by Jamie Mack
While most of us are focused on the impending season, with some of us already realizing what the off-season has done to us, non-’cross events have been shifted out of our collective focus. But for many of the stars that we follow, including some of the top Americans, there is one more race to deal with before the bliss of ’cross begins. This weekend are the final races of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Mont Sant-Anne, Quebec, Canada. Cyclocross Magazine, as a warm-up to the craziness that is about to begin, scoured the start lists of the Elite races to see who was toeing the line.
In the Junior men’s race, Skyler Trujillo was flying both the American flag and the ’cross flag as he competed in cross country race. Given his recent top 10 at the Windham World Cup, he was well-positioned to do both proud. Trujillo ended up in 30th, while his countryman Seth Kemp took 18th. Michiel van der Heijden (Netherlands) took the title in dramatic fashion, soloing off the front of the field.
Scanning through the start list for the Elite men’s cross country, the first name ’cross fans are likely to notice is the recently-crowned US cross country national champ Todd Wells. Ranked 13th in the UCI rankings going into the Championships, Wells’ results this season have given him a good starting position in the competitive pack, but he’ll be looking to move up fast once the gun goes off. Starting a few spaces down the list is Canadian Geoff Kabush, a popular site in any ’cross course. Looking further down the list and other American ’cross personalities Carl Decker, Adam Craig and Michael Broderick are there, taking the start a couple of rows behind the elder Wells brother. Further down the list, as a sign that the ’cross racers we all root for may not have been focusing much on mountain biking this summer, Sven Nys will be starting mid-pack, having only worked up to 63rd in the UCI rankings. There’s no doubt that he’ll be fighting through the pack to move up. Nys, a seven-time Belgian national cyclocross champ and former world champ, is no slouch on the mountain bike either. He finished ninth in the last Olympics and has targeted a top-10 result this weekend. He has also set his sites on a run at the 2012 Olympics in London.
In the Elite women’s race, Willow Koerber, though not a ’crosser, deserves a mention as the top American World Cup racer and one of the top 5 in the world this year. But ’cross fans don’t have to get out of the top 10 to see some familiar names. Mary McConneloug, followed closely by Georgia Gould in the start list, are probably the best hopes for a crossover medal from the ’cross racers in the crowd. American fan favorite Katie Compton is on the list, starting back in mid-pack. She crashed badly in the relay team race and injured her arm and knee on a technical descent, but will still be toughing it out and making the start. With Compton and Nys starting at almost the same place in their respective races, it will be interesting to see which can do the better job of getting through traffic. Searching the rest of the women’s names, there are a few more from the ’cross crowd, including Katerina Nash racing for the Czech Republic and Heather Irmiger flying the Stars and Stripes.
Through all of the races there are established ’cross stars, and stars that we’ll all be talking about for years to come. As one of the last weekends before cylocross racing gets underway for many of us, keeping up with these championships is a good excuse for a few extra hours of relaxation before the madness begins.