In the past couple years USA Cycling has created the racer ranking system. At least to some degree, it has helped demystify racing at CX Nationals. For the juniors supported in this final week of the National scene it has done nothing to calm their nerves - in fact it may have made it harder. A large number of OVCX kids are highly ranked, so let's take a look at each of the junior races and see who has a shot at a podium in Madison.
Before the ranking system the races were a lot more random. Knowledge of the other kids was non-existent. The staging was based on last year's podium plus a few other non-racing related criteria. You really didn't know until right before race. With the huge growth comes huge pressure on getting it right. While there are some flaws in the ranking system, it seems to be the most consistent and fair way to execute the call-ups for Nationals. Our masters racers might not agree when they are racing 6 rows deep, but that is the beauty of racing at a national level.
For the kids it is harder. Remember back to 7th grade? Remember that kid that was a puny 4' 5" twig when you left school last summer? Seemingly over the summer he developed the ability to grow a 5 o'clock shadow by 2:30pm when the bell rang for the end of the school day. Having been to the last four CX nationals that is exactly what happens in the junior races. The kids that were slow (or fast) last year may not be so the following year. Sweaky voiced and hairy, puberty is the great unknown.
As the kids prepare for their races they have no idea who in the United States has suddenly developed Eric Heiden's thighs while maintaining Tyler Hamilton's scrawny upper body. A kid growing a mustache in the 10-12 juniors race tends to quickly intimidate an 9 year old with his seat slammed to the top tube on his hand me down 44cm Redline.
The 10-12 age group is probably the single hardest category to predict. Last year we watched Sydney Lach demolish the race on a physically demanding course. Just being large enough to ride a 700c wheeled bike is an immediate leg up on this field as the 24" Redlines are very popular in this crowd. On a physically demanding course the advantage in this crowd goes to the best overall athlete. This year they changed the 10-12 race, putting it on a shorter course and removing the pieces that were the most physically demanding. With the hardest element being a set of barriers the playing field is a bit more level, as the emphasis is on riding fast on relative flat ground.
OVCX Girls - 2 - (9) Kate Seiler and (10) Amber Payne
OVCX Boys - 10 - (1) Will Bobrow, (2) Thomas Francisco, (3) Nicholas Petrov, (6) Lucas Stierwalt, (8) Gabe Dobrozsi, (9) Brennan Foster, (13) Jacob Krynock, (16) Lewis Gatch, (19) Garrett McNear, (30) Keaton Adams
Wow! TEN boys in this age group at Nationals? This race will be really fun to watch, particularly with the OVCX currently holding FIVE slots on the front row. Congrats to Greg Keller of Mud and Cowbells Blog and Boulder Junior Cycling for bringing an armada of young juniors. Out of the top 20 ranked boys, OVCX holds nine slots, and Boulder Junior Cycling holds seven. It will be a battle to see which program can gather the most podium slots.
While the 10-12 race is hard to judge going in, the 13-14 has a huge range of abilities. OVCX has kids in the 13-14 age group racing at the top of our Cat 3 races - in fact several of them. But this is also the category that sees the most "man-children" that hit puberty on the early side and make grown men jealous. If you look through some of the podium pics from the past few years it almost seems unfair that these kids have to race against each other.
OVCX Girls - 5 - (1) Kennedy Adams, (4) Sydney Lach, (8) Veda Gerasimek, (14) Kate Dietrich, (17) Emma Hayes
OVCX Boys - 8 - Ed Fritzinger, Alex Christian, Jackson McNear, Enzo Allwein, Dylan Rockwood, Eli Woodard, Cameron Fisk, Mark Myles
OVCX Girls - 4 - (2) Katherine Santos, (6) Mackenzie Green, (9) Rachel Dobrozsi, (10) Emily Falk
OVCX Boys - 9 - (3) Ian McShane, (4) Spencer Petrov, (5) Gavin Haley, (9) Nicholas Vorwerk, (15) James Francisco, (21) Jedidiah Fritzinger, (22) Zachary Ross, (29) Justin Bird, (30) Nathan Ross
At this age the kids, well really they aren't kids anymore. When Drew Dillman was still racing age 18 (just last year) he was making our Elites feel the pain and racing in Belgium. Kids on the podium in this race have a ton of experience and many of them have experience beyond the US.
OVCX Boys - 6 - (3) Stephen Bassett, (4) Gunner Dygert, (7) John Francisco, (20) Luke Beemer, (25) Nolan McQueen, (50) Daniel Santos
In all that is forty-four kids with OCVX racing experience heading to Madison to represent our region. Whether you are from Indiana, Kentucky, or Ohio take a moment to root for these kids and if you are friends with one of them on Facebook or follow one of them (or their parents) on Twitter take a moment to give them a shout out. You have supported them all year, whether you knew it or not, by giving them a fantastic opportunity to develop their skill in preparation for this moment.