IOWA CITY, Iowa (VN) _ Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) put the gas pedal down 20 minutes into the men’s race at the Jingle Cross Rock Friday and took a solo win ahead of Barry Wicks (Kona-FSA).
Wicks led the race early after teammate Ryan Trebon crashed on the technical descent of Mt. Krumpit, but Driscoll overtook the Kona rider two laps later to secure the win. Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus) came back from a slow start to finish third.
The three-day Jingle Cross Rock festival opened Friday at the Johnson County Fairgrounds on the south side of Iowa City. The venue’s significant feature, Mt. Krumpit, is a beast of a hill, rising more than 200 vertical feet over the course of a 1,000-foot double track climb. A grass criterium section makes up the majority of the course and the technical, two-corner descent of Krumpit carries riders near the finish.
Temperatures were near 30 at start time and the ground was dry and frozen.
Wicks to the front; Trebon, Wells cautious
The Kona boys took to the race fast and hard from the whistle with Trebon on the point early. Wicks took over near the base of the climb, however, and attacked hard up the two-track ascent.
“I rode it fast and had a gap and I thought I just had to keep rolling and go,” said Wicks. “I didn’t really want to go that early, but I just went and tried to ride within my myself.”
Driscoll, Trebon, Troy Wells (Clif Bar), Todd Wells (Specialized) and Nick Weighall (Cal Giant-Specialized) made up a liquid chase group behind Wicks, who was off to his best start of the season. “It was fun,” said Wicks. “It’s nice to actually be in the race.”
Driscoll emerged from the group with six laps remaining and when Trebon crashed spectacularly on the descent the situation on the dirt was Wicks with Driscoll at six seconds, Troy Wells at nine seconds, Weighall at 15 seconds and Todd Wells at 20 seconds. Trebon abandoned after the crash with a sore wrist. After the race he said he didn’t want to risk another crash on the descent and hoped to save some fuel in the tank for the remainder of the weekend.
Todd Wells was another rider riding to avoid a crash. The former national champion rode gingerly on the descent and dismounted at the barriers two weeks after a severe crash at the USGP of Cyclocross New Belgium Cup.
“I was going pretty slow down that downhill, just a little tentative to crash maybe,” said Wells. “I was going hard the whole time and sometimes you go hard and you go fast. Other times you go hard and you don’t. Today was one of the latter.”
Up the trail, Driscoll was closing on Wicks while Weighall and Troy Wells attacked like it was the closing laps. Weighall pulled a small gap and when Wells crashed with three to go, the young Cal-Giant rider thought that he had secured third. “I just enjoy bumping elbows so I was just playing a little bit,” said Weighall. “I was rallying the downhill but I couldn’t go super fast through the corners.”
Jones would not be denied the podium, however, and after seven laps the Rapha-Focus man rolled back from a terrible start where he missed his pedal three times. “I was way back there,” he said. “But I had good legs. Good interval work.”
Up ahead Driscoll’s lips were puckered, his head down as his shoulders rocked from side to side over his cranks. Wicks faded for two laps after trying to stick with the new race leader, but came roaring back on the penultimate lap. “I matched him one time up the climb and I just had to ride my own pace,” said Wicks. “The course is so selective that you just have to ride your own pace.”
“I jumped up to (Barry) and established the gap on the hill as soon as possible because I felt that that was the one place to make the biggest gap fastest,” said Driscoll. “From there I was just riding my own race and gauging my effort on what I had to do.”
Driscoll would not be denied and the University of Vermont student locked in for the bell lap. In his first major win since CrossVegas in 2009, Driscoll came through the line, hands raised, 20 seconds ahead of Wicks.
“I felt like if I just maintained a slightly higher pace, I could make it up on the pedaling sections,” said Driscoll, known for his diesel-style engine that excels on the high-speed power courses like Las Vegas and Jingle Cross.
Please check back later for photos.
Editor’s Note: Brian Holcombe is a reporter with VeloNews. He covers all things racing in the U.S. and has been accused of attacking too much on the VN lunch ride.