He had hoped to build on his World Cup performances of last year and continue the progress towards a World Cup podium. Instead, he has dropped out of the top ten UCI rankings and has fallen to 22nd place. But the 33-year-old is on the mend and aiming to retain his title as the country's top 'cross racer.
"I do feel healthy after many setbacks," Powers said one week before the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships in Hartford, Connecticut on January 8. "My season hasn't been horrible despite a lack of wins. I have appeared on the podium most weekends, but compared to my previous five years it certainly is a step back, and at times no doubt has been frustrating."
When the 2016 season kicked off, Powers looked as strong as ever, sweeping the Rochester Cyclo-Cross event. His protégé, Stephen Hyde (Cannondale) was nearly as strong and had to be beaten at the line at the C2 event. But it is fair to say that at the end of that weekend, all seemed normal for Powers and Aspire Racing.
As the tour headed west, disaster struck at the Trek CXC Cup, and Powers injured his ribs in a crash. The two USA World Cups at Cross Vegas and Jingle Cross were goals, but an untimely illness on top of his lingering rib injury sank any chances of doing well at either event, and he's had an up and down season since then.
"It's a combination of factors, other riders doing really well, my early season crash and my inability to bounce straight back to 100% of my capacity, and this season more than ever, I needed to be at 100% to compete for the wins," Powers said.
Powers has faced an ascendant Stephen Hyde, his former protege who has been steadily building himself into a world class cyclo-cross racer. Powers came second to Hyde in the Pan American championships in October, then second again in the second day of racing at the Derby City Cup in early November, but while Hyde was off in Europe netting impressive results over the past six weeks including a top 10 in Spa-Francorchamps, Powers stayed Stateside in hopes of recovering.
"I opted out of the last trip to Europe to prepare for the end of the season, and finish strongly at nationals, and (hopefully) Worlds," Powers said. "With Hartford only 45 minutes from my home in Western Massachusetts, and 45 minutes from where I grew up in Connecticut…I'll be trying to have my best day possible as all of my friends and family will be able to be in attendance."
"This season brought experience for me though. Through the disappointment it's taught me a lot about myself, as one would expect it to. That's the positive side."
Thirty-four national titles will be on the line this week at the 2017 USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships. The historic Connecticut River will set the backdrop for nearly 2,000 racers to compete at Riverfront Recapture's Riverside Park adjacent to downtown Hartford.
National champions will be crowned in the junior, collegiate, U23, masters, and elite ranks, while non-championship racing will also be available for several groups including juniors 10 years and under. For master s racers, multiple age groups will be offered.
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Read the original article on Eurosport: Powers hoping to defend US cyclo-cross title after season of setbacks