With Rolling Thunder coming up this Saturday, I thought I would come up with my official predictions, thoughts, and observations:
The men's A race has been built up by the lack of appearances by Missoula racers in the Montana races. This includes Phil Grove, Dave Hartman, Doug Shryock, and Toby Meirerbachtol. All four of these guys have been dominating Missoula cross for the past three weeks. However, in the Montana races John Curry has continued his form from road and mountain and had impressive showings in all three races. You can't count out Frank Gonzalez or Bill Martin both guys have been having great cross seasons so far, particularily Frank who seems to be having his best cross season to date. Then there are the Flathead guys, consisting of Clint and Ben Parsons. Clint is the defending Rolling Thunder Champion and will be making is cross season debut this year at Rolling Thunder. Clint "the lung" Muhlfield cannot be counted out. Especially after his impressive Rolling Thunder performance of 2006. Ben Parsons jumped onto the scene this year in road biking, taking a couple big races. He is an unkown quantity in cross but you can't count him out. Don't forget about the legend, Geoff Proctor, he's always up for suffering.
1st: Phil Grove (he's on a roll in Missoula racing, 2 victories Missoula cross, 1st hillclimb 13:04, 2nd at the Duathlon the kid doesn't even run!, 2nd at least year's Thunder motivates him for the W this year)
2nd: John Curry (the guy is a legite athelete, so far he has two 2nd's, and a win in this year's Montana Cross, I'd say he's good for a podium at Rolling Thunder)
3rd: Doug Dale Shryock (it's always a risk picking Doug with his mechanical problems, but when this guy is problem free he puts the power into the cross bike, he has one victory in the Missoula series, but he will make the podium at Thunder I guarentee it)
4th: Clint Muhlfield (Clint's fast and will always be fast, but I haven't seen him race this season, he's in 4th because of last year's result at Thunder, and I know he won't let Shryock's wheel go)
5th: Toby Meirerbachtol (his new bike has been the difference this year, he's got a 2nd and 3rd in the Missoula series, and is hungry for a top 5 at the Thunder, besides Dave he could be the best technical rider in the field)
The men's B is always highly contested as we saw at last year's Rolling Thunder. It's a great group of up and comers and fit, but not as serious racers. This year we have lots of racers who are really on the border of A's and B's. Rimrock Racing has been at the Montana Cross races and had strong showings. However, the Missoula guys are still showing the B field what's up.
1st: Bob Presta (if he doesn't upgrade to A's, he'll be hard to beat in B's, his technical skills are starting to catch up with his natural power and fitness, watch out)
2nd: Ben Horan (if he races B's watch out, he's been building fitness and focusing on cross this year, no mistakes or mechanicals and he's on the podium for sure)
3rd: Warren Smith (a Rimrock racing guy he's posted consistent results, and is poised for a podium spot at Thunder)
4th: Erik Digby (impressive showings at the Missoula series as well as in Butte grabbing the hole shot, I expect Erik to be in the top 5)
5th: Murphy Woodhouse (Murphy is winning the Missoula series, but I'm nervous about his consistency, he's pumped for the Thunder should be in the top 5 if he races to his potential)
Just like the Men's A we have a showdown between Missoula racers who have yet to prove themselves at the Montana level versus proven Montana-wide talent. Heidi Gaskill has stormed onto the Missoula scene with two victories. Lisa Curry continues her presence on the Montana circuit, she won in Butte and I'd expect to see her in the hunt at Rolling Thunder. Also, we have Michelle Richardson, Danyel Longmire, and Megan Gaskill all fighting for a spot on the podium.
1st: Heidi Gaskill (when she races she wins, it's as simple as that, I watched her at mountain bike nations......."an untapped well of natural talent")
2nd: Lisa Curry (she is the best racer in the field, she knows how to race, and gets results)
3rd: Danyel Longmire (I gotta go with my teamate on this one, she is getting faster, and her running will put her over the top on a run heavy Thunder course)
4th: Michelle Richardson (consistent performances put her in the top five, but Danyel will be peaking for this race)
5th: Megan Gaskill (not as good on the dirt is she is on the road, but still unlimited power, watch out for her on the pavement sections)
The master's men is another hottly contested field. I'm convinced most of these guys could and should race A's. However, it provides great racing and competition. The perenial Missoula racing legend John Wehyrich will be the hunt, but there are also some newcomers.
1st: John Wehyrich (he's to consistent not to pick, plus he's been getting better all season, I'd be suprised if he wasn't in the top two)
2nd: Scot Smith (another Rimrock guy who's got what it takes, I believe he's new to the sport but I expect big things from him at the Thunder)
3rd: John Fiore (the legend of Missoula cross will again show we he kills at a technical course)
4th: John Coulthard (another consistent racer, who always seems to be up there, expect to seem him in the top five)
5th: Tom Sullivan (he's a tough rider with tons of power, even on a mountain bike I wouldn't be suprised to see him in the top five)