Erik Mitchell's latest weekly cross report and power rankings are below. For more, head to his site, The Run-up.
A few weeks ago, I boldly declared that there are two certainties in cyclocross this year. First, if a Cyclocrossworld.com rider shows up to race they will win. Second, Niels Albert will win every race he enters by a sizable margin. This past weekend—to a certain extent—justified those claims. On this side of the Atlantic, Tim Johnson proved that he's the best rider in the United States by winning his third stars and stripes jersey. In Belgium, Niels Albert was back to his usual self, picking-up a pair of solo victories on Saturday and Sunday. While he didn't show the domination he had earlier this season, Albert has clearly found his stride again. He also extended his lead in the UCI ranking as well as the GvA Trophy Series.
On Sunday, Tim Johnson took his third Elite National Championship in dominating fashion over Ryan Trebon and Jonathan Page. Page, the European-based American, had nothing to say except that he had a horrible day and Johnson had a great one. On the flip-side, Trebon acknowledged that he had the hometown advantage, but couldn't match the speed and technical ability of Johnson. Behind these three, Todd Wells continued to show his good form, as did the other Cyclocrossworld.com guys.
Since this is effectively the end of the North American cross season, this is the final week of the domestic power ranking. However, there's still a lot to look forward to. For the first time in years, Tim Johnson is prepping for the World Championships and hopes to represent this country in style. Jeremy Powers and Jamey Driscoll will most likely spend some time in Europe as well. Behind the elite men, there's a slew of U23 Americans looking to cut their teeth on the European circuit—as well as Katie Compton’s quest for a rainbow jersey. Needless to say, the season is far from over for the Americans. In the rankings, Tim Johnson climbed back to the #1 spot, but where does every one else fall? Time to find out, one last time:
North American Rankings
1. Tim Johnson (3) - Johnson has been the fastest rider when it counts this year and ended the US season on top, picking-up another National Championship as well as the NACT overall title. For the first time in over a decade, Johnson will turn his focus to the World Championships. The tough part is we won’t have an idea of how he'll fair until mid-January.
2. Ryan Trebon (4) - When all was said and done on Sunday, Trebon ended-up where he belonged. While he showed signs of the form that won him a National Championship last year, he never really proved he was better then 2nd place. He won the USGP overall, but failed to really impress. His relaxed approach to the season was interesting to watch, but was a very big part of why he's the second-best rider in the country.
3. Jeremy Powers (1) - Every year, Powers continues to improve and turn heads. This year he found the podium in all sorts of ways and looked poised to finish in the top-3 at Nationals. Some will argue that he may have won if it weren’t for an untimely crash. I would argue that every time he's taken-off at the start, Johnson has bridged across and won. I think the best he could have done was second, perhaps next year he'll finally take the top spot when it counts.
4. Todd Wells (2) - Wells proved it's better late than never, grabbing a slew of UCI wins ahead of Nationals. Somehow that put him at the top of everyone's list for the big dance. I was more reserved figuring he would only finish on the podium. His 4th-place finish this year means his cross career may not be over just yet.
5. Jamey Driscoll (5) - The most consistent US racer of the year, Driscoll ended-up 6th at Nationals, whereas last year he capped-off the season with a silver medal. With another season or two in the US, mixed with some European racing, Driscoll should be a true National Championship contender for the future.
6. Dan Timmerman (6) - Timmerman was my wild card for a podium spot after a tremendous breakout season. He finished 8th behind some very impressive company. He took the NECCS overall proving that he belongs with the other heads of state. Hopefully he’ll travel a bit more next year and if all goes well he could end his season on the podium.
7. Chris Jones (7) - Jones rounded-out the top-10 in Bend, again proving that he's not just another roadie who struck it lucky at a cross race or two. Depending on how his road season plays out next year, Jones could move from the front of the chase group to the lead group.
8. Daniel Summerhill (9) - Summerhill picked-up another National Championship in the U23 race. He has experienced the feel of the World Championship podium; if he keeps his focus and finds his form come the end of January, he could do it again.
9. Geoff Kabush (8) - You can either blame the Canadian or me but when it came down to it, Kabush was more consistent than Barry Wicks this season. It should be interesting to see what Kabush does with the rest of his season. From here, he could put in a solid European campaign, or back-off a bit and go all-out next year on the MTB circuit. Either way, he’s earned the #9 spot this year.
10. Adam Craig (10) - Much like Wells, Craig figured-out how to race a full mountain bike season and half of a cross season with great success. Hopefully we'll see more of him next year; perhaps he can better his 7th at Nationals.
Internationally, Niels Albert returned to the top step of the podium for the first time in nearly a month on Saturday, ahead of the usual crew of Sven Nys and Zdenek Stybar. Nys lacked the usual excuses and essentially admitted that he had a bad day. Stybar, who lives in Essen where the race was held, also lacked excuses as he settled for third. Sunday was more of the same as Albert took another victory followed by Kevin Pauwels and Nys. It’s hard to tell for sure if Albert is back though. The only safe thing to say at this point in the season is that there are 3 men capable of winning every weekend and the rest just have to watch the fireworks. I still have a feeling that Nys will pull something off before it’s all said and done, but for now all eyes should be focused on Stybar and Albert. Once again, there are several changes to the rankings as the European cyclocross world continues to mix thing up. Here's this week's ranking:
1. Niels Albert (2) - Albert returned to the top step with a pair of wins in Belgium. The World Champ was up to his usual tricks, attacking from the start and never looking back. More importantly he regains control over the UCI ranking (a competition that doesn't matter as much any more) and the GvA Trophy.
2. Sven Nys (3) - Nys had another legitimate chance to take the victory on Saturday. A mid-race bike change turned the tide for the Belgian National Champ, but he ran out of real estate in the end. He seemed very upset about losing valuable GvA Trophy points; it appears that at this point he's focused on overall series wins rather than individual races.
3. Zdenek Stybar (1) - The Czech Champion could only muster a 3rd and 5th this past weekend. He's still amongst the top three in the world right now, he just needs to continue to try to win and control the races. Trust me, he'll be back on the top step of the podium soon enough.
4. Kevin Pauwels (na) - Pauwels returns to the rankings this week with a pair of top-5 finishes. He's been my surprise pick from the start and dropping him from the ranking last week was tough. He's still knocking on the door of a huge win this year, but seems a small step behind. That will change with experience.
5. Bart Aernouts (5) - Aernouts had another solid weekend of riding, however, he still isn't capable of riding with the leaders. He's another relatively young rider who could have his chance over the next few seasons.
6. Dieter Vanthourenhout (na) - Vanthourenhout looked poised for another stellar season until that nasty crash a few months ago. Since his return, he continues to be up and down. He's definitely off the pace of the leaders, but continues to finish in the top-10. If he can remain consistent there's no reason to believe that he'll drop from the rankings.
7. Radomir Simunek (8) - Simunek's 7th place on Saturday seems to fit the Czech perfectly. He has consistently finished just off the podium this year in races both big and small. He's another rider who needs a few more years to mature; then, he'll be a regular protagonist.
8. Enrico Franzoi (na) - The Italian continues to struggle to stay in the top-10 in the rankings. He's consistently riding in top-15, but has failed to make a significant impact in any race this year. With the names ahead of him on this week’s rankings that's not hard to believe, but unfortunately, I don't expect it to change any time soon.
9. Gerben de Knegt (7) - de Knegt picked-up another pair of top-10 places this past weekend. He dropped a couple of spots, but still remains in the rankings thanks to his consistency. He's the second-oldest rider to make the rankings this year, but he's lasted longer than some of the youngest.
10. Jonathan Page (10) - This may or may not be my Christmas gift to the American. His 3rd at Nationals was clearly a disappointment. However, his 8th in the World Cup two weeks ago—combined with his Nationals result—leaves him here for one more week.
Dropped this week: Klaas Vantornout (4), Bart Wellens (6), and Erwin Vervecken (9).
Kalmthout, Belgium will host Round Six of the World Cup this Sunday. With the US season over, we will begin to see some Americans making their way across the pond, however, they usually take this weekend off. That said, I expect Katie Compton and Jonathan Page to head back to Europe soon to continue their seasons. With a nearly 100-point lead over 3rd place, the World Cup has become a two-man battle with Albert taking his “commanding” five-point lead over Stybar to Kalmthout. This is a crucial battleground for the two riders. Obviously, whoever comes out on top will take the lead with 3 rounds remaining. More importantly, it's a battle for momentum and the mental edge. All-in-all, it promises to be a slug-fest.
That’s it for this week! Share your comments below.