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by Mark Zalewski
January 5, 2017
In today’s CyclingTips Daily News Digest: Caleb Ewan claims second consecutive Australian criterium title; Jessica Allen wins Australian criterium title, opens account for Orica-Scott; US cyclocross nationals: Is this the year Hyde takes the title from Powers?; Alexander Kolobnev announces retirement; Nys recons Belgian championship course with team; UAE Abu Dhabi team; US cyclocross championship course providing a challenge; Video: Inside beach racing.
On Sunday afternoon in Hartford, Connecticut, two men whose lives are forever intertwined will, once again, battle for the title of U.S. national cyclocross champion. And while the scorecard at nationals between four-time champion Jeremy Powers and his former protege, Stephen Hyde, has been one-sided thus far, there’s very good reason to believe that will change. Last year, they finished first and second, and it was clear that for Hyde, who is four years younger, winning a national title was simply a matter of time. Based on how the 2016-17 cyclocross season has unfolded, it appears that time may be upon us.
Powers has had, by any metric, a disastrous season. After winning the opening weekend in Rochester, New York — beating Hyde both days — he crashed heavily during a warm-up lap at the Trek CXC Cup in Waterloo, Wisconsin, bruising several ribs. His first objectives for the season, the opening World Cup events in North America, were a total loss. Illness followed. Powers (Aspire Racing) hasn’t won a race in almost four months, finishing behind Hyde at the Pan American Championships in Covington, Kentucky, in October, and again at the Derby City Cup in Louisville, in November.
Hyde, whose career was aided by the JAM Fund program that Powers helped launch, has had his best season to date, winning the Pan American Championships and six other UCI events in the U.S. en route to sealing the USA Cycling Pro CX series title. The Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com rider also registered his best-ever World Cup results — 10th in Iowa City in September, and 18th at Zolder, on December 26. He’s avoided illness and injury, and his consistent results have placed him 13th in the world rankings. Powers is ranked 25th.
Out of the 15 times the two riders faced each other in 2016 — tracing back to the national championship race last January — Hyde has finished better on 10 occasions, with Powers finishing better five times. However, out of the most recent five times they have faced each other on U.S. soil, beginning with the Charm City race in Baltimore in October, Hyde has won all five races, with Powers finishing as runner-up on three occasions.
Which rider should be considered the pre-race favorite is up for debate, but based on recent performances, Hyde clearly has the upper hand. Powers, who spent the past month training in New Mexico in hopes to salvage a lost season, has the experience of four national titles. Which rider will carry more pressure at the start line — who has more to gain, and more to lose — is also up for debate.
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