Werner wins in snowy North Carolina

Willsey is second on opening day of North Carolina Grand Prix

Winter made an early appearance in western North Carolina Saturday for the Hunter Subaru North Carolina Grand Prix, where USA Cycling ProCX leadeKerry Werner (Birdsboro, Penn./Kona Maxxis Shimano) took his eighth ProCX victory of the year. 

The snow fell heaviest during the Elite Men’s race but melted on all surfaces. It seemed to be the colder air temperatures from winter storm Diego that caused issues late in the day.

“It wasn’t super soupy out there, just a constant spray from the snow melting in the tracks,” said Werner. “My body was good too, it was mostly just my hands. Every straightaway I was swinging them, trying to get the pendulum effect and get some blood down in them. It wasn’t too bad until the last two laps and then it got real cold.”

Werner and Cooper Willsey (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) would go toe-to-toe down the start chute to battle right from the start for the front. Werner said he went around Willsey on the grass to take the holeshot. From there, they continued shoulder to shoulder for the next four laps.

“I just didn’t want anybody in front of me with the conditions as they were,” said Werner, who lives two hours away from the course in Advance, North Carolina. “There was a lap and a half of a learning curve for sure. A couple of sections I was trying to ride the line I did in pre-ride, which was not maybe the line with the most grip. For the most part, I knew it was going to be slippery. I tried to be patient those first couple laps and just see how everybody else was riding.”

Willsey stayed with Werner, and did much of he work out front. Behind them, the reigning Canadian U23 Cyclocross National Champion Gunnar Holmgren (Hardwood Next Wave) chased with Eric Thompson and Alex Ryan.

“I was feeling good in the group,” Holmgren said. “Kerry and Cooper were pushing it pretty good. Then I just had a little bike issue [change tire pressure] and had to pit. I didn’t quite make it back to them. Then Eric Thompson feel back from that group and we battled for a bit. It ended up being close in the end between Coop, myself and Eric.”

Holmgren and Thompson traded positions a few times trying to grab a third-place spot midway through the contest. With three laps to go, Thompson fell back and could not battle back. It was that same lap that Werner made his move.

“With there being quite a bit of pavement and flat straights here, it was pretty obvious early on that [Willsey] wanted to separate from Gunnar and Eric,” said Werner. “I think I put a dig in on the second or third lap [to go] and put a little bit of daylight between us. Maybe he realized that the fight was for second. In my head, that is what I thinking for him.”

Werner’s winning time was 59 minutes. Following 50 seconds back for second place was Willsey.

“We went out full guns, and full gas. I knew that Kerry would be vert fast,” said the 21-year-old Willsey. “Gunnar loves conditions like these, being Canadian. I tried to put myself in a good position, trying not to be caught by anyone. Paid for it a bit in the end, and got pretty cold. The body shut down in the last two laps. But it was a fun race and I love conditions like this. It was a blast.”

Holmgren finished on the podium in third place, 57 second behind Werner. In fourth was Thompson, another 34 seconds behind Holmgren. Ryan would finish seventh.

“The Governor declared a state of emergency, so I don’t know what that means for cyclo-cross racing,” added Werner after another podium presentation and some time by a fire to warm his hands. “Last year I felt like we raced in pretty adverse conditions as well. I feel like the biggest issue is just people getting here. Last year there was eight inches of snow. By the time we raced, there was a pretty solid line that was six to 12 inches of just mud and ruts. It will be interesting. Then when that happens, the best line you might want might be out in the snow and that may not be the best idea.”

Now in its 14th year, the NCGP returns Sunday final ProCX showdowns, and large amounts of snow expected. It is also the final race weekend for the 12-race North Carolina Cyclo-Cross Series. Henderson County Parks & Recreation Department partners with North Carolina Cyclo-Cross to host the family-friendly event in.

Scheduled to start in Hendersonville on Saturday was reigning US Cyclo-cross National Champion Stephen Hyde (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com). He did not make the trip based on the weather forecast and will next race at the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships next week.

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Kerry Werner (USA) Kona Maxxis Shimano0:59:01 
2Cooper Willsey (USA) Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com0:00:50 
3Gunnar Holmgren (Can) Hardwood Next Wave Cycling0:00:57 
4Eric Thompson (USA)0:01:31 
5Merwin Davis (USA)0:01:59 
6Brendan Rhim (USA)0:02:05 
7Alex Ryan (USA)0:02:12 
8Tyler Clark (Can)0:02:50 
9Travis Livermon (USA)0:03:00 
10Tristan Cowie (USA)0:03:53 
11Bradford Perley (USA)0:04:13 
12Walker Shaw (USA)0:04:22 
13Nathan Barton (USA)0:04:23 
14Andrew Giniat (USA)0:04:51 
15Scott Smith (USA)0:05:31 
16Nicholas Diniz (Can)0:06:01 
17Allan Schroeder (USA)0:06:16 
18Robert Marion (USA)0:06:19 
19Josh Bauer (USA)0:07:07 
20Ian Gielar (USA)0:07:46 
21Michael Potter (USA)0:08:15 
22Spencer Johnston (USA)0:09:24 
23Andrew Dietz (USA)0:09:38 
24Paul Mysko (Can)0:09:57 
1 lapFrederick Junge (USA)  
1 lapJon Okenfuss (USA)  
1 lapJason Walker (USA)  
DNFStephen Hyde (USA)  
DNFByron Rice (USA)  
DNFTrent Blackburn (USA)  
DNFKale Wenczel (USA)  
DNFAlec Donahue (USA)  
DNFPiter Campero (Bol)  
DNSCaleb Swartz (USA)  

 

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