The US Cyclocross Series (USCX) opening event this weekend marks the start of the season for reigning champions Caroline Mani (Groove Off Road Racing) and Curtis White (Steve Tilford Foundation Racing).
Pan American champions Raylyn Nuss (Steve Tilford Foundation Racing) and Eric Brunner (WTB-Pivot Off Road) will also toe the line in the opening event at Virginia’s Blue Ridge Go Cross presented by Fat Tire, September 16-17.
Also in the field this weekend, which begins with a C1 race Saturday, are Maghalie Rochette (Canyon Collective), Emily Shields (Ken’s Bike Shop) and Lauren Zoerner (Groove Off-road Racing) for the pro women while the pro men start will include Vincent Baestaens (Spits CX team), Michael van den Ham (Giant x Easton), Andrew Strohmeyer (CXD-Trek Bikes) and Caleb Swartz (ENVE Composites-Industry Nine).
Mani and Nuss, who finished 1-2 in the USCX standings last year, have been competing for the first time in the Life Time Grand Prix off-road series. They plan to miss the next two Grand Prix races, Chequamegon MTB Festival and The Rad Dirt Fest, to refocus on the USCX, both as directors and riders for their own teams.
“I’m running the team and also racing. We will be at all the USCX series events,” Mani told Cyclingnews. “My goal is to win it again and get as many wins as possible and help my young rider [Zoerner] to get to the podium as much as possible.”
Mani’s team features the 20-year-old Zoerner, who was the women’s U23 bronze medalist at US Cyclocross National Championships last December.
Meanwhile, Nuss has two other riders on her squad, reigning men’s US elite cyclocross champion White and 20-year-old Lizzy Gunsalus, who won the women’s U23 title at the 2022 Pan-American Championships.
“I am very eager to get back to the circus and dynamic racing of cyclocross! It’s indeed the best time of the year. I am so excited to get back to the short one hour efforts here so soon,” Nuss told Cyclingnews.
“It is a bummer that Chequamegon and the first weekend of the USCX overlap. I know Chequamegon would be a race I would enjoy, but I will plan to focus on our National Series as it is a priority to STF Racing to support U.S. cyclocross.”
While Mani and Nuss out of the top 20 in the Grand Prix, the series currently led by Sofia Gomez Villafane, they both look to complete the series with the finale at Big Sugar Gravel on October 21, which wedged between the cyclocross World Cup race in Waterloo on October 15 and the conclusion of…