It's been a long time coming for Geoff Kabush. One of the staples of the North American cyclo-cross scene, he finally took a victory in the USGP - his first since Gloucester in 2004, and it couldn't have come on a day more perfectly suited to the former Canadian champion.
Kabush took one look at the mucky, twisty and technical course design in Fort Collins and predicted he would win. Even on the chaotic first lap, Kabush was never farther from the front than fifth, and by the second lap he'd established himself as the man to beat.
Every champion must have his foe, and for Kabush it was the young Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld rider Jamey Driscoll, who capitalized on a small mistake by the Maxxis-Rocky Mountain rider on the second lap, and took the lead for the better part of the race. But Kabush regrouped and powered past with two laps to go, never once looking back before taking a satisfying and reaffirming victory.
"I haven't been on the poodium for a while and I've been getting frustrated with it," Kabush said. "But this is the first real 'cross of the year - we've had all this hot weather - but these are the conditions I love. When I saw the course this morning I said it's great," and he predicted he'd win.
His fellow competitors having all but written him off, Kabush said he'd been plagued by bad luck on his good days over the past couple years and frustrated by his lack of podium placings. "I always feel like I can be up there, and today I got here and saw the course and finally we had a good, muddy course, the kind I like, and I got pretty excited. So this is kind of a break through."
USGP leader Jeremy Powers took the hole shot before being passed by Kona-FSA's Ryan Trebon by the end of the first lap. But with his mountain bike background, Kabush quickly established himself at the top of the pecking order. Driscoll set off in pursuit by the start of lap three, while his teammate and US champion Tim Johnson chased behind with Trebon and Todd Wells (Specialized).
"Ryan, Todd and I couldn't put together a whole good lap, we could just do a few good sections - but Jamey was putting together entire laps that were smooth and steady, just like Kabush, which is why they put so much time on us," said Johnson.
Driscoll took the lead at the mid-point of the race after Kabush dropped his chain, but he could only build up a lead of single-digit seconds - not enough to hold off the motivated Canadian, who stayed smooth and steadily pulled the American back.
"When I first passed Geoff and I didn't get the magic 10 seconds - it was hovering around 7 seconds - I knew it would be hard to beat him," Driscoll said. "I know Geoff's finish and he's hard to beat. He's good at reeling people in toward the end of the race, so I knew I had my work cut out for me for the win."
Kabush not only had a bit of an advantage thanks to his technical skills, honed through well over a decade of cyclo-cross and mountain bike racing, but also because he lives at altitude and could handle the thinner air better. He reeled Driscoll in with two laps to go, and then turned the screws.
"I caught back up on the more aerobic sections, and I felt like I had a bit more punch," Kabush said. "I brought him back on the faster up hill, over the top I got a gap and then got into my rhythm and tried to stretch it out from there."
Driscoll had no answer but held on for a solid second place well ahead of the chasing group. "When Geoff jumped me I tried to stay on him. I felt like I was riding within my limits when I was leading and had a gap on Geoff, but when he jumped and the gap was getting bigger - it was a combination of things - I think he was nailing stuff better than I was at that point and I just wasn't as fresh."
Trebon and Wells pulled away from an ailing Johnson on the final two laps, but both were plagued by mistakes. Trebon crashed coming into the last lap, but then Wells had his own incident on the final lap, opening the door for Trebon to nab the final podium spot.
Trebon was pleased with the result, but frustrated by his inability to dial in the tricky course. "There were some downhills I just couldn't ride. I was just making mistakes and never figured out a line that worked," Trebon said.
"Any time there was a lot of pedalling I felt good and my legs were strong and I could get a gap or close it down, but I was just hoping to hang on on the last couple downhills. I don't know why. Some days you're just not that good, some days you're really bad.
"I was trying to get a gap or maintain a lead where I could, I was lucky I had enough left on the last lap to take third."
Coming into the day, Johnson was tied for the USGP series lead with teammate Jeremy Powers, but with fifth place he moved into the leader's jersey - a result he was fairly pleased with considering he'd spent most of the week off the bike due to an illness.
"I'm pretty happy with it," Johnson said. "That was probably the most position changes I've ever had in a USGP. Every third of a lap we were switched up.
"I only really saw Kabush on the second lap, I think we made up a big gap on him and got near him, then he kind of checked out three laps in and started getting a big gap.
"He really deserves the win. He's been going since the Supercup days, he's probably got 50 races in him that he hasn't won."
Rapha-Focus rider Zach McDonald put in an impressive performance to finish in sixth, the top U23 starter, and was awarded the most aggressive rider prize. Luke Keough (Champion Systems) held onto the U23 USGP series lead, however.
The racing continues with the second New Belgium Cup round with a slightly modified course and drier conditions on Sunday.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Geoff Kabush (Can) Rocky Mountain / Maxxis||1:00:06|
|2||James Driscoll (USA) Cannondale/CyclocrossWorld.com||0:00:22|
|3||Ryan Trebon (USA) Kona||0:00:47|
|4||Todd Wells (USA) Specialized||0:00:55|
|5||Timothy Johnson (USA) Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com||0:00:59|
|6||Zach Mcdonald (USA) Rapha / Focus||0:01:39|
|7||Jeremy Powers (USA) Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com||0:01:44|
|8||Adam Craig (USA)||0:02:43|
|9||Nicholas Weighall (USA) California Giant/Specialized||0:03:00|
|10||Tristan Schouten (USA) cyclocrossracing.com/Blue/Rolf||0:03:03|
|11||Christopher Jones (USA) Rapha / Focus||0:03:10|
|12||Troy Wells (USA) Team Clif Bar||0:03:16|
|13||Barry Wicks (USA) Kona||0:04:08|
|14||Brian Matter (USA) Gear Grinder||0:04:18|
|15||Sean Babcock (USA) Kona FSA||0:04:23|
|16||Adam Mcgrath (USA) Thule/Van Dessel Cyclocross||0:04:30|
|17||Luke Keough (USA) Champion System p/b Keough Cycles|
|18||Aaron Schooler (Can) Team H&R Block||0:04:38|
|19||Allen Krughoff (USA) Boulder Cycle Sport||0:05:17|
|20||Braden Kappius (USA) Team Clif Bar||0:05:39|
|21||Mitchell Hoke (USA) Clif Bar Development Cyclo-Cross||0:05:43|
|22||Matthew Pacocha (USA)||0:05:58|
|23||Spencer Paxson (USA) Team S&M||0:06:06|
|24||Jeremy Ferguson (USA) California Giant/Specialized||0:06:10|
|25||Cody Kaiser (USA) California Giant/Specialized||0:07:07|
|26||Justin Robinson (USA) California Giant/Specialized||0:07:08|
|27||Jesse Anthony (USA) California Giant / Specialized||0:07:09|
|28||Dave Hackworthy (USA) Team Plan C||0:07:14|
|29||Jack Hinkens (USA) Team Plan C/pb Stevens||0:07:29|
|30||Brandon Dwight (USA) Boulder Cycle Sport||0:07:31|
|31||Skyler Trujillo (USA) Black Sheep Jr. Cycling||0:08:07|
|-1lap||Jake Wells (USA) Hudz/Subaru|
|-1lap||Tim Allen (USA) Feedback Sports|
|-2laps||Eric Emsky (USA) Cyclocrossracing.com|
|-2laps||Chris Hurst (USA)|
|-2laps||Alex Howes (USA) Holowesko Partners Cycling Team|
|-2laps||Frank Spiteri (USA) Peninsula Velo/Pomodoro|
|-2laps||Brad Cole (USA) KCCX/Verge p/b Challenge Tires|
|-2laps||Spencer Powlison (USA) Mafia Racing|
|-2laps||Robin Eckmann (Ger) Pearl Izumi|
|-2laps||Steve Fisher (USA) Rad Racing NW / Hagens Berman|
|-3laps||John Curry (USA) GAS/Intrinsik|
|-3laps||Mike Sherer (USA) The Pony Shop|
|-3laps||Shawn Harshman (USA) Konig Racing pb Harshman Wealth|
|-3laps||Chris Brandt (USA) Brandt-Sorenson.com|
|-3laps||Conor Mullervy (USA) Team Exergy|
|-3laps||Kevin Mullervy (USA) Team Exergy|
|-3laps||Doug Johnson (USA) bandwagon racing|
|-4laps||Colby Pearce (USA) Hudz/ Subaru|
|-4laps||Mathew Ankney (USA) park place dealerships|
|-4laps||Caley Fretz (USA) VeloNews|
|-4laps||Will Ross (USA) Kaladi Bro's/Chain Reaction|
|-4laps||Joseph Schmalz (USA) KCCX/Verge|
|-4laps||Scott Tietzel (USA) Specialized - Curve Inc.|
|-4laps||Ross Holbrook (USA) Boulder Cycle Sport|
|-4laps||James Archer (USA) Specialized Bicycles|
|-4laps||David Block (USA) Boulder Cycle Sport|
|-4laps||Bryan Mickiewicz (USA) Hammer Nutrition|
|-4laps||Geoffrey Nenninger (USA)|
|-4laps||David Sheek (USA) SDG Factory Team|
|-5laps||Aaron Bouplon (USA) Rocky Mounts / Izze|
|-5laps||Casey Hill (USA) Mafia Racing|
|-5laps||Adam Mills (USA) KCCX/Verge p/b Challenge|
|-5laps||William Gault (USA) Tulsa Tough Racing|
|-5laps||Keith Batstone (Can) Rundle Mountain Cycling Club|
|-5laps||Nathan Miller (USA) The Church of the Big Ring|
|-5laps||Lane Miller (USA) Louisville Cyclery|