For full coverage, schedules and information on the 2012 Cyclocross National Championships at Badger Prairie County Park in Madison, Wisconsin, visit our 2012 Cyclocross National Championships homepage.

By Ted Burns

Gina Hall & Henry Kramer Pre-Ride

Cyclocross Nationals gets into full swing Thursday when the racing kicks off at 9:30 AM down at the muddy Badger Prairie park when the elder statesmen (and women) of ’cross take the field.

The games begin at 9:30 when the 60-64 Men’s field prove that guys with salty hair, who answer to “Dad” (and Grandpa), can still pass you like you’re standing still. Look for Gordon Paulson (Planet Bike), who is a Wisconsin native and has ridden this exact course to several podium positions over the last year. Also keep an eye on Fred Wittwer (Alan North America) who was second in 2010 and has a bunch of wins under his belt in 2011.

In the Men’s 65-69 race Colorado native Rick Abbott just aged up, and the cold conditions expected in the AM look like they might favor a cold weather rider like his eminence. In the 70+ race bookies’ odds are on New Jersey native, and multi-discipline national champion, Joe Saling (Team Somerset). Saling won his last cyclocross championship in 2009 and if he’s in town he may just snatch the title back from Erik Nordenson (Poison Spider Bicycles).

The Women’s 55-59 Masters race goes off at 10:30 and it features one of the best match ups of the day with the newly aged up Kathy Savary (Blue Steel Cyclery), a multi-time national and world masters champion, against Diane Ostenso (Trek Midwest Team), another former national champion. Favor goes to the young whipper-snapper Savary, whose World Championship win in 2008 was on a muddy Belgian course similar to current conditions at Badger Prairie. In the Women’s 60-64 category, fortune is likely to smile on on Martha Iverson (Durango Wheel Club), who has won the last two National Cyclocross Championships she’s entered.

In the 11:30 race former pro and cyclocross legend Gina Hall (Cal-Giant) is lining up at the back of the grid against a heavy women’s field that features contenders like Shannon Gibson, and last year’s winner Karen Hogan. Despite her claims she lacks fitness, keep your eyes on Hall, who will benefit from the icy, muddy track. In the women’s 50-54 group, there is no question that Kris Walker will strive to take the title given her previous victories in the age group. The only question is… can she make it a three-peat?

In the afternoon Linda Sone takes the field in the women’s 40-44 race. Word on the street is the Minnesota firefighter hasn’t raced in several weeks in order to taper specifically for this race. Sone’s knives are out [Read a whole lot more about Sone in Issue 14 of Cyclocross Magazine]. Right after the 40+ women, a murderers row of Masters men take the field in the 55-59 age group. Without Ned Overend lining up, the field opens for the likes of Paul Curley, Randall Root, Norm Kreiss and Henry Kramer to all get a shot at the title. After their loss to Overend last year, look for Kreiss and Root to be leading the charge down at Badger Prairie on Thursday afternoon.