Gage Hecht (Alpha Bicycle Co) claimed his sixth national championship title in cyclo-cross and his second in the junior 17-18 category on Sunday at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. The Colorado rider overcame a bad start to take the lead by the end of the first lap and then soloed to a narrow victory over Denzel Stephenson and Eric Brunner (Boulder Junior Cycling).
Spencer Petrov, who was expected to challenge Hecht for the victory, faded from second position to fourth after a mid-race crash.
"It feels amazing. I love the feeling I get from winning. It's great," Hecht said. "I knew the course would be technical and it would separate out quickly, so I wanted to make sure I was at the front of that separation from the get go. I didn't want to get stuck behind stuff. I didn't have a great start but was able to get up front."
Overnight rain soaked the arduous, tricky course, turning the course into a slipper mud-fest. The off-camber sections were particularly treacherous, and even Hecht crashed. But it was the riders who would make the fewest mistakes and take the best lines who would prevail. While Hecht had a healthy lead with one lap to go, Brunner and Stephenson closed to within seconds before the line, making for a nervous last lap for Hecht.
"I was super shocked by that, I knew they were strong, but I should have expected it more," Hecht said of their chase back. "But It was cool to see a bunch of Colorado guys up there with me."
Hecht kept his head down and kept pushing forward, and Stephenson out-sprinted his teammate Brunner for the silver medal just three seconds after Hecht crossed the line. Petrov was 35 seconds behind in fourth, with Hecht's teammate Evan Clouse rounding out the top five.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.
Latest on Cyclingnews
Luke Plapp secures Australian elite men's road race titleNew Ineos Grenadiers rider chases down James Whelan, who holds on for second while mountain Brendan Johnston finishes third
Nicole Frain goes solo to win Australian elite women's road race titleGrace Brown leads sprint from chasing group to take second while Alyssa Polites is third over the line, taking out U23 title
Girmay to make Grand Tour debut at Giro d'ItaliaIntermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux look to expand with women's and development teams
Lelangue confident Lotto Soudal can stay in WorldTourTeam CEO not changing tactics to chase points
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.