Werner prevails in wintry NCGP

Willsey, Thompson complete men's podium

Kerry Werner claimed the victory on a snowy, heavy Hendersonville course at the opening day of the North Carolina Grand Prix.

Werner topped Cooper Willsey (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld) and Eric Thompson (Mspeedwax.com) in the C2 race.

A strong winter storm blanketed the region in nearly a foot of snow overnight, making for treacherous conditions getting to the race. But once there, the races went off smoothly even if riders were concerned about plowing through deep snow.

"I was a little worried at first that it wouldn't be ridable," Werner said of the course. "But then I saw some of the amateur racers riding around and you could see mud, so that was a good sign. By the time we rode, after noon, it was fun. I ran super low pressure because the speeds were pretty slow today and also there wasn't anything to hit. We don't always get the opportunity to do that. I felt really good out there today on the tricky bits. Kind of my forte is the slip and slides."

In the mix with Werner were Thompson, Willsey, and a trio of regional riders, Travis Livermon (Maxxis/Shimano), Tristan Cowie and Merwin Davis (Cycle-Smart).

"Three laps in, I gapped Eric (Thompson) off the back, and Cooper (Willsey) was chasing for a few laps," Werner added. He would not only have his fourth ProCX win, but a 10th podium for the year. "I put an emphasis on hitting it hard in the power sections. I knew he (Willsey) was holding it together and wouldn't hit those sections super hard. So I built my gap and from there it was just trying to stay smooth, taking a bunch of bike changes and making sure there were no mechanicals were happening."

Werner would ride solo to the line for this victory. The sprint behind him was for second, which was taken by Willsey.

"There really is only one line around the course, there's so much snow," Willsey said. "I knew the start would be super important. So I focused on getting a good start and clean first few laps. I went out hard and rode at the front. I saw Kerry and Eric coming up to me, so I knew they would make it. So I waited up a little bit and we were a group of three working well together.

"Maybe on the third or fourth lap I got caught up in the tape, while running. It as my fault. The gap opened up to them and I went pretty deep to close it. I almost got back to Kerry. I paid for that effort Eric got back in front of me. I surged on the last lap and get him in the sprint."

It would be the third ProCX podium for Willsey, and the first time for him to secure a silver medal. It would be the sixth ProCX podium finish for Thompson.

"I was trying to scheme a little bit and get Tristan and Kerry at each other so I could come up from behind," Thompson said about early tactics. "Both of those guys are strong, plus all the rest of the guys, Cooper and Travis, and everyone else. I just tried to have a smooth race. Really, that's all you can have out here with these conditions. Anything can go wrong. I recovered from a crash out there, then came back to Cooper finally with two to go. Then I was able to recover. But at the end Cooper came back and took me in the sprint. So he rode really strong. We did our best just to stay upright."

Livermon would finish fourth, followed by Cowie in fifth and Davis in sixth. Racing should prove to be challenging on Sunday, after overnight temperatures will dip to 18 degrees.

"If you are a good bike handler, you are going to be in the mix. If not, it doesn't matter how strong you are," Werner said. "It's about who can hold it together mentally. Tomorrow will be even more crucial. We might be dealing with frozen ruts and maybe more of a slip-and-slide situation. We'll see. I think tomorrow I think the group will break apart earlier. I'm looking forward to it."

Full results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Kerry Werner (USA)0:55:09 
2Cooper Willsey (USA)0:00:27 
3Eric Thompson (USA)0:00:28 
4Travis Livermon (USA)0:01:12 
5Tristan Cowie (USA)0:01:22 
6Merwin Davis (USA)0:01:39 
7Isaac Neff (USA)0:02:17 
8Caleb Swartz (USA)0:03:01 
9Cade Bickmore (USA)0:03:48 
10Andrew Giniat (USA)0:03:57 
11Alex Ryan (USA)0:04:45 
12Bradford Perley (USA)0:05:27 
13Byron Rice (USA)0:05:45 
14Richard Cypress Gorry (USA)0:06:07 
15Michael Landry (USA)0:08:45 
16Keith Mullaly (USA)0:09:45 
17Samuel Kieffer (USA)0:10:44 
18Scott Myers (USA)  
19Jon Okenfuss (USA)  
20Garret Thompson (USA)  
21Alistair Sponsel (USA)  
22Lucas Livermon (USA)  
23Charlie Hough (USA)  
24Steve Hindman (USA)  
DNFAnders Nystrom (USA)  
DNSBrendan Rhim (USA)  
DNSRyan Gamm (USA)  
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