Danny Summerhill looked good in his return to UCI 'cross. © Dejan Smaic /

Summerhill is the Top Espoir © Dejan Smaic /

With the United State National Championships bearing down upon us, speculation is rife about who will take home this year’s set of stars and stripes. Jake Sisson, who has been keeping tabs on the top ten riders on the United States Cyclocross circuit, takes a look at who to watch for in Bend, Oregon on Sunday. Today’s look at the Elite Espoirs and Junior Men’s favorites is the third in a series of three, where he’ll also look at the Elite Men’s favorites and the favorites amongst the Elite Women’s Favorites. The powers that be at have crunched the numbers and rendered their own ranking, noted for each rider. Full race predictions from can be found here.

Four Star Favorites

  • Daniel Summerhill (Felt – Holowesko Partners – Garmin) CR Ranking: 1st (170.36

    )No doubt the sting of not winning the 2008 U23 National title is still in the back of Summerhill’s mind. The 2007 World’s silver medalist will be the overwhelming favorite to bring home gold this year, after he’s been turning in strong result after strong result. After only getting his season started late in the year, Summerhill has never been far from the top ten in the nation’s biggest races. Despite only doing four out of eight races, Summerhill was second on the USGP overall standings.

Three Star Favorites

  • Zach McDonald (Classic Cycles) CR Ranking: 2nd (185.9

    )McDonald will hope to have one of his signature good days, rather than one of his less than good days. McDonald is quite possibly the fastest U23 out there when he’s on, but he’s off too often. He’s had what seems like as many top tens this year as he has had DNF’s and that will have to change to challenge for the gold medal this year. McDonald has the 2008 Junior National Title under his belt, and he’ll be eager to keep the stars and strips on his back for another year.

Two Star Favorites

  • Jerome Townsend (’s Garage/IF) CR Ranking: 4th (192.9)

    There were a lot of questions surrounding Townsend before he headed out to Portland last weekend. He’d proven himself in the “pond” that is New England, but his abilities on the national level were questionable. Townsend came out, and in a word, performed. Townsend moved up from an unknown shot at the top five to a good bet to be in the top five and having a legitimate shot at a podium finish.

  • Luke Keough (Champion Systems) CR Ranking: 3rd (189.6)

    Luke Keough started out his season very strong, taking a few podiums in New England before other riders got their engines fired up. Keough has faded a bit lately, and his ability to get onto the podium at Nationals has been thrown into question a bit. He was dropped early on over the weekend at the NBX Gran Prix from groups he should be holding on to to have a shot at the top three.

  • Alex Howes (Felt – Holowesko Partners – Garmin) CR Ranking: 12th (223.2)

    Howes has had precious few weeks to get into shape before nationals, and is a big unknown. His track record is positive, and he had a strong ride in Kansas City last year. Howes is the U23 Road Champion, and he’ll be eager to add another set of Stars and Stripes to the trophy case. Howes can get on the podium, and other riders may be hesitant to follow him, as he is still that unkown commodity.

  • Chance Noble (Cal Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) CR Ranking: 8th (211.9)

    Noble started out his season strong, only to see his form dip half way through the season. Noble made a strong surge late in the year, punctuated by some strong racing in the final USGP stop in Portland. He managed to hang on to third place in the USGP standings, thanks to those good races last weekend, and he seems to have found his resurgence at the right time of the year.

One Star Favorites

  • Dave Hackworthy (Team Plan C) CR Ranking: 5th (199.4)

    Hackworthy was never spectacular but was always consistent en route to winning the USGP overall title. Hackworthy performed when it counted, and did enough over the weekend in Portland to hold off a motivated Daniel Summerhill who wanted his crown. He’d have been on the U23 top five last week if it hadn’t been Noble barely edging him out.

  • Eric Emsky (Rad Racing Northwest) CR Ranking: 9th (218.7)

    Emsky performed well in Portland, and he’s had some good training after he went to Europe last season. Emsky is a first year espoir, and he’s still finding his legs with the extra 15 minutes he’s expected to ride. A top ten would be a good performance for Emsky, and he definitely has the capacity to go better than that.

Elite Junior Favorites

Four Star Favorites

  • Cody Kaiser (Cal Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) CR Ranking: 1st (212.2)

    Kaiser’s season was much like his teammate Noble’s. Kaiser had a strong early season, winning a couple USGP races, then had a bit of a dip, allowing Yannick Eckmann to draw even with him, but it was Kaiser who had the last laugh in Portland, taking both wins. Kaiser’s first win was a sprint, but he did managed to barely drop Eckmann on Sunday. Eckmann won’t be in Bend, and as such, the National Title is his to lose

Three Star Favorites

  • Jeff Bahnson (Thule/Van Dessel): CR Ranking: 4th (264.)

    Bahnson was the USGP’s third fastest junior all year, and proved it again on Sunday in Portland by taking third behind Kaiser and Eckmann. Eckmann won’t be in Bend, and that opens up second place for the hard charging kid from Delaware. He had a great battle last year with Eckmann in the 15-16 age group, and he’ll be eager to prove himself in the Elite Junior category.

Two Star Favorites

  • Chris Wallace (KCCX/Verge/Navigators) CR Ranking: 2nd (252.5)

    Wallace likely has the best shot at the podium of those not named Kaiser and Bahnson. Wallace was third on Saturday in Portland, but was a full two minutes behind Kaiser and Yannick Eckmann. He’ll need to improve, but nothing makes you improve quickly like having a national title on the line. It’s hard to imagine that Wallace can do better than third, but third is his to lose.

  • Matt Spinks (Team Plan C) CR Ranking: 3rd (259.1)

    Spinks has had some good results this season, but has never really been able to effectively emerge into the podium running. With the Eckmann duo out of the running this weekend in Bend, Spinks and Wallace will do battle for the final podium position. Spinks was fifth and sixth over the weekend in Portland, and will look to move up from there in Bend.

One Star Favorites

  • Jesse Keough (CL Noonan/Coast to Coast) CR Ranking: 7th (326.8)

    Keough was the winner of this season’s Elite Junior Verge New England Cyclocross Championship Series, picking up where his brother left off last year. Keough, however, was not nearly as dominant as Luke was in years past, and he’s going to have to step up his game in order to challenge for the top five.

  • Skyler Trujillo (Back Sheep Junior) CR Ranking: 3rd (259.2)

    Trujillo had a pair of top five finishes in Portland, taking home fifth place on both days. Trujillo is a member of this year’s Euro Cross Camp and will be taking his game to Europe shortly, and will look to end his American season on a high note. He’s one of the top juniors in the game, and he’ll have a shot to move into the top five when the dust from the race settles.