It might be sunny, but there still was deep mud in sections on Friday afternoon ©Josh Liberles

It might be sunny, but there still was deep mud in sections on Friday afternoon ©Josh Liberles

by Josh Liberles

The USGP series wraps up in Portland, Ore., this weekend, and rather than the mudfest we’ve come to expect in recent years, Saturday’s weather report is promising blue skies and sunshine. Sloppy course fans don’t despair: Sunday still has a 30-percent chance of rain. In these parts, that seems to translate to, it will rain for 30 percent of the day.

The course was open for pre-riding this afternoon, and despite the sunshine, there were still a few short segments of hub-deep mud from the consistent precipitation of recent weeks. By tomorrow afternoon after being churned up by several hundred racers, the terrain should dramatically dry out, making for an unusual Portland USGP. The terrain mixes fast flat sections – including the long paved stretch through start/finish followed by some fast, packed-down grass – with lots of twists and turns, as well as slow slogs through long grass. The motocross “whoops” are back, but there are fewer of them.The going was slow during pre-rides due to moisture and deep mud that still lingered in spots, and the laps are long – perhaps 10 minutes at speed – but that will change by race time.

Chris Jones and Coryn Rivera get ready to lead a recon ride out to PIR ©Josh Liberles

Chris Jones and Coryn Rivera get ready to lead a recon ride out to PIR ©Josh Liberles

The proximity to the National Championships in Bend, Ore., next week means that riders from around the country are coming to Portland to test their legs, from Juniors through Masters and everyone in between.

After taking yet another World Cup win in Kosijde, Belgium, Katie Compton (Planet Bike-Stevens) has to be the odds-on favorite for Nationals next week, but she’s elected to skip the USGP weekend. Katerina Nash (Luna) has shown that she can ride with and potentially challenge Compton, and will likely be vying for the win in Portland. Nash’s teammate Georgia Gould has shown great form in recent races, including taking two podiums in Ft. Collins. Wendy Simms, Amy Dombroski, Sue Butler and Meredith Miller are also likely candidates for podium positions. Look for Kaitie Antonneau, Nicole Duke, Coryn Rivera, Teal Stetson-Lee, Barb Howe and Mo Bruno Roy to also be factors.

In the men’s race, Teammates Jeremy Powers and Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) are the only two with a mathematical chance of taking the USGP series overall, but look for Todd Wells (Cal Giant-Specialized), who is known for his late-season surge coming into Nationals, to be a factor, and for Geoff Kabush to look to back up his USGP win in Ft. Collins, Colo. Oregonian Ryan Trebon, never to be counted out in any big U.S. race, is always a favorite in Portland. Other racers likely to have an impact include Adam Craig, Jamey Driscoll, Chris Jones, Zach McDonald, Luke Keough, Tristan Schouten, Troy Wells, Barry Wicks and U23 national champ Danny Summerhill.

Preliminary start lists are available on BikeReg.com. Stay tuned to Cyclocross Magazine for race updates and full reports this weekend.

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