The podium at USGP Sun Prairie: Trebon, Wellens and Powers Amy Dykema

Last year at USGP Sun Prairie, Trebon and Wellens battled it out, each taking a win. © Amy Dykema

As the dust settles from the stampede that was CrossVegas, ’cross fans won’t need to wait long for the next battle: the 2012 TREK USGP of Cyclocross kicks off this weekend with the Planet Bike Cup: two days of Elite and amateur racing in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. While those not racing the USGP boogied down in Vegas at the Double Down and the Sinclair parties, most Elite racers headed out early Thursday morning to give their bodies the best chance to recover by Saturday. With a few showers expected before the races, expect to see slick, muddy action as racers test out their early season legs.

Last year’s day one battle in the Elite men’s race was an exciting boxing match between Ryan Trebon and Bart Wellens, with Trebon taking the victory on the slick course as Wellens applauded a half-dozen meters behind. Wellens, after the race, said, “l already knew Americans go fast. Today I felt it again. The level is almost higher than in Europe. I have respect for the US guys for sure.”

And then Wellens took it to them the next day, using the thicker mud to his advantage and leaving Jonathan Page and Trebon to pay tribute to the Belgian.

This year, Wellens won’t return to take on challengers, but the Europeans still represent. Swiss national champion Lukas Fuckiger (TREK World) and his compatriot Lukas Winterberg (BH-Swiss) will be looking to improve on their performances in Vegas, as will Ben Berden (Raleigh Clement), who will hope to improve his 3rd place podium spot by a step or two. Unfortunately for him, standing in his way will be the very men that bested him in Sin City: reigning national champion, and 2011 USGP series champion, Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) and former 3-time US champion Tim Johnson. Both are coming with serious firepower in their teammates: Chris Jones for Powers, and Ryan Trebon, Zach McDonald and Jamey Driscoll for Johnson. Team tactics will surely come into play, and one thing to watch for will be how well Trebon and Johnson play together. Look too for a motivated and fit Jonathan Page to throw a wrench in the plans of the other pre-race favorites.

Katerina Nash took her fourth win in 10 days. © Amy Dykema

Katerina Nash took her fourth win in 10 days at the 2011 Planet Bike Cup. © Amy Dykema

For the Elite women, it will be the same open race as CrossVegas, as last year’s winner, Katerina Nash – who in complete domination swept the weekend – is sitting out the early season races to heal from a disc injury. Last year, however, Nash didn’t have to contend with 7-time US national champion Katie Compton, who will be here looking to represent her new TREK Cyclocross Collective team and stamp her authority on a deep field that includes Luna teammates Georgia Gould and Teal Stetson-Lee, Nicole Duke (Raleigh-Clement), Meredith Miller (California Giant Berry), and Compton’s protege, U23 national champion Kaitlin Antonneau. Frenchwomen Caroline Mani and Julie Krasniak  (Rapha-FOCUS) will be looking to shut the Americans down in their hunt for those precious C1 points, as will Gabby Day, who just missed out on the podium in Vegas.

The Planet Bike Cup kicks off a four weekend, eight race series in the US Gran Prix. After the Planet Bike Cup this weekend, the Fort Collins Cup in Fort Collins, CO, takes place on October 13th and 14th, followed by the Derby City Cup in Louisville, KY on November 10th and 11th. The Deschutes Brewery Cup in Bend, OR wraps up the series on December 8th and 9th.