NATS! Time to place your bets!

My dear friend Colin  executed the perfect efacc troll last night and posted his CX National Championship predictions. I mean, sure, he wrote a whole website designed to predict those things, but BLOGGING about it? Ultimate superfan trollbait. FINE. Note: Colin is way smarter than me and uses things like *math* to make his calls, but I have one distinct advantage here – I’ve actually been on the course.

The course is freaking hard. There’s a lot of elevation change – switchbacks up the hill for prolonged leg-blasting, then steep chutes down to maximize brappage. Oh wait, we retired that word. Well, whatever. There will be some gnar-gnar on the downhills. Slippery off-cambers and rutty sections will likely turn to Spartan race conditions after 2,000 amateurs have had their way with the course all week. Advantage goes to the better technical riders over the purely powerful.

His predictions are here. Start there before reading this firehose of nonsense.

Here’s where I straight up shark the graphic he posted of USAC vs crossresults race predictors:

Now you’ve already read Colin’s post, so I don’t need to spell out for you all the people one predictive system favors over the other or why. Methodology, bias, whatever. Let’s place some bets.

I’d be a total boob to bet against Katie and Kaitie at the front of the race, so I won’t do that. Even though I think there’s a decidedly non-zero chance that this is the year we see a new National Champion. The real question is who else will be at the front? Amanda Miller brought serious roadie power to the CX game this year, but I already ate my words in calling her a roadie when she went top-5 at Valkenburg. Valkenburg looks hilly AF. Oh, and she’s coming off the ultra techy Namur/Zolder winter World Cup combo. I’d be ignoring the facts if I put her out of the top five.

WHO ELSE? A consistent Elle Anderson is a solid bet, but we haven’t seen enough of her racing this year for me to feel confident on that call. Rachel Lloyd hasn’t raced since November, but always makes me regret not putting her at the top. Georgia Gould hasn’t raced much cx, but is a freaking Olympian and total badass. Crossresults is handicapping Crystal based on some “weak” (HIGHLY RELATIVE TERM) European results. Meredith Miller is one of Colin’s picks, and a super fit Meredith would do very well on this course – she did prove she can climb like a boss at Ellison, but struggled a bit in Europe over Christmas too. So there aren’t obvious choices – that’s what makes betting great! And resultsboy didn’t challenge me to a race analysis, this is about predictions. Ta-da

  1. KFC. What kind of jerk would bet against her?
  2. Kaitie. The heir apparent.
  3. Amanda Miller.
  4. Crystal Anthony.
  5. Georgia Gould.

*My biggest disappointment about predicting this race is that I’ll also be racing and won’t get to see how it unfolds until well after the fact.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEN??

Admittedly, I don’t follow the men as closely as I follow the women. That said, the ascent of Stephen Hyde has made me tune way the F in. We can all agree that it’s going to be a JPow/Hyde friendsmash at the front.

Here’s that comparative predictor graphic I stole from Colin again:

I’d love to bet on Trebon for 3rd, as he’s clearly racing with a lot of feeling and has more watts than I could ever dream of. But with a season of back problems on a course that will be hard on the back… I can’t bring myself to do it. I will, however, bet on Zach McDonald having a good race. Light, technical rider on a climby, technical course? And a guy with something to prove? I’ll take that bet. And Dan Timmerman – why are we counting him so far out, predictors? He wasn’t at Kingsport, so it’s tough to bet on his current fitness. But he’s my favorite, and a total dreamboat so I’m betting on him having a good race.

  1. Hyde
  2. Powers
  3. Owen
  4. ZMD
  5. Timmerman

 

Disclaimer: there is rain in the forecast for Friday. The course will not drain well. If we’re racing in a swamp, all bets are off.

CrossVegas! American World Cup! Yeah!

CrossVegas!

(Disclaimer: I’m going to yap a whole bunch here about the elite women. There are related issues for the men and u23s for sure, but that’s for someone else to blog about)

Hey, it’s mid-September, we’ve had two weekends of domestic UCI races and BOOM – it’s time for a World Cup. And not just any old World Cup, but the first one ever to be held outside Europe! In the shining example of American excess that is Las Vegas – so very exciting! But hey, it wouldn’t be bike racing if this were entirely exciting and zero percent complicated. So far I haven’t seen anyone talking about the potential World Championship team implications of a September World Cup. Let’s think about some things:

There are seventeen American women competing in Vegas. I’m not actually sure which rule change made this possible, but it doesn’t matter. Seventeen! Out of a total 48 racing. If you have trouble counting – that’s a freaking lot of US racers. Most of them are World Cup usuals: Compton, Antonneau, Lloyd, Meredith Miller, Crystal Anthony, Kemmerer, McFadden, and Georgia Gould. Erica Zaveta has last year’s Christmas week races under her belt, as does Libby White. There are also some new faces: Ellen Noble had a monster breakout year domestically last season, but this will be her first World Cup. Amanda Miller has absolutely crushed the first two weeks of UCI racing, but also hasn’t been to a cyclocross World Cup. They’re joined by fellow first-timers Cass Maximenko, Sunny Gilbert, Beth Ann Orton, Jessica Cutler, and Laurel Rathbun.

Notably missing is Elle Anderson. Where is Elle? The internets say she’s riding her bike again after some kind of hiatus. There have been rumors flying, but none with evidence enough to consider printing. But it’s notable that she’s absent; she’s represented the US at the last two World Championships and last year earned an automatic qualification with her top five at Valkenburg.

While there are 48 racers registered, a few key players are missing: Pauline Ferrand Prevot, current World Champ in THREE freaking disciplines, is not on the list. Likely because this first CX World Cup happens before road World Championships, where she’ll be defending the rainbow stripes. Neither is million-time World Champ Marianne Vos. Also missing from the world top 20 are: Nikki Harris (6), Sabrina Stultiens (13), Pavla Havlikova (14), Jolien Verschueren (16), Christine Majerus (19), and Martina Mikulaskova (20).

Further, consider that USA Cycling has not updated the World Championship team selection criteria for 2016. Certainly they could do this after the fact, but as of now they have not. The full criteria are here but I’ll summarize, with bolding for emphasis. Note that these criteria are prioritized. As in, the qualifications higher on the list are higher priority than lower and “win” if there are too many qualifiers.

Criteria:

  1. Top 3 at the prior year’s World Championship
  2. Athletes with a top-five finish in a World Cup
  3. A win at a Bpost Bank Trofee or Superprestige Series Elite Women’s event
  4. The top 3 ranked athletes on the UCI individual rankings
  5. The winner of the 2015 Elite Women’s Pan American Cyclocross Championships
  6. The winner of the 2016 Elite Women’s National Championship
  7. Athletes with a top-ten finish in a World Cup
  8. Highest ranked rider in all the domestic C1 events
  9. Discretionary selections

Ok Erin, cool, thanks for all the rambling. Why does this matter? Well, with at least three expected top-10 riders not competing (PFP, Vos, Nikki Harris), there’s more opportunity than usual for an American besides Katie Compton to grab a top finish. Looking at the criteria above, a top five guarantees a spot on the Worlds team (unless something really bizarre happens- like eight different Americans going top 5 at a World Cup. not likely). A top 10 has historically guaranteed a spot as well.

Let’s also consider that CrossVegas is a dry grass course in the desert. Temperatures are at least a bit lower than last year, with an expected temperature of 80 degrees at race time. Also, it’s mid-September. The World Championships are in early-February. In Belgium. Without getting into a debate about how hard/not hard the course is in Vegas, the kind of rider that will be successful on a hot, dry power course in September, may not be the rider best suited for success on a possibly wet, definitely cold European course in February.

So what happens if an unexpected American scores a top-10 at Vegas? Scramble for the higher-ranking selection criteria? A season of tremendous battles at every C1? A USAC criteria revision? The World expects Katie Compton to go top-five. Nobody will bat an eye if Crystal claims a spot; she’s clearly got good form after Ellison and Nittany, and she’s been to the last two World Championships. But what if a wild card shows strongly? Amanda Miller is flying right now and a course like Vegas would seem to suit her. Cass Maximenko showed well in Vegas last year, proving she races well under those conditions. But neither have raced in Europe before. It will be hard to make the argument after the fact that someone with a World Cup top-ten finish is undeserving of a trip to the World Champs, and why would they be? Those are the criteria and a World Cup top 10 is a big freaking deal. But there’s some room for conversation here, I think. And I guess that’s really my only point.

TL;DR: CrossVegas is a big deal not only because it’s the first World Cup outside Europe. A dry, hot World Cup in mid-September has real potential implications for the World Championship team and the rest of the domestic season.

I wrote a post about how the 2015/16 UCI calendar was weird… then it got weirder

Hey, remember when I wrote that post the other day about how next year’s UCI calendar was confusing? Good news, it got even weirder.

Point 1: Trek Cup (Madison) is a C1 again, but is now on the same weekend as east coast favorite GP Gloucester, after losing it’s usual date to the Montreal World Cup. Except wait, that isn’t the date they asked for:

The requested date would put the race on the same date as Ellison Park (Rochester), which is no longer a C1. It would also allow riders racing the first two World Cups to continue moving east from Montreal to either Gloucester or a rest week before the KMC (Providence) C1, instead of a travel schedule that goes from Vegas to Montreal to Madison to Providence.

The tweet from the Trek CXC promoter raises an interesting question, though. If the requested dates were October 10-11, how did the race end up scheduled for September 26-27?

Point 2: Charm City (Baltimore) is also a C1 this year, currently scheduled for November 14-15. Which was evidently also a surprise, as they similarly requested October 10-11:

So what happened? Folks that were actually AT the promoter meeting indicated to me that the schedule, as it came out, was a total surprise and a departure from what was agreed to at the USAC meeting. So, it’s possible the blame here lies with the UCI, not USAC, as the agreed-to US schedule was passed on to the international body for final approval.

Point 3: Basically any time a C1 has to move (or a race becomes a C1) it will have to compete with a C2 somewhere else. It’s a fortunate/unfortunate function of growth in our sport. There are only so many dates on the calendar. Also, non-World Cup racers sometimes forget that it’s against the rules to run a C1 on the same date as a World Cup. This knocks out:

9/16 – CrossVegas

9/19 – Montreal

10/18 – Valkenburg

11/22 – Koksijde

12/20 – Namur

12/26 – Zolder

1/17 – Roubaix

1/24 – Hoogerheide

Granted, the last two are irrelevant to our domestic schedule, as the US contingent stops racing after Nationals (and really, after mid-December). Also notable is that Zolder appears to be both a World Cup standalone event AND host to the World Championships. But that’s not a topic for this post.

The point is, there are a limited number of places for a C1 to move on the US calendar.

Point 4: The UCI calendar changed since my initial post. There are now TWO dates with three North American UCI events. We already discussed the December 5 weekend, which hosts NBX (Rhode Island), Jingle Cross (Iowa), and Ruts and Guts (Oklahoma). Now, in addition to the Gloucester/Wisconsin conflict on September 27, there’s an additional new race in Whistler, BC. The Pac-NW has been asking for, and deserves, more local UCI racing. But with the pros being pulled eastward, I hope the local UCI/amateur racer pool is large enough to make the race economically feasible.

Also, in response to my original post I got an explanation as to how the December 5 weekend happened: Jingle Cross had to move because of football (“sportsball”) and NBX tried to accommodate by moving up to the now-empty Thanksgiving weekend, but the venue was unavailable. Closure.

Other new things: Boulder is indeed back, but not a C1, on October 17-18. Bellingham, WA, home of pro Courtenay Mcfadden, is hosting a new race on October 24/25. I had discussed with her the idea of promoting a race out there, so I’m curious to know if she was involved in getting that on the map. If so, Chapeau. AND Waves for Water, the race that replaced Bend, is back on the weekend of November 14/15. That’s FIVE UCI race dates for the Pac-NW. Impressive. Add in CXLA, back for the weekend of November 21/22, and the West Coasters have a full slate of races available to fulfill Elite Nationals qualification requirements, a sore point from last year.

Cliff Notes:

1. The schedule is still weird, maybe weirder than it was a few days ago. Even the promoters were surprised.

2. World Cups and football wreak havoc on the domestic CX schedule.

3. The West Coast got the races it desperately needed. Cross is less New England centric and more national.

4. There’s still hope of luring Euro-pros to Gloucester with start money (more on that later).

Full North American (non-World Cup) Calendar

The 2015/16 UCI Calendar is out… and confusing

Well hey, I’d been toying with starting a blog for a while there. I even had a bunch of semi-relevant posts mentally queued up. Some were even positive. But then the new UCI calendar came out and was full of so much weirdness that I caved to Ryan Kelly’s demand to address it RIGHT FREAKING NOW.

See??

Anyway, the important stuff: what’s changed, what’s weird, why should anybody care?

In case you missed the biggest news of the day, the first two stops of the 2015/16 World Cup season are going to be in North America. CrossVegas on September 16, then Montreal on September 19. Imagine how excited the Euros will be when they discover that North America is actually not like Europe at all, and that these two races, three days apart, are separated by nearly 3,000 miles (that’s 4800 kilometers for you metric folk).

World Cup logistics aside, there cannot be a C1 on the same date as a World Cup. So, Trek Cup, which has historically used that weekend, had to move. Totally fine, I’m from the East Coast and planned to race Charm City (Baltimore) that weekend. Except wait, no, Charm City has also moved, because while nobody was looking it became a C1 (which is awesome, and something the promoter has been seeking for a while – congrats to Kris). So, anyone not racing the World Cup (aka pretty much every cx racer in America) has no UCI race that weekend. But wait, where did the Trek Cup move to? Oh, just the following weekend, September 26. Date sound familiar? Perhaps because it’s also the same weekend as the East Coast’s most iconic race, GP Gloucester, and this little event called the Road World Championships, held in Richmond, VA this year. Wut?

Providence keeps its C1 status the following weekend, but mid-October’s Ellison Park race is back to being a C2. Once we get to the end of October, the real confusion begins. The four-week midwest stretch (Gateway – Cincy – Louisville – Iowa) that allowed (non-weekday job having) traveling racers to stay in the same part of the country (roughly) for a few weeks in a row is gone. Gateway is off the calendar, replaced by long-running but previously non-UCI DCCX on 10/25-26. The Cincy/Noho battle continues for another year on Halloween weekend, with Cincy retaining the C1. Louisville is also still a C1 and remains on the weekend after Cincy on 11/7-8, but Iowa is gone from the midwest stretch. Instead, the following weekend moves to Baltimore (not in the midwest) for Charm City Cross, is now a C1. At least the three-C1-in-a-row stretch is intact, I guess.

Wait, where did Iowa go? Only to the weekend of December 5, where it will compete with TWO other UCI events. New England’s long-running NBX Grand Prix, and where Bend used to be, there is now a Ruts and Guts race in Oklahoma with UCI status. While I wasn’t present at the promoters meeting, I can’t imagine what kind of conversation produced this particular setup. New midwest race competes with other, older, midwest race that’s also a C1 on the same weekend. So, Oklahoma was set up to fail? I had to consult a map to figure out how close Iowa and Oklahoma are to each other.

Turns out they’re not super close. BUT, how many mid-western UCI racers are there? Yea, I should probably be able to answer that question with, you know, numbers, but I can’t. My point is only that a new UCI race is put up against a C1 in the same region, on the same weekend, with a race also happening in New England. Oh, and there are ZERO UCI races happening the weekend before. Again, what went down at the promoter meeting that led to THREE races on one weekend and zero on the weekend immediately preceding it. But hey, I shouldn’t complain – split fields are great for scrub zone racers like me – more UCI points to go around. Maybe that was the purpose?

The Dallas race is back, competing with the North Carolina race this time on the weekend of December 12. Because, again, split fields.

Now, if I wanted to be really slick, I’d tie this into the million discussions about US Elite Nationals qualification criteria and the difficulty of obtaining UCI or ProCX points in different regions. OR how two super early season World Cups in North America is likely to have an impact on our ultimate Worlds team selection (externalities, my favorite). But that will have to wait for another day.

The cliff notes for people who don’t like to read a lot of words:

  1. There are fewer C1s this year. Boulder is out, Rochester is out. Charm City is in.
  2. North America is hosting two World Cups this year, which is awesome but created what appears to be scheduling disaster.
  3. A bunch of races moved dates and now exist on the same dates as the races that were there before. The promoter meeting was probably tense.

This year’s C1 races:

  • Trek CX Cup 9/26
  • KMC Cyclocross Festival 10/3
  • Cincy 10/31
  • Derby City 11/7
  • Charm City 11/14
  • Jingle Cross 12/5