Werner crowned champion after dramatic U23 national race

Kerry Werner celebrated winning a US cross country national championship title in the U23 men's race after winning at Bear Creek Resort in Macungie, Pennsylvania on Friday afternoon. Werner was delighted to be back racing in the area where he'd previously lived.

"It feels great to have my hometown crowd here," said Werner. "I grew up racing here in high school. I was lucky enough to live 45 minutes from here with my parents, so I slept in my own bed last night, and I drove here with my grandparents. There all here."

Werner, who used to live in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, was full of adrenaline after a dramatic final lap. He had been battling it out with Howard Grotts (Specialized) and defending U23 champion Russell Finsterwald (Trek Factory Racing). In the last half lap of the five-lap race, two of them crashed and one of them dropped a chain. The lead shifted a few times.

"Somehow or another, we switched positions and Howard had it going into the lead. Russell dropped his chain. I stacked it. Then Howard stacked it in the very last rock garden after I had stacked it. It was crazy. Oh my god, it was a battle."

Then it was Werner's turn to take the lead. "I was ecstatic once I got up front. All I had to do was coast downhill. I was just being super careful. We had all messed up from the top of the hill onward, so I didn't know what was going to happen."

Werner, who is a last year U23 rider, said of his new stars-and-stripes jersey, "It feels good to pull this off and to be heading into the elites with this on my shoulders."

Part of the BMC Development Team, Werner has continued to rack up experience among the world's top riders.

"My season has been going well - nice and steady since the beginning. I went over with USAC to Europe for a UCI race and the first two World Cups. I had a good UCI race and then I got a flat in the first World Cup and got sick in the second one. But I put together a good race at Val di Sole, and I've sinced recovered from that travel."

The future looks bright for Werner, who is off to race the Pro XCT finals in Vermont in two weeks and then the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup. He is also hoping to get to race the world championships in South Africa at the end of next month.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.