By Laura Weislo
The elite men's race of the USA Cyclo-cross National Championships was marred by a scuffle between two racers vying for position on the first lap. 34-year-old Jonathan Baker reportedly punched Adam Myerson (36) after the two were involved in a crash on the descent just after the mid-point of the lap. A second incident between unruly fans and supporters of Jonathan Page occurred after the race. The Myerson/Baker incident could result in at least one of the riders receiving disciplinary action by USA Cycling, while local police were called in to handle the post-race scuffle.
Myerson described how the incident with Baker unfolded. "We were just reconnecting to the front group on the descent, and were both still in around 10th or 11th spot," he told Cyclingnews. "Baker had just passed me at the top of the hill, and then crashed in the turn on the descent in front of me, and I T-boned him."
As the two riders tried to get back up to resume racing they found their bikes were tangled together, and in the adrenaline-fueled moment tensions rose. "I absolutely told Baker he was an asshole. ... I was muttering to myself as much as I was yelling at him as I was trying to untangle our bikes. His response to me was that I was an asshole, or something to that effect, for crashing into him while he was on the ground."
"Then Baker jumped up, his rear wheel was hooked in my handlebars. He kept pulling his bike away and pulling my bike with him, while I was trying to pull his wheel out of my bars. That's where much of the yelling was happening."
Some witness reports said that Myerson pushed Baker, but Myerson denied this. "I finally was able to pull his wheel back enough to unhook us, but he was also pulling the other way. When I pushed our bikes apart and let go of his wheel, he took a step backwards with his bike. I only ever had his wheel in my hand. I never touched him, or pushed him."
"I was putting my bike down on the ground and getting ready to get back on when he dropped his bike, took a few steps toward me winding up, and punched me in the head as I was turning away from him to remount. Obviously I had my helmet on and it didn't cause any damage, but I was pretty shocked.
"I put down my first instinct to tackle him and simply responded with 'Are you crazy? You're going to get suspended!'," Myerson said.
When contacted, Baker refused to comment on the incident.
Myerson finished the race in 32nd place, while Baker is listed as "did not place" on the official results. When Myerson went to report the incident, he said, "USAC [the officials, ed.] had already taken it up on their own, and I corroborated what had been reported when they asked me."
USA Cycling's Andrea Smith explained that it was up to the chief race referees to report the incident to USA Cycling, and once that is completed the normal procedure will take place to investigate the incident before any disciplinary action can be taken.
This was the second time Myerson has been a victim of violence at a race. In 2000, he was struck in the head by Scott Mercer after a local criterium and had to undergo surgery to repair a fractured skull. Mercer was given a one-year suspension.
Page supporters tussle with hecklers
The second incident involved inebriated fans who began heckling third place Jonathan Page during his post-race interview. Page supporters reportedly approached the hecklers to ask them to stop and the confrontation became physical. The shirtless hecklers were said to be local to the area, but Page clarified that St. Louis native Brad Huff, who was seen sporting the same lack of insulating clothing in the bitter cold, was not among the men involved in the fight.
"While I was interviewing at the finish line, two obnoxious fans were booing and yelling obscene things at me," Page said on his web site, thejonathanpage.com. "They then proceeded to punch Cori's [Page's wife -ed.] brother and throw him into a bunch of Richard Sachs bikes that were lying on the ground after Cori's brother asked them to at least have some respect and stop booing. It was just two locals who got too lubricated and cold and it got out of hand."
"All three landed on my 14 bicycles which were ready to be loaded for New England," Richard Sachs told Cyclingnews. "I was there when the cop interviewed the two and they admit they did what they were said to have done, and thought Cori's brother was wrong for intruding on their right to free speech!"