After spending the past few days in Bend, Oregon for the US Cyclocross National Championships, I’ve come away exhausted (I didn’t even race!) and entertained by the high caliber of racing action. It’s the one race of the year a lot of people train for and they always put it all on the line for the stars and stripes jersey and bragging rights of saying “I’m the fastest person in the entire country.”
The crowds were big for the final races, and the course looked long, slightly muddy, and technical. The weather varied between snow flurries on some mornings, rain at times, and finally sunshine and temps in the 50F range on the final afternoon of racing. Like the weather, the course varied between mud bog, water logged, and got much faster as it dried out.
The superfans were out in force this year. Back was speedo-guy-with-a-wrestling-mask but joining him was a cast of shirtless dudes from Ritte Racing, Easter Bunny and Gumby, and a dozen Santas. Local rider Damian Schmitt also had his own fan club urging him onto a podium finish.
The age-group racing was fast and fierce but two races suffered start line crashes with plenty of bent and broken bikes as a result.
Elite Men U23
The elite level races rewarded the thousands of spectators with top-level racing. Saturday’s U23 Men’s race was a barn burner, with favorites Danny Summerhill and Zach McDonald battling it out every lap until the very end, with Summerhill eventually powering away.
Elite Women’s racing started off with Georgia Gould off the front attacking until half a lap later six-time consecutive National Champion Katie Compton took up the chase, passed, and stretched out a sizable lead that held the duration of the race, giving her a seventh stars and stripes jersey of her career.
Elite Men’s racing had half a dozen guys gunning for the win all year and it was anyone’s race to win. Last year’s winner Tim Johnson lagged a bit behind as he’d been struggling with sickness all week. His Cannondale teammate Jeremy Powers has been absolutely on fire all season, winning both the USGP national series as well as the NACT series. He was the odds-on favorite to take the day but in the past he’s had a string of bad luck while leading the race and this year was no exception, with him going down and suffering a mechanical setback that cost him almost a minute of time, leaving Specialized rider and mountain bike national champion Todd Wells to pull away and win his first major race of the year. Bend’s own Ryan Trebon couldn’t quite close the gap to Wells and ended up in second, with Powers third.
Overall, it was a long few days of high speed racing, with tons of things to do each night and a great venue in Bend. Madison, Wisconsin will be the next host city, starting in January 2012 and should provide a great atmosphere for a snowy battle.