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Jorden Wakeley and Chad Wells return to East Jordan to cross swords again, but there are more contenders and a deeper field. 

Cyclocross is back in Northern Michigan and the racing has never seen so many quality riders. Breezeway Cross brings all the familiar faces back to East Jordan for the first leg of the series, and one that will almost certainly set the tone for the three remaining races. Riders will be looking to send a signal to the other riders, and the course in East Jordan is the perfect terrain to make it happen.

Punctuated with some tough barriers and long, fast straightaways, the most memorable feature that will carry over from 2012 is the 25 yard long sand pit that comes after the second set of barriers on the course. Last year, the mountain bikes enjoyed a brief advantage, but cyclocross bikes were certainly the preferred method of travel. The duel between Einstein Racing’s Bennett Paul and Ross Gibbs, with Paul on a cross bike and Gibbs on a 29er, highlighted the strengths and drawbacks of each, with the riders almost dead even speed-wise. Paul won the day, prompting Gibbs to resort to a ‘cross bike for the rest of the series.

The Women’s A race will feature the incomparable Kim Chapman from Algoma Bicycle Co. She proved herself the class of the women’s field and one of the top racers in the state, and she’ll be at Breezeway to test her legs against the might of the Men’s B field. She’ll be up against Einstein Racing’s Chelsea Strate, who’s starting her comeback as she builds toward a fat bike world championship this winter.

That Men’s B field will be a great spot for the women to hop on wheels, and features a lot of fast riders. Ross Gibbs and Trever Kingsbury enter as big favorites for North Country Cycle Sport after impressive rides already this fall, including a demonstrative show of force at the Ithaca Grand Prix of Cyclocross. They’ll be against the four man squadron from Algoma of Jason Luther, Paul DeBeer, James Capisciolto, and Brad Phaneuf. Einstein Racing counters with Rob Goepfrich and Mickey Humpula, a solid 1-2 for the course. Hagerty TOLaw U-25 offers up Cody and Wes Sovis, still reeling from a lackluster showing at Ithaca and building for a run at the Lowell 50 and Iceman Cometh in a month’s time.

Einstein has some solid options in the C race as well, with the experienced Tim Pease, Keith Conwayand Jim Picotte. They’ll be the class of the race, though Picotte has ambitions for a move to B before too long.

The Men’s A race is going to be a real showdown, with Jorden Wakeley back to take on NCCS’s Chad Wells, who is fresh off a solid block of racing against some of the best in the state at Ithaca and Waterford. Wells’ recent string of results marks him as the likely favorite and the man to watch, though the return of Jason Lowetz means that Einstein Racing will be back at the top of the game if he can shake off 1,500 miles of riding in a week. If he has anything left, he could challenge for a podium shot. Jason Whittaker, Chris Kushman, Ryan Bolin, John Leach and the rest of the Einstein crew will also give it a solid go.

Registration is open until Thursday, and late minute additions could certainly shake up the race.