By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Kansas City, Kansas
Johnson back on top at 'cross nats
After days of cold, snow and more cold, the sun shone down on the elite 'cross categories, softening the course enough and bringing out the mud to make it an official 'cross championship. After the first lap sorted the contenders from the pretenders, it was three that eventually made the final selection – Jonathan Page (Sunweb-ProJob) held a small lead for much of the race over Todd Wells (GT Bicycles) and Tim Johnson (Cannondale/Leer/Cyclocrossworld).
After Wells was slowed by some slip-ups, it was mano-a-mano between Page and Johnson. In the final two laps the two battled hard, trading the lead until Page crashed following Johnson in a turn. This gave the Massachusetts native just enough of a gap to hold off last year's world silver medalist for his second national title.
"With two to go I attacked Jonathan through the start/finish," said Johnson. "When I attacked him I just wanted a little bit of a gap so I could have my shot at the best lines. If you ride behind somebody it is just too sketchy, and I think that is why Jonathan went under the tape. I was leading through that section and you have no idea where you are going to end up with the ruts. I just heard that he went down, but he eventually caught me. If I were him I would have tried to pass, because you just can't trust riding behind someone [in these conditions]."
While the conditions did improve compared to earlier races, the difference between winning and losing was measured more in the ability to avoid crashing. "The way this course was there was just one top speed, and if you could surf that speed without going down, that was a good lap," said Johnson. "I don't think that last lap was anywhere near flawless, but if you can stay upright and not get into trouble, that was considered flawless."
Johnson summed up the conditions this way: "You risked crashing in any one of the 30 corners all over the course!"
"I just rode my own race, starting strong and If people caught me that was fine," said a clearly disappointed Page. "[Johnson] attacked up top and then I just stayed steady to not make a mistake and bring him back. Unfortunately I crashed and dropped my chain, but fortunately I was near the pit... but still... it was just one little thing and he got a bit of a gap – I was closing and closing but just ran out of laps, and he just kept enough in his tank."
Compton's US 'cross dynasty continues
Katie Compton (Spike Shooter), the current world number two in women's cyclo-cross, showed why she deserves that ranking during the US nationals Sunday. She blasted away from the rest of the women's field, beating all but one by more than a minute to take her fourth consecutive title. Her victory was made even more impressive considering the parcours was quite treacherous after a week of foul weather that bombarded the area, and merely staying upright was, at times, as much luck as it was skill.
"I tried to be towards the front when we hit the snow, and then try to ride a smooth race," said Compton. "I tried to not follow anyone into the ruts because it's easy to get caught behind a crash. I didn't have a good start because I couldn't get my foot into my pedal. But I didn't want to lead on the start anyway because it was uphill and I wanted to go hard on the course."
Compton then went to work, setting a regular tempo that was just head and shoulders above the rest. Before the race, everyone was looking at Georgia Gould (Luna Women's Mtb Team) as the only likely challenger to Compton's crown – but Compton knew the conditions favoured another, Rachel Lloyd (Proman/Paradigm), who excels in technical conditions and used those skills to take second ahead of Gould.
Selander wins when it counts
Bjorn Selander (Ridley Factory Team) and Jamey Driscoll (FiordiFrutta) have been battling in the espoir ranks all season, with Driscoll coming out on top - and it was those two that made the race for the men's U23 championship. Selander jumped to an early lead and held it for much of the race while Driscoll marked him close behind, taking over the lead late in the race. But Selander regained his focus and caught back on the final lap, resulting in a two-up sprint on the uphill home stretch, with Selander having just enough more in the tank to take the title.
"I had a slow start to the season because I had a long road season, so I came to the 'cross season slower than some of these guys," said Selander. "But it worked out in the end because my only goal was to win nationals!"
Mentally banking your entire season on one race can result in a let down, but also can give that extra boost in the critical moments of a race - which it did for Selander. "The middle of the race I don't know what happened to me, but I was taking really bad lines," he said. "I fell a couple of times and then I crashed on the stairs. I hit my nose on my frame and thought I broke it! But I thought whatever, it's cold!
That is when the race turned, and Driscoll made his move, passing Selander with less than two laps to go.
"Then Jamey caught up to me... I got it in my head that he's off and that was it. I panicked a little when he caught me and that caused me to slip. But then I thought, 'No, this is the national championships!' I got my composure back and I was in the zone. I just kept going."
Dombroski Defends U23 Title
By Wendy Booher and Sean Weide
Amid furiously ringing bells and rabid cheers, Amy Dombroski (Velo Bella-Kona) of Boulder, Colorado became the first to test the course and she found it just fine for defending her Under 23 women's title. "Last year we didn't have conditions like this," Dombroski said. "I guess the hardest part was warming up on the course and being like, 'Oh my gosh, I actually have to ride this and race this?!' So I think the thing that was harder about this year was the pre-race preparation."
Dombroski took the hole shot and rode away from the field, leaving Kate Scheider (Fts-North Atlantic Velo) and Kacey Manderfield (Verducci-Breakaway) to duke it out for second place. Scheider led the first lap until Manderfield passed her at the top of the second set of stairs at the far end of the course. Dombroski rode easily to victory, one minute and 13 seconds ahead of Manderfield.
For the rest of the race results and photos, click here.