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A long list of favorites are on hand for the kick-off of the mountain bike season. 

The races come thick and fast in autumn, and it all starts with the Battle at the Burg, this Saturday, September 15. Registration has closed and barring anything crazy on race day, there is a solid cast of characters to vie for the first big title of the fall.

Derek Graham and Jorden Wakeley lead the Northern contingent, with Alex Vanias slated to make it a dangerous trio. Graham and Vanias will fly the BISSELL colors, though this is the type of race that numbers may not count for much. The ascent to the top of the ski hill will tear every race to shreds. Mike Simonson joins to flank Wakeley for 616 Fabrications, a solid contender for the win as well.

Nate Williams with be an added weapon for BISSELL, up against the cream of the Grand Rapids crop on home turf. There’s a little something in winning in your own neck of the woods, a points illustrated just as well by Wakeley’s insistance on dominating at Hanson Hills and Boyne Marathon. Chris Vitton, Shawn Davison, Earl Hillaker and others will know this course cold.

Derek Graham won here last year, and it’s tough to see him anywhere other than the top spot. Alex Vanias rode well at the Ithaca GP of CX last weekend, and he’ll be more sure of foot on his mountain bike. The duo should be present and correct late in the race, and Wakeley may have to ride a smart race tactically in order to have the legs at the end. We should get a good look at his form as the Speed of Light Vuelta Competition concludes tomorrow night, where he holds a minute lead going into the final stage.

The Women’s field is rather easy to predict. At the moment, and with registration closing, Amanda Schaap is the only woman registered to race. If she doesn’t win, Sue Stephens or Erin Vicary must have made the trip. It’d be very cool to see the on-form Erin Disterheft make a start, and possibly make some important in-roads in the Top Banana Competition for her efforts. And of course, Belmont is only a short training ride for Mackenzie Woodring…

Racing starts at 10am Saturday at Cannonsburg Ski Area. Yours Truly will be on hand, so keep your eyes peeled for a race recap Saturday night.