JAM/NCC is revved up to race at the Cyclocross National Championships in Hartford, Connecticut this week. Leading the charge for the elite men will be Jack Kisseberth and Scott Smith, who will race on Sunday, January 8. Kisseberth is coming off a strong season, winning the first day at Supercross Cup in November and landing on the podium both days of the NBX Gran Prix of Cross. Kisseberth will be looking to best his impressive performance at last year's Cyclocross Nationals in Asheville, North Carolina where he finished in eleventh place.
Smith has been training this winter in the snow and has the technical skills needed for the Hartford course, which has several steep off-camber sections that could be an even bigger challenge depending on weather conditions. Smith got fourth at last year's Cyclocross Nationals in the U23. This time, he'll be racing in the elite field.
Natalie Tapias will represent JAM/NCC in the elite women's race on Sunday. Tapias joined JAM Fund in 2016 and competed in 22 races, on the start line nearly every weekend during the cross season. She left her corporate job last summer to dedicate her time to racing cross with JAM Fund and shows consistent strength and improvement that will surely pay off this week.
Rhys May is a crusher with one gear and will be racing single speed nationals on Saturday. She won the single speed race at the Ice Weasels Cometh last month. If that's any indicator, we could see May on the podium again this week.
JAM/NCC will have a solid presence in Sunday's U23 race with development team riders Trent Blackburn and Case Butler. Blackburn has been on the podium a handful of times this season in the local races and finished in the top-fifteen in the bigger pro events including 14th at the Northampton International. He is a strong technical rider who jumps most obstacles and was the bunny hop champion at Cyclocross of White Park. He won the Cat 2/3 at KMC Cross Festival, was 5th in the U23 at the Gran Prix of Gloucester and in his last race of 2016, he finished third among the U23 at NBX Gran Prix of Cross.
We can expect Butler to be in close range of Blackburn on Sunday. The two have raced consistently all season, nearly neck-and-neck in their race finishes. Butler has several top-twenty pro race finishes in his resume and has been close to the podium in the U23 field. Like Blackburn, Butler is focused and determined, which could result in a great finish at nationals.
Junior riders Anna Savage, Katie Johnson and Jaden Wise will be racing in the JAM/NCC kit this week as well. All three have had an excellent cross season. Wise, who is 14, is practically unbeatable with ten victories, winning nearly every junior race he's entered this season. He scored back-to-back wins on both days of the KMC Cross Festival, Gran Prix of Gloucester, Northampton International and NBX Gran Prix of Cross.
Savage, 17, is a dedicated cross racer. She finished 26 races in the 2016 season and more than 130 cross races over the past six years. Most impressively, she has only DNF'd once in all those years. Savage won a handful of local races last year and finished second in the Verge New England Cyclocross Series.
Katie Johnson, 16, is in her first full cyclocross race season and already graced the podium several times. She finished first and second in the junior women 15-16 at the KMC Cross Festival in October. She also races in Cat 4. We expect to see some strong results from all our juniors.
We'll also be watching Kale Wenczel (Joe's Garage) and Aiden Mapel (JAM/NCC) who received JAM Fund grants last summer and have been racing and training closely with the JAM Fund crew. Wenczel, 19, won Cat 3 races early in the 2016 cross season, including big victories at KMC Cross Festival and Gran Prix of Gloucester. He moved up to the pro fields mid-season and we can expect to see him race his heart out in the U23 on Sunday.
And talking about heart, we are excited to support Aiden Mapel, 15, who will race in his first National Championships, taking to the start line with the junior men 15-18.
Coach Al Donahue rode the Hartford course over the weekend with several of the JAM Fund crew and says it requires total focus. He finished 6th at last year's Cyclocross Nationals and will be racing again this year in the Master's 40-44.
We'll also be cheering on JAM Fund Co-founder Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing) and JAM Fund alums Ellen Noble (Aspire Racing), Stephen Hyde (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld), Anthony Clark (Squid Bikes) and Jeremy Durrin (NeonVelo).
Sunday's elite races will be streamed live at USACycling.org and we'll bring you results and stories of our JAM Fund crew throughout the week. See you in Hartford!