Jeremy Powers off the front with Johnson chasing. ? Craig Randall

Racing returns to the Boulder reservoir. 2009 race photo ©Craig Randall

Weekend of Rocky Mountain Racing Ahead

Georgia Gould calls the area’s fan base “highly educated.” Jeremy Powers says it’s “the most prestigious cycling community in the United States.” Katie Compton marvels at how “every year all the best racers fly in from all over the country just to race these races.”

So where is this cycling Mecca? Boulder, Colorado, of course, birthplace to the legendary Coors Classic, hometown of the famed Phinney family, and host to Rounds 5 and 6 of the North American Cyclocross Trophy national series, also known as Boulder Cup weekend.

Racing kicks off Saturday, Oct. 30th, with the UCI C2 rated Colorado Cross Classic presented by Webroot at the renowned Boulder Reservoir venue. A day later the ’cross caravan heads a few miles east on Highway 36 to the FlatIron Crossing Shopping Center for Sunday’s C1 rated Victory Circle Graphix Boulder Cup. “Obviously I love racing in Colorado because it’s where I live,” said Luna’s Gould, a Fort Collins resident. “But it’s more than that. The spectator turnout is always good. And they know the sport because they are racers themselves, or they are people who really care about cycling. That makes [the Boulder Cup] a really special weekend of racing.”

Gould, who’s fresh off back-to-back wins at a 2013 world championship preview event in Louisville, Kentucky, comes in as co-favorite in the women’s UCI Elite race. Her counterpart is the indomitable Compton (Planet Bike-Stevens), who took last weekend off following a World Cup win in Switzerland. Compton’s on-again-off-again racing strategy is solely focused on one goal. “Winning a world championship, that’s all that matters this year,” said the Colorado Springs resident who swept the Boulder Cup races a year ago, and when healthy is considered among the best female ’cross racers in the world.

Compton’s singular goal would be bolstered by another Colorado sweep. Both races offer valuable UCI points – and the chance to grab the coveted Castelli NACT overall series leader’s jersey.

“Being able to contest UCI points in the US is really important,” added Compton. “That way I don’t have to spend the whole year in Europe to ensure good start spots for the World Cups and World Championships.”

Joining Gould on the startlines Saturday and Sunday will be a who’s who of North American cyclocross, including Boulder resident Amy Dombroski (Luna), Meredith Miller (California Giant-Specialized), Sue Butler (Hudz-Subaru) and Wendy Simms (Front Runners-Ridley), the overall NACT series leader after four races.

“I’m excited to see how I stack up against some of the people who didn’t race last weekend,” said Gould. “When you’re racing against the fastest people, there’s a lot less room for error. You’ve got to have everything be almost perfect to win. It’s going to be some great racing.”

UCI points will also weigh heavy on the minds of a stacked men’s field, especially for Sunday’s C1 affair. “A win in either race is awesome because this is such an iconic event,” explained Powers. “But the C1 points are super important. People need to come out and see that race because there isn’t going to be any handshakes. It’s going to be a serious throw down. Everybody wants those points and the money that’s on the line. There’s only a few more C1’s in the U.S. this year so we are going to be doing everything we can to get the win.”

Indeed, those points will be key down the line, deciding call-up position for both National Championship races and the World Championships.

The two-day points battle in Colorado will feature the continuing showdown between the three-headed monster that is the’s trio of Powers, Tim Johnson and Jamey Driscoll vs. Kona’s Ryan Trebon. Last weekend in Kentucky, three bested one, as Johnson and Powers split a pair of wins, with Trebon finishing second both days.

Johnson and Powers will also come into the weekend as virtual NACT series co-leaders, with actual leader, France’s Francis Mourey, back in Europe after his two wins at the series opener weekend in Seattle, Washington. [See our coverage of StarCrossed and the Rad Racing GP]

Johnson and Powers split wins at the ensuing NACT stop in Gloucester, Mass. in early October, and are currently tied with 100 points each. [Coverage of Gloucester Day 1 and Gloucester Day 2]

But unlike that East Coast sea-level affair, Colorado’s mile-high altitude could favor Trebon, who lives in Bend, Oregon, or even Durango, Colorado, resident Todd Wells, who’s starting to show signs of life after a long mountain bike season. “I think Ryan will have an advantage because he lives at altitude and he’s on good form,” surmised Powers, who’s won five times thus far in 2010. “Todd’s also a big threat. He comes on quick once he gets going.”

Others to watch include 2008 Olympians Adam Craig (Giant) and Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), Italian star Davide Frattini (Hudz-Subaru) and a host of underdog local pros led by 2010 Colorado state champion Pete Webber (Boulder Cycle Sport), who’s also serving as Colorado Cross Classic course director. “Expect two to three dismounts per lap, lots of fast dirt and gravel, some bumpy grass and lots of twisty turns,” said Webber of the famed Boulder Reservoir course that offers great views of the nearby Rocky Mountains.

Sunday’s FlatIron Crossing venue is new to the Colorado ’cross scene, and represents Boulder Cup race director Chris Grealish’s continuing effort to expose the sport to the masses. A portion of the course, and the event expo and team parking area, are adjacent to mall anchor stores Dick’s Sporting Goods and Nordstrom. “Of course we want all the hardcore people to come out, but the big goal is to pull-in potential new fans and racers,” explained Grealish. “This is how we grow the sport and we’ve got a great partner for that effort in FlatIron Crossing.”

The new circuit is a testing mix of high speed pavement, wheel sucking deep grass, twisting turns and several steep elevation changes that’ll make it a true all-around rider’s course.

Professional bike racing is just part of this festive Halloween weekend slate. Both events are part of the American Cycling Association’s Colorado Cross Cup, a season-long amateur points series that attracts upwards of 500 racers for each of its 13 events, which take place from October to January all across Colorado. Age categories range from 8 to 65 years old.

There’s also tons of off-the-bike activities at both events. Children will delight in expansive kids’ zones that include jumpy castles, face painting, costume contests and trick-or-treating. Adults can browse expansive expos, sample food from numerous local vendors and enjoy hanging out in the beer gardens while watching all the racing action.

“Both events represent a significant raising of the bar in terms of what you can expect at a cyclocross race,” said Colorado Cross Classic race director Tim Shea. “You wouldn’t skip a stage of the Tour de France,, and you shouldn’t miss either one of these events.”

After the two Colorado races, the series heads east for its dramatic finale on a course new to the series on November 27-28th in Sterling, MA.

For Webroot Colorado Cross Classic information:
For Victory Circle Graphix Boulder Cup information: