (302.5)
After discovering that she’s got to deal with some asthma issues in Mercer, Butler turned her season around, finishing up seventh on both days in Portland. Butler should be more rested than her counterparts, and she’s a hometown favorite, so the support of the crowd should push her up the final standings a bit. Butler hasn’t been traveling as much as the rest of the field, and she could have that extra pop.
- Mary McConneloug (Kenda – Seven – NoTubes) CR Ranking: 3rd (274.6)
McConneloug has had a fantastic season, poaching UCI wins in both the Verce NECCS and the Verge Mid-Atlantic Series. McConneloug has been shy in stepping outside of her comfort zone, but did managed to swing some top five performances against stepped up talent in the Whitmore’s Landscaping Supercross Cup in Southampton, NY. McConneloug was a step behind, however, and probably would have to work really hard to hit the top five. Still, McConneloug is an Olympic level mountain biker, and she’ll be tough to beat.
- Laura Van Gilder (C3 – Athletes Serving Athletes) CR Ranking: 6th (294.8)
The conditions in Bend may limit Van Gilder’s rise up the final standings, and may keep her from getting on to the podium like she did last year in Kansas City. Van Gilder is at her best when she can go fast in a straight line, but she’s not the world’s greatest bike handler, and her result will suffer because of that. If Van Gilder can find the right wheel to follow, however, she’ll be in the mix. Once she’s on a wheel, she’s a tough rider to shake.
One Star Favorites
- Maureen Bruno Roy (MM Racing p/b Seven Cycles) CR Ranking: 7th (297.8)
Bruno Roy is at her best when there’s a lot of running to be had. She proved herself a fine overall rider by finishing in the top ten on a very fast course in Portland over the last weekend. If the conditions in Bend force riders off their bikes, Bruno Roy will be a bigger threat than in other situations, but with the weather outlook aiming at bad conditions, things could play into Bruno Roy’s favor.
- Andrea Smith (Minuteman Road Club) CR Ranking: 11th (322.5)
Andrea Smith has been arguably the most surprising rider of the season. Smith has not garnered much ballyhoo outside of New England, which is unkind. Smith mixed it up in a big way multiple times, and even pushed McConneloug to the limit at the second day of the NBX Gran Prix over the past weekend. Not only has Smith proven herself this season, she still seems to be on the rise, and Nationals could be the venue where the nation starts to take note.
- Deidre Winfield (C3 – Athletes Serving Athletes) CR Ranking: 10th (315.4)
It’s hard to tell where Winfield’s ceiling is. Winfield is a great rider, but she’s been outclassed on numerous occaisions during the season. Despite hailing from the East Coast, Winfield spent the last weekend in Portland, so she’s got the travel out of the legs, which will give her ride on Sunday a boost. 12th and 13th in Portland aren’t results that will turn heads, but they’re strong, and if she’s strong, she could battle for the top ten.
- Linda Sone (Planet Bike) CR Ranking: 12th (328.6)
Sone has real potential, and has been the best rider on a strong Planet Bike team that has stayed in the United States. Sone’s 8th and 9th in Portland may not have registered on that many news outlets, but it’s results like that, which will have you jockeying for podium positions in Bend. Sone’s real potential was on display in Iowa two weekend ago where she was fourth, second and fourth across the weekend.
- Barbara Howe (Vanderkitten) CR Ranking: 14th (333.6)
Barbara Howe has had a very strong season, and a top ten finish in Bend is a real possibility for her. Howe was ninth and 14th in Portland, indicating that her form is peaking at the right time. If Howe has a strong ride, she’ll be fighting for the top ten, and she could easily climb as high as fifth with luck and a really strong race. Howe will be looking for a good result to close her season on.