The nation's best cyclocross(CX) racers are convening in Kansas this weekend for the annual "maybe mudfest" known as Cyclocross National Championships. For those not familiar with cyclocross, it is way too complicated to explain here. Just think of a bunch of people riding a criterium in the dirt with a few barriers and hills to run up each lap.
Every cyclocross course differs, but there is one thing that is common to all. The weather can change a course from fun to epic which may actually be considered fun by real CX diehards. Rain, snow, sleet, hail and just about everything else that makes a mailman cringe is really what CX is all about. Warm, dry conditions are like kissing your sister. Its the mud and muck which really make a true CX race.
Which is why Tim Johnson's win last year was so exciting. Tim is one of the nicest guys in the pro peloton not to mention that he is also one heck of a racer having taken a bronze medal at the World CX Championships. But, the coveted stars and stripes jersey seemed to elude him year after year until Kansas 2007 when he triumphed in conditions that were lacking the requisite falling snow, rain or sleet, but made up for it with mud, slush and muck.
In 2008, Tim has been the most consistent CX racer in the US events and personally, I wouldn't mind seeing him keep the Captain America jersey for another year.BTW, Tim will be riding alongside Floyd Landis on the road in 2009 as both will be on the Ouch Medical presented by Maxxis team.
Other Americans such as Jonathan Page, Ryan Trebon and Barry Wicks are not far behind Johnson. Mechanicals and crashes are a huge part of this sport. Anyone of these guys is a mechanical or a crash away from the top spot on the podium.
In the women's event, Katie Compton has won the national championship before and has a silver medal from the World CX Championships. She is the prohibitive favorite, but Katerina Nash has been giving her some great battles this season and Rachel Lloyd is always in the mix.
Personally, I am hoping that race organizers see Noah floating past on race day, much like the deluge that was the 2002 CX Natz in Napa (the Domain Chandon property will never be the same) or maybe Santa out testing his reindeer in a early season blizzard. After all, it is a cyclocross race.
The route of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California was announced today and not surprisingly, my predictions as to the actual course were not far off. I can't understand why the AToC isn't going to pay homage to James Dean when they pass the site of his tragic auto accident on Stage 5. Members of the organizing committee, you have been warned. Rather than re-hash all the stuff from my previous blog, I thought I would post a few pics of the route.
Here is the stunning redwood forest on Tunitas Creek Road the first big ascent of stage 2. This is a great climb, the meat is about 1200 feet in 3 miles with sections up to 10%. Overall, the total ascent is 2000 feet spread over about eight miles. Too bad Tunitas Creek comes way too far from the finish to have any effect on the race. BTW, there was a major repaving effort on Tunitas Creek this past summer specifically to get the climb ready for the ATOC. Unfortunately, the repavers left the lower two miles of the aforementioned three mile steep section untouched which means the peloton will be riding over a lot of bad, heavily potholed pavement. For some reason, they repaved a lot of the less-steep sections. What a pity.
Palomar Mountain is the last big climb of the AToC. However, the ascent comes way too early in the stage to have any effect on the overall standings. Race organizers have called this the equivalent of a mountain top finish. Huh? What? Not even close. It makes one wonder. Here is a photo of Floyd and the current sponsor of his 2009 team, Dr. Brent Kay of Ouch Medical Center, riding up the lower slopes of Palomar with the bulk of the mountain visible ahead of them.
It can get pretty cold up on Palomar Mountain during winter!
Coming up, how to view the race and get in a ride to boot!