By Dylan Allen
(originally featured on The Competitive Cyclist)
Cyclocross is a winter cycling discipline, which takes place on a enclosed track, covering adverse terrain: often in mud, sand, over tree roots, rocks, off-camber surfaces and man-made barriers. However, racers use bikes that most closely resemble road bikes (with wider tyres), rather than mountain bikes (the rules specifically forbid the use of suspension components). Most popular in Western Europe, cyclocross is a growing sport in America, and on Monday, the United States held its National Championships in a wet, cold, Austin, Texas. This review (and others just like it) are what I do for work, week in, week out.-Dylan Allen
The course, muddy from a weekend of rain, featured large off-camber sections, two sets of limestone stairs, barriers, a messy, technical descent, and a man-made wood ramp, all within 3.5km (about 2.2 miles).
On a simplified, mulched course in Austin on Monday, the remaining eyes watched the remaining “best of the best” riders fight it out in the mud. The unchanged course sections remained treacherous, and it seemed that all were running disc brakes (except Adam Myerson, of course).
Katie Compton made one thing clear from the start: she was out to take her eleventh straight title- solo. And that she did. Compton (Trek Factory Racing) started poorly, missing the clip-in, but after recovering, she immediately raced hard to catch back up to the leaders. Ellen Noble (JAMFund) took the holeshot, followed closely by Kaitie Antonneau (Cannondale/cyclocrossworld.com), Arley Kemmerer (PB2 Pro Cycling), Rachel Lloyd (California Giant-Specialized), and Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team). The race was, for everyone else, a race for second. Compton never looked back after going off solo, and Lloyd was a solo chaser in front of the group. Crystal Anthony (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) joined Antonneau and Gould in the fight for third place.
Antonneau quickly began to distance her rivals, and began to close on Lloyd. Lloyd began to fade, and Antonneau caught her. Lloyd’s fatigue showed its seriousness on a muddy, rutted descent, where she lost control and crashed, hitting her head. Antonneau, with Lloyd’s crash, locked in her silver medal.
Lloyd never recovered from her crash, and while she stayed in the race, chaser Gould had made up a substantial amount of time, and began to look to take third. Lloyd dug extremely deep to hold off Gould, and succeeded, narrowly taking her place on the podium. Gould and Anthony finished fourth and fifth, respectively, and early leader Ellen Noble finished sixth (and thereby took the U23 championship).
In the men’s race, Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing) and Jonathan Page (XcelLED-Fuji) took off from the line, and Zach McDonald (Cyclocross Project 2015) was left to chase alone. Powers showed off skills in the mud that had previously been unseen, and, by taking risks and racing hard, Powers began to shake Page, a four-time National Champion himself, off of his wheel. Coming through the pits, it looked as though Page had flatted (likely attributed to a low tyre pressure), and lost more seconds while getting his pit bike. Powering on, (no pun intended) Powers put more time into Page and attained a lead of close to 20 seconds. By then, it seemed that Powers was untouchable and was enroute to repeat as champion, Page seemed slotted to finish second, but the battle for fourth was a three-way race.
Daniel Summerhill (K-Edge/Felt) and Dan Timmerman (Richard Sachs) traded attacks for fifth place until they found themselves catching Stephen Hyde (JAMFund). The three riders did not spend much time together, as Summerhill and Timmerman quickly distanced the fatigued JAMFund rider, however, the battle for fourth continued. Summerhill eventually pulled away from Timmerman, for fourth. Seconds ahead, early chaser McDonald chased the hard-closing Page, who himself was making ground on Powers.
However, in the penultimate lap, early McDonald flatted and had to retrieve a pit bike. McDonald’s fatigue then became evident, his knees wobbling as he worked to retrieve lost time, but the work he had proved to be fruitless: Page had come within 12 seconds of Powers climbing the limestone stairs. Page’s late surge had come from extreme risk taking and his great running ability. After nearly losing his rear wheel on a steep, rutted descent into a tight right-hand turn, Page shouldered his bike and ran, easily gaining on the cautious Powers, who began to two-step the stairs. However, the defending champion raced on, and coming through a chicane near the pits, saw Page, too far back to catch him.
Powers hit the finishing straight, sat up, one hand pointing to the sky, and slowly crossed the line. Powers finished 31 seconds up on Page. McDonald, who ditched school to race Monday, finished a further 41 seconds down, third. Riders who podiumed (Compton, Antonneau, Lloyd, Gould, Anthony, Powers, Page, McDonald, Timmerman, and Driscoll) all earned the opportunity to represent the USA in the UCI World Championships.
Powers will look to become just the third American man to stand on a World Championships podium, while Compton will look to surmount the previously unstoppable Vos to take the Rainbow Bands.