LAS VEGAS (VN) — Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) began his march toward the Louisville world championships with a demonstrative solo victory at Clif Bar CrossVegas Wednesday night. After a slow start, the U.S. national cyclocross champion distanced former teammate Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) late in the one-hour race to win for the first time in Las Vegas.
After playing aggressor much of the evening, Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement) was third.
“That was a hard day,” said Powers. “I’d been thinking about that for a month now.”
Powers hadn’t thought about being bumped from his flight into Las Vegas and flying standby the morning of the race. That’s what he did, however, and he arrived to the venue on the outskirts of Las Vegas calm and collected.
“I just tried to stay positive and rest,” he said. “I think it made a difference, just laying in bed and focusing on today, even though I had to get up at 3:30 this morning.”
A world-class field greeted the U.S. champ for the 9:30 p.m. start, with 2011 CrossVegas winner and two-time world U23 champ Lars Van der Haar (Rabobank-Giant), elite worlds silver medalist Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) and Johnson’s multiple-time U.S. champion teammate Ryan Trebon among the starters at the first UCI C1 event of the season.
Powers struggled early under the pressure that Van der Haar, Trebon and Lukas Flückiger (Trek World) applied at the front of the race.
“I actually felt horrible,” said Powers. “I didn’t make any efforts in the first half of the race, because I was really bad.”
He clawed back to the lead group two laps into the race, however, and slowly made his way toward the front. With 2.5 laps remaining, Berden rode alone off the front, with Johnson leading the chase from behind. A slip by Peeters, who followed Johnson in a four-man chase group, in a downhill, right-hand corner opened up a gap. Powers jumped across and the two Americans quickly pushed ahead of Berden and dropped Van der Haar.
“Usually I’ll just tail-gun it, but today I thought I had a chance,” said Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox), who was distanced by the Peeters crash after riding with Berden off the front. “I thought I’d just be straight off the plane from (mountain bike world championships) and be blown out, but warming up I felt good. It was fun to have the legs and fight.”
With just over one lap to go, Powers accelerated on a brief uphill stretch of thick grass and dumped Johnson. It would prove the winning move. Powers steadily built a maximum advantage of 14 seconds and cruised through the final lap to his second UCI win of the season and onto the inside track for a front-row start at the second round of the World Cup.
“I lost Jeremy’s wheel on that backside, and that was it,” said Johnson. “He had a great race today… He absolutely beat me. He rode me off his wheel. There’s no clearer way of winning a race than that. Hopefully I can do that to him later.”
A win at CrossVegas can make some riders’ seasons. Powers hopes it’s just the beginning.
“This is my first race,” he said. “I’m not really sharp. I’ve been doing a lot of training. I’m not really tip-top yet, and this is a race that I’ve wanted to win for a long time. Everyone at home is watching. It makes me really proud to do this today.”