2012 podium: 1. Zach McDonald 2. Cody Kaiser 3. Jeffrey Bahnson
With McDonald skipping the U23 event this year to focus on the elite race, look for any number of eager young riders try to claim the title of U23 champion. The clear favorite is Yannick Eckmann (Cal Giant). A dual citizen of Germany and the U.S., Eckmann can race nationals — his first in the States in four years — but can’t race worlds for the U.S. for another year because of UCI rules. The U23 national championship is effectively his worlds.
Others to watch closely include last year’s runner-up, Cody Kaiser (Cal Giant) as well as Kerry Werner (BMC U23 Development MTB Team), who will be looking to capitalize on McDonald’s absence and his own excellent results this season. First-year U23 riders Andrew Dillman (Bob’s Red Mill) and Tobin Ortenblad (Cal Giant) should be in the mix, as well as collegiate cross-country mountain bike champion Richard Cypress Gorry (Whole Athlete–Specialized). Last year’s fourth-place finisher, Jesse Keough (Champion System–Keough Cyclocross), will be looking to move up a step on the podium as well.