Pan American champion Eric Brunner (Blue Competition Cycles) confirmed he is the rider on form, taking out the elite men's title at the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships in Wheaton, Illinois.
"It's been a dream the last month. I don't know what to say. Before Pan Ams I was pretty confident going in but it was a lot tougher conditions here and I didn't expect it to go that way," Brunner said.
"It's incredible. I think even Pan Ams hasn't sunk in yet, so I don't know what to think. I am definitely going to enjoy it the rest of this season and next."
Coming into the race with a target on his back, Brunner said he was nervous beforehand, "not because I thought I couldn't ride the course well, but with the mud, tight corners and conditions it would be important to get a good start and not be too far back."
Brunner overcame a first-lap puncture and then built upon a small lead with every subsequent lap.
While Brunner soloed away, the battle for second was much more heated.
After holding about a half-minute lead on third place, Gage Hecht (Aevolo) had problems with his shoe on the last lap and was caught and passed by Curtis White (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld), who claimed the runner-up spot 37 seconds behind the winner.
Brunner, the U23 champion at the last national championships in 2019, has made great strides after a year away from 'cross due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a few top-10s early in the season, he took his first win at the Kings Cross in Ohio and back-to-back victories in Massachusetts before winning the Continental title in Garland, Texas last week.
He carried that momentum into the first lap in Wheaton. After Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz Bicycles) took the hole shot, defending champion Gage Hecht (Aevolo) briefly took the lead before Brunner made a pass at the main descent and then proceeded to carve out a bigger and bigger gap every lap.
Hecht briefly fought his way back to his road teammate on the opening circuit, but Brunner showed superior running strength and flawless technique. Despite missing his pedal on the third lap, Brunner had extended his lead on Hecht to 32 seconds.
A course that was heavy with thick mud for the elite women just two hours earlier dried up in the wind and proved to be faster with somewhat better traction for the elite men, where the top three riders turned out sub-10 minute lap times.
With Brunner, Hecht and White settling into status quo for the six of the seven laps, the biggest battle in the race was for fourth between former Pan Am champion Kerry Werner (Kona-Maxxis-Shimano) and Caleb Swartz (Giant/Neff Cycle Service). On the penultimate lap, Werner got the better of Swartz, while Drew Dillman (Rigd-Leitner) finished sixth.
While much of the top men and women will travel straight from Chicago to Europe for a block of World Cups, Brunner has opted to to miss the trip but will return for the World Championships in Arkansas.
"I'm going to skip Europe this year, I came in hot from the road season and cracked," said Brunner. "I wasn't feeling good physically and mentally. It's nice to come around, but I need a little rest then I'll ramp back up for Worlds."
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Eric Brunner (USA) Blue Competition Cycles p/b Build||1:08:30|
|2||Curtis White (USA) Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com||0:00:37|
|3||Gage Hecht (USA) Aevolo||0:00:40|
|4||Kerry Werner (USA) Kona Maxxis Shimano cx Team||0:03:21|
|5||Caleb Swartz (USA) Giant/Neff Cycle Service||0:03:44|
|6||Andrew Dillman (USA) Rigd-Leitner||0:04:40|
|7||Brannan fix (USA) fix Racing||0:05:18|
|8||Lance Haidet (USA) L39ion of los Angeles||0:06:01|
|9||Stephen Hyde (USA) Steve Tilford Foundation Racing||0:06:32|
|10||Cody Cupp (USA) Riders inc||0:06:51|
|11||Tobin Ortenblad (USA) Santa Cruz Bicycles||0:07:04|
|12||Scott McGill (USA) Aevolo||0:07:23|
|13||Ross Ellwood (USA) Alpha Bicycle co. - Groove Silverthorne||0:07:24|
|14||Grant Ellwood (USA)||0:07:57|
|15||Jonathan Anderson (USA) j Moneyz Racing||0:08:15|
|16||Eric Thompson (USA) Mspeedwax.com||0:08:21|
|17||Brian Matter (USA) Linear Sport Racing||0:09:38|
|18||Cody Kaiser (USA) Langetwins / Specialized||0:10:26|
|19||Ben Frederick (USA) Ornot/Thesmallmonstersproject/Ritchey|
|20||Max Judelson (USA) Voler/Clif/hrs/Rock Lobster|
|21||Terol Pursell (USA) Forever Endurance|
|22||Keiran Eagen (USA) Team Segment 28|
|23||Mark Myles (USA) be Real Sports|
|24||Kaler Marshall (USA) Team Walla Walla|
|25||Isaac Neff (USA) Neff Cycle Service|
|26||Joe Schmalz (USA) Steve Tilford Foundation Racing|
|27||Jacob Leblanc (USA) Competitive Edge Racing|
|28||Andrew Giniat (USA) the Pony Shop p/b Kpmg|
|29||Tayne Andrade (USA) rio Grande Elite Cycling Team|
|30||Andrew Wulfkuhle (USA) Voler/Clif/hrs/Rock Lobster|
|31||Finnegan O'Connor (USA) Comp Edge Racing|
|32||Casey Hildebrandt (USA) Donkey Label - Broken Spoke Racing|
|33||Rory Jack (USA) the Pony Shop p.b Kpmg|
|34||Matthew Riley (USA) Linear Sport / Trek|
|35||Jacob Peterson (USA) max Mortgage - c3 Bike Shop|
|36||Bjorn Selander (USA) Mnjrc|
|37||Jack Tanner (USA) Forever Endurance|
|38||Kolby Preble (USA) Team Segment 28|
|39||Nick Lando (USA) Competitive Edge Racing|
|40||Josh Bauer (USA) Angry Catfish - Endura|
|41||Frederick Junge (USA) Broom Wagon Works|
|42||Adam Saban (USA) Saban Training Academy|
|43||Thomas Fuller (USA) Lindenwood University|
|44||Kobi Gyetvan (USA) Fort Lewis College|
|45||Mitch Ropelato (USA) Cannondale|
|46||Phillip Smith (USA) Momentum Racing|
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
No Flanders or Roubaix for Philippe Gilbert in his final seasonBelgian takes aim at Ardennes Classics and completing his Monument set at Milan-San Remo
Joss Lowden to target stage races and hilly classics in 2022'I feel like I'm an all rounder' says world hour record holder
Giro, Tour, Vuelta: Who is riding which Grand Tour in 2022Tour de France still central to the season but the Giro offers a fascinating mountain battle while the Vuelta is a revenge match and chance for a double
Robbie McEwen dropped from SBS television commentary teamAustralian broadcaster tells Cyclingnews it is ‘exploring a different approach in 2022’
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.