Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing) was hoping to turn a frustrating season around at the 2017 USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships on Sunday, but the 33-year-old was unable to claim his fifth career title on a frigid afternoon in Hartford, Connecticut.
Stephen Hyde (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com), who formerly rode for Powers' Jam Fund development team, rode to a maiden championship victory on the snow-covered course. Powers finished a distant 24th, three laps down.
The result marked another disappointment for Powers this season after what looked like a promising start at the Rochester CX Cup, where Powers took back-to-back wins. Subsequently derailed by injury and illness, Powers hit the reset button this winter, eschewing a trip to Europe for a training camp in New Mexico — but he was not able to turn that into a result on Sunday. Nevertheless, he told Cyclingnews after the race that he still felt capable of contending in the events left on this season's calendar.
"I didn't do a four-week block in New Mexico with great power numbers and hard dieting and all the things that I was doing to get prepared for this event event to walk away with the end of the year as a flop," he said. "I put in two really hard training camps at the beginning of the season and then again in the last four weeks, and I just feel like yeah, it's time to try to show up. I don't know, I can only tell you what I feel and I feel like I've got everything, the entire package, but it just hasn't come together for me. I don't have answers but that's what we'll race for."
Powers noted that he felt fine at the start of the race, but things quickly soured out on the tricky, icy course, beginning with a traffic jam on the first climb of the day.
"The first time up that hill we just kind of got a little sideways and then shortly after that, next lap, I had a pretty good crash in the woods and hit my knee real good," he said. "Truly, the other guys were better today. That's the fact. I wasn't good enough. I wasn't technically good enough."
Powers is still looking for answers as to exactly what went wrong, but he can at least take some comfort knowing that racing a technical, snow-covered course in sub-freezing temperatures may not be the best gauge of his form.
"I think in a race where there is less bike handling and wishy-washy snow, I'll be able to find out where my engine's at. I know my training went really well, I'm still happy with where I'm at," he said. "It's one race, and in the end I don't know how well this might have suited my skill set right now. I'm going to finish out the end of the season strong and do the best that I can at Worlds and hopefully come away holding my head high, because obviously today is not a result that I'm super pumped about."
Indeed, Powers has plenty of experience working into a consistent run of good results across his long, successful career. He seemed upbeat about getting back to winning ways in the upcoming World Cup races and then the World Championships in Luxembourg.
"I've won a lot of races. I've had a lot of great success feels like, I know what that momentum feels like," he said. "I know where a lot of these riders that are coming up are. They have that momentum, they want it so bad. I'm sitting on the other end of the spectrum where I've done that and now I've stepped back a little bit, so I need to get to that momentum. I think it will come around."
As he works towards reasserting himself as a rider to beat this season, Powers is also enjoying watching Hyde coming into his own.
"I'm going to congratulate him as soon as I can. Stephen's a friend," Powers said. "I might let the email go where he says, 'When I beat you at nationals it will be your biggest compliment.' I feel like that is really special and it shows the depth of how much we've given to each other.
"He's pushed me, I've pushed him. He lives down the street and it's not by coincidence. He moved there to be with us. I'm not the only person that helped Stephen, he did all the work and he should take the majority of the credit — but I had a small part in that, and that's nice. I'm happy for him."