At this point, Logan Owen has it down to a science.
California Giant Cycling rider Logan Owen has won every US cyclo-cross national championship race he has contested since 2005, and his first attempt at the Under-23 championships on Saturday was no exception. Owen took the front on the first lap and never looked back, winning ahead of teammates Yannick Eckmann, the defending champion, and Cody Kaiser.
"It feels so awesome. Yannick made me work for it. We both had to keep it pinned the entire time," Owen said at the finish. "I am so happy to win my first year as a U23 and keep the streak going."
Cal Giant owned the muddy course in blustery conditions in Boulder, Colorado on January 11, 2014. Lining up at the start, four of the eight in the front row wore the Cal Giant red-and-white kit. Despite the strength in numbers, it was every young man for himself once the gun fired.
"We were all racing for ourselves," Owen said. "We did not want to work together; we wanted to have clean races and that's what we did."
Only Cyclocrossworld rider Curtis White was able to break up the monopoly, getting in the mix early and holding on for fourth.
The US Cyclo-cross Nationals began on Wednesday following a 10-inch dump of snow. But after several warm and wind days — plus scores of age-group races — the course had evolved from snow-packed and icy to almost dry with muddy patches.
Just a few minutes into the first lap, the podium riders established themselves at the sharp end of the race. Owen had his head down on the front, followed closely by White, who was racing in his first event at altitude. (Boulder sits at roughly 5,000ft/1,524m above sea level). Behind, navigating some steep off-camber corners at the top of the course, Cal Giant's Kaiser and teammate Tobin Ortenblad left the field behind.
Despite a front-row start, Eckmann lost position early and had to claw his way back to the front.
"My strategy was to have a good start, then stay up there, see what other people are doing, then drill it with one or two laps to go," said Eckmann, who raced with the number 1 bib. "I knew I had the strength, it was just when to use it, where to use it. Today, it was the start, since I was so far back. But it was full gas the whole day."
Same team or no, there was no quarter given between Owen and Eckmann, who time trialed about four seconds apart from each other around the course. Coming through the flat finishing straight into a block headwind, Owen would be laid out across his bike, forearms rested on his handlebars.
By the second lap, the podium order was set: Owen, Eckmann, Kaiser, White and Ortenblad.
Coming off of a solid season, Cyclocrossworld's White was clearly upset at the finish with his fourth place.
"It was a disappointing day. It's just one race, but it's the one that means the most. You just have to brush it off," White said. "The Cal Giant guys are doing a really good job, and they obviously showed it here. I prepared [to race at altitude], but it didn't turn out the way I had hoped. But I guess now I know what doesn't work at altitude. I will learn from it and go forward from it."
Rounding out the Cal Giant podium sweep, Cody Kaiser was all smiles at the finish, having generated cheers around the course, especially for his acrobatic riding of a stretch of stairs during the race.
"I'm super stoked," Kaiser said. "I really liked the course. I was able to enjoy it and really nail stuff. I'm super stoked with the result."
As for the U23 national champ, he was enjoying having family in town, despite hailing from the Pacific Northwest.
"At the start I was very confident and very nervous. I knew I had the legs and I knew I could do it," Owen said. "But it is so emotional; my grandparents flew all the way here from Washington."
Owen choose to start the race on Dugast Typhoons, then switched to Rhinos on the first lap.
"Everyone else started on Rhinos," Owen said. "Going with Typhoons gave me a good edge because it's dry up here. I just hit it as hard as I could. As soon as I opened up a gap, I kept going."
With his national title streak now extended to 9 wins, he may well just keep going.
|1||Logan Owen (California Giant Cycling)||0:49:17|
|2||Yannick Eckmann (California Giant Cycling)||0:00:10|
|3||Cody Kaiser (California Giant Cycling)||0:02:22|
|4||Curtis White (Cyclocrossworld)||0:03:10|
|5||Tobin Ortenblad (California Giant Cycling)||0:03:13|
|6||Andrew Dillman (Bob's Red Mill Cyclocross)||0:04:06|
|7||Ian McPherson (Clif Bar Development Cross Team)||0:04:11|
|8||Robin Eckmann (California Giant Cycling)||0:04:33|
|9||Kevin Fish (Super Squadra)||0:04:50|
|10||Nathaniel Morse (Cyclocrossworld)||0:04:52|
|11||Brendan Rhim (Woodstock Bicycle Club)||0:05:12|
|12||Lewis Gaffney (American Classic)||0:05:24|
|13||Joshua Johnson (Giant Factory Off Road Team)||0:05:37|
|14||Samuel O'Keefe (Charm City Cycling LLC)||0:05:47|
|15||Kolby Preble (Clif Bar Development Cross Team)||0:06:25|
|16||Jesse Keough (Corner Cycle Cycling Club)||0:06:44|
|17||Skyler Trujillo (Boo Bicycles - TrainingPeaks)||0:07:13|
|18||Colin Dunlap (Bend Endurance Academy)||0:07:28|
|19||Brandon Feehery (UCI CT: Astellas Cycling Team)||0:08:20|
|20||Maxwell Ackermann (ISCorp Cycling/NCSF)||0:08:25|
|21||Skyler Mackey (Team Soundpony)||0:08:38|
|22||Michael Sampson (Team Alpine Clinic RCN)||0:09:19|
|23||Zachary Carlson (Matrix Cycling Club)||-2laps|
|24||Earl Gage (Scalo Veloce)|
|25||Casey Hildebrandt (Twin Six)|
|26||Tanner Hurst (Team Bikers Choice)|
|27||Richard Arnopol (Step Down Racing)|
|28||Michael Dutczak (South Chicago Wheelmen)|
|29||Samuel Bramel (Minnesota Cycling Team)|
|30||Sam Gross (Harmony Systems Pro Cycling)|
|31||Gerald Drummond (Dark Horse Racing)|
|32||Zach Bender (Cycle-Smart Inc.)|
|33||Kevin Burgess (Lees-McRae College)|
|34||Cory Small (CCB)|
|36||Zack Jensen (Ciclismo Youth Foundation)|
|37||Gunnar Bergey (Champion System)|
|38||Dillen Maurer (Montrose Cycling Club)|
|39||Jeffery Sikes (Bike One Racing)|
|40||Zack Lavergne (Dark Horse Racing)||-3laps|
|41||Samuel Dobrozsi (Lees-McRae College)|
|42||Nick Thomas (AZ Devo)|
|44||Sam Damphousse (UVM Cycling)|
|45||Alexander Gaidis (Brown University)|
|DNF||Spencer Downing (Clif Bar Development Cross Team)|
|DNF||Scott Smith (JAM Fund / NCC / Family Bike)|
|DQ||Tyler Coplea (ORBEA-Tuff Shed)|
|DQ||Luke Haley (Red Zone Cycling)|