In a heavyweight slugfest for the ages, Jeremy Powers (Rapha Focus) withstood a barrage of blows from rivals accounting for eight of the last 11 national titles before ultimately delivering his own knockout punch and his first national championship.
Amidst raucous applause, a visibly moved Powers crossed the finish line first in the final event of the five-day USA Cycling Cyclocross Championships held at Badger Prairie Park near Madison, Wisconsin with a hard-fought and masterfully measured performance.
Ryan Trebon (LTS-Felt), who returned to racing last weekend (where he beat Powers twice) after nearly seven weeks out of competition from a knee injury, earned the silver medal, 17 seconds down on Powers, while Jonathan Page (Planet Bike-Blue), who flew into Madison on Friday night from his home base in Belgium, secured bronze 26 seconds behind Powers.
For much of the eight-lap elite men's championship the four heavily favored pre-race contenders, Powers, Trebon, Page and Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) rode together at the head of the race and were joined early on by Chris Jones (Rapha Focus) and Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) and later by newly crowned U23 champion Zach McDonald (Rapha Focus), who ultimately finished fourth in perhaps the ride of the day.
Powers patiently played the waiting game, keeping a close eye on his rivals, before unleashing a devastating attack early on the penultimate lap which blew the leading group apart.
"Everybody had their dig and I was just cautiously sitting and waiting thinking 'Ok, is this everything?' Are the guys bluffing or is this everything that they're putting out?", Powers told Cyclingnews. "I was confident in my fitness coming in but there's alot of things that can happen at national championships. As it turns out, everything that can happen has happened to me at the national championships (laughs)."
At the previous elite Nationals, held in Bend, Oregon in December, 2010, Powers shared the race lead with Todd Wells, but a crash knocked him out of contention for the championship. Powers ended up with the bronze medal, behind race winner Wells and runner-up Ryan Trebon.
"Once everybody put their chips down I waited and waited and waited and then with two to go I thought 'I'm going to have a go at it'. I know I can do 15 minutes as hard as I can and that was enough," said Powers.
"When I got the gap to the pit and then I was able to extend it on the climb I thought, "Ok, I just have to make no errors'. There was this feeling that this was going to be the hardest interval I've ever done and that was it."
The result? The first stars-and-stripes jersey in the 28-year-old Powers' career. "I'm just really, really happy to be finally able to do it because it's been such a long time coming for me. To put my name on the list is super-special and I can retire happy now."
Ryan Trebon, who has two elite men's championships in his palmares, was pleased with his silver medal performance on a day on which he said he had "good legs but not great legs".
"The whole day I suffered," Trebon told Cyclingnews. "I definitely didn't feel like I was the strongest one out there at all. I thought Jeremy [Powers] and [Jonathan] Page looked really good, especially that first lap when they both bridged up to me really fast after I had that gap.
"I thought I was going to get fifth today, I'm happy to get second. It was a weird race, the [lead] group kept coming together and then it would blow apart, but it didn't seem to blow apart when anyone was really going for it. People were getting gaps in the pits.
"I didn't pit once today. I was looking down and it didn't look dirty. It wasn't impacted with mud and it was working really well."
Trebon was well-positioned to respond to Powers' winning attack, but with an on-form and motivated Powers riding for his first national title Trebon knew the deck was stacked against him.
"I was still trying to keep him within sight in case he made a mistake or had a technical problem, but he had good fitness and was riding really strong. I was praying to hold onto second. I thought for sure that Page was going to catch me."
Even though Page has been a three-time national champion, as well as a 'cross Worlds silver medalist in 2007, he entered this year's 'cross Nationals a bit under the radar, but still a contender. Page had struggled this season during his European 'cross campaign, but got a morale boost with two top-10 finishes in Belgium a week ago.
"I was pretty much playing defense, not letting anything get away, and just staying upright," Page told Cyclingnews. "I knew with two of them (Rapha Focus riders) in the group, Powers and McDonald, that was going to be a factor. With a lap and a half to go in the pit, McDonald got between me and Powers. He wasn't going to pit, I was going to pit, so we kind of rubbed elbows. I pitted, Powers gunned it, got a gap and rode strong."
Page was pragmatic about his bronze medal performance, in light of his travel to Wisconsin from Belgium. "I was all right, but at the end of the race I wasn't all right any more. That's pretty much it. Am I sad I did it this way? No. Would I do it again this way? Yeah. I'm always on the podium, but it only counts if you win. It's been too long."
Race favorites force early selection
Under brilliant blue skies and temperatures nearly 20 degrees warmer than normal for a Sunday afternoon in January, 107 riders launched off the start line and sprinted down the asphalt start/finish straight and onto the grass of a soccer field in Badger Prairie Park. Not more than 24 hours after dominating the U23 championship, Zach McDonald (Rapha Focus) took the hole shot onto grass...and immediately crashed.
"I hole shotted and then I grabbed two handfuls of brake, and didn't find any handfuls of brake, so I just went into the crowd," said McDonald. "It's actually really embarrassing to do that. I guess you could almost call it the rookie move."
New masters 30-34 champion Dylan McNicholas (Cyclocrossworld/Cannondale Cyclocrossworld) momentarily led around the soccer field, but Trebon soon surged past and powered up the 2.1-mile circuit's hardest climb alone in the lead, pursued by McNicholas, Johnson, Page, Powers and Driscoll.
On the second lap, through the pit for the second time, a lead group of six had consolidated at the head of affairs containing Trebon, Page, Rapha Focus riders Powers and Jones plus Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld teammates Johnson and Driscoll.
Driscoll and Jones were the weak links in the sextet, finding themselves gapped at the surges of their four companions in the lead group, but for the next two laps they repeatedly clawed their way back into contact.
Past the midway point, on the fifth lap, the elastic finally snapped for Driscoll and Jones, but Powers soon found reinforcements in the dramatic resurgence of McDonald, who had been chasing hard since his very early crash and finally made contact with the leaders approaching the circuit's second climb.
"I hopped back onto my bike, someone rode over my wheel but it still rolled although the derailleur was shot," McDonald said regarding his hole shot crash. "I made it to the pit, got on a new bike and then decided I wanted to screw up more and on the first climb I rolled off my chain. I got off to fix it twice. After the first lap I was about 30 [riders] down, so I just sunk in and tried to bridge.
"I didn't know if I'd ever catch up to the front group, but they kept getting closer."
"It was a pleasant surprise," said Powers. "There's power in numbers even if it doesn't mean anything. 'Cross is just one person but it was good to have him there."
Johnson, Trebon and Page would each make efforts to split the group, but early on the seventh and penultimate lap, on the first sector of grass around the soccer field, Powers made the race's decisive attack, splintering the five-man lead selection, and 15 minutes later the stars-and-stripes jersey was his.
"I'm really proud to have the jersey," said Powers. "I never had it as a junior or an under-23 and now to have it as a professional it really means that much more to me."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Jeremy Powers (Team Rapha-Focus)||1:05:57|
|2||Ryan Trebon (LTS/Felt)||0:00:17|
|3||Jonathan Page (Planet Bike)||0:00:26|
|4||Zach Mcdonald (Team Rapha-Focus)||0:00:38|
|5||Timothy Johnson (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com)||0:01:06|
|6||Christopher Jones (Team Rapha-Focus)||0:01:52|
|7||James Driscoll (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com)||0:02:02|
|8||Dylan Mcnicholas (Cyclocrossworld/Cannondale Cyclocrossworld)||0:02:33|
|9||Travis Livermon (Smart Stop-Mock Orange P/B Ridley)||0:02:37|
|10||Mitchell Hoke (Team Clif Bar)||0:03:37|
|11||Justin Lindine (BikeReg.com / Joe's Garage)||0:03:47|
|12||Jerome Townsend (Smart Stop-Mock Orange P/B Ridley)||0:04:36|
|13||Brian Matter (Gear Grinder / Clif Bar)||0:04:38|
|14||Cody Kaiser (California Giant Cycling/California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized)||0:05:12|
|15||Barry Wicks (Kona)||0:05:32|
|16||Sean Babcock (Kona)||0:05:47|
|17||Nicholas Keough (Corner Cycle Cycling Club/Champion System P/B Keough Cyclocross)||0:06:05|
|18||Adam Myerson (Smart Stop-Mock Orange P/B Ridley)||0:06:06|
|19||Erik Tonkin (Kona)||0:06:25|
|20||Weston Schempf (Charm City Cycling Llc)||0:06:31|
|21||Allen Krughoff (Boulder Cycle Sport)||0:07:09|
|22||Braden Kappius (Team Clif Bar)||0:07:34|
|23||Jake Wells (Stan's Notubes)||0:07:45|
|24||Troy Wells (Team Clif Bar)||0:08:37|
|25||Tristan Schouten (Cyclocrossracing.Com)||0:10:08|
|-2laps||Peter Webber (Boulder Cycle Sport)|
|-2laps||Brandon Dwight (Boulder Cycle Sport)|
|-2laps||Scott Frederick (Inland/Back To Dirt)|
|-2laps||Justin Robinson (California Giant Cycling/California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized)|
|-3laps||Adam St Germain (Nbx Bikes/Quadfire Racing/Nbx/Narragansett Beer Cycling Team P/B A)|
|-3laps||Andrew Wulfkuhle (Charm City Cycling Llc)|
|-3laps||Brad Cole (Kccx Fuji Elite Cyclocross Team P/B Challenge Tires)|
|-3laps||Damian Schmitt (Silverado Gallery / Sunnyside Sports)|
|-3laps||Brian Hludzinski (Boulder Cycle Sport)|
|-3laps||Jesse Rients (Kuhl)|
|-3laps||Craig Faulkner (Crossniacs)|
|-3laps||Tim Allen (Feedback Sports Racing)|
|-3laps||Daniel Chabanov (Connecticut Yankee Bc/Richard Sachs - Rgm Watches - Radix)|
|-3laps||Jon Cariveau (Moots)|
|-3laps||Stephen Cummings (Charm City Cycling Llc)|
|-3laps||Mark Savery (Midwest Cycling Community Ne)|
|-3laps||Aaron Bradford (Bay101/Hrs/Rocklobster)|
|-3laps||Thomas Mackay (Charm City Cycling Llc)|
|-3laps||William Iaia (Groove Subaru-Alpha Bicycle Co)|
|-4laps||John Curry (Gallatin Valley Bicycle Club/Gallatin Alpine Sports/Intrinsik Archite)|
|-4laps||Abe Rotstein (Team Bicycle Trip/Symantec)|
|-4laps||Tyler Jenema (Mafia Racing/Pabst/Felt/Mafia Racing)|
|-4laps||Michael Robson (Moots)|
|-4laps||Aaron Bouplon (RockyMounts Izze Racing)|
|-4laps||Bradford Perley (Champion System/Cannondale)|
|-4laps||John Proppe (Lake Effect Cycling Team/Team Lake Effect)|
|-4laps||Christopher Fisher (Crossniacs)|
|-4laps||Colin Reuter (Crossresults.Com/Crossresults.Com P/B Jra Cycles)|
|-4laps||Scott Chapin (Bay 101/Hrs/Rock Lobster Cyclocross)|
|-4laps||Shadd Smith (Kccx Fuji Elite Cyclocross Team P/B Challenge Tires)|
|-4laps||Shawn Harshman (Boulder Cycle Sport)|
|-4laps||Alexander Bremer (Century Road Club Association/Foundation)|
|-5laps||Matthew Fox (Silverado Gallery/ Sunnyside Sports)|
|-5laps||Brandon Cross (Cole Sport)|
|-5laps||Kenny Wehn (Notubes Race Team)|
|-5laps||Darian Founds (Southern Colorado Velo)|
|-5laps||Paul Mumford (Kinky Llama Racing)|
|-5laps||Wayne Simon (Psimet Racing/Enzo'S-Psimet)|
|-5laps||William Street (Kuhl)|
|-5laps||Brett Pirie (Colobikelaw.Com)|
|-5laps||Matthew Petersen (Balance Cycling/Erik'S Bike Shop)|
|-5laps||Raymond Smith (Ocd Cycling/Bob'S Red Mill Cyclocross)|
|-5laps||Matthew Means (Charm City Cycling Llc)|
|-5laps||Alex Dayton (Mock Orange Bikes/Smartstop / Mock Orange Bikes P/B Ridley)|
|-5laps||Willem Heydendael (Bicycle Therapy)|
|-5laps||Ryan Gabriel (Scuderia Superleggera)|
|-5laps||Matthew Schweiker (Quantum Mesa Cycles)|
|-5laps||Timothy Hall (Nashvillecyclist.Com)|
|-5laps||Jason Cemanski (Apex Racing Team)|
|-5laps||Robert Sonora (Colavita Racing Inc.)|
|-6laps||Mark Babcock (Nouveau Velo Cycling Team/Deeds Publishing)|
|-6laps||Mark Fasczewski (Scenic City Velo/Krystal / Warp9Bikes.Com)|
|DNS||Bryan Fawley (Obrea Usa)|
|DNS||Molly Cameron (Metafilter - Portland Bicycle Studio)|
|DNS||Jeffrey Bahnson (Van Dessel Factory Team)|
|DNS||Travis Donn (Ethos Racing)|
|DNS||Fred Brown (Mtbnj.Com)|
|DNS||John Behrens (Bailey Bikes)|
|DNS||John Bailey (Bailey Bikes)|
|DNS||Devin Obrien (Angry Catfish)|
|DNS||Christopher Tirone (Buffalo Bicycling Club Inc./French Meadow Bakery/Fortistar)|
|DNS||Alex Work (Bay 101/Hrs/Rock Lobster Cyclocross/Bay 101/Hrs/Rock Lobster)|
|DNS||John Flack (Cbc Racing/Olympia Orthopaedic Associates Cycling T)|
|DNS||Brian Jorgensen (Central Oregon Community College)|
|DNS||Robert Kendall (Clarksville Schwinn/Rapid Transit)|
|DNS||Cailean Carlberg (Bicycles Of Tulsa)|
|DNS||Charles Parmain (Bicycles Of Tulsa)|
|DNS||Matthew Allen (Behind-Bars/Lgr)|
|DNF||Christian Favata (Connecticut Yankee Bc)|