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By Wendy Booher
Rain, 30-degree temperatures, and a course greased so slick with mud that racing turned cartoonish at times caused words like “real” and “‘cross race” to commingle during Sunday’s fourth round of the U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross near Trenton, New Jersey.
Sloping hairpin turns that posed little threat during Saturday’s dry conditions turned treacherous, and running them became faster than risking wipeouts. Defying the weather and the gossip that he can’t race in mud, Ryan Trebon (Kona–YourKey.com) took his second victory in as many days.
“People seem to think I don’t know how to ride a bike in the mud, but I’ve raced in Europe, in the conditions over there, and have placed well,” said Trebon.
Trebon survived a first-lap crash that felled teammate Barry Wicks and Todd Wells (GT), among others. After that he sorted out a pace with a lead group containing Tim Johnson (Cannondale–Leer–Cyclocrossworld.com), Jeremy Powers (Cyclocrossworld.com), Jesse Anthony (Jamis), Wells, Geoff Kabush (Maxxis), and Adam Craig (Giant).
Once he decided to up the tempo, Trebon took the lead with Johnson, Powers, and Wells trailing closely behind. Another increase in speed stripped Wells and Powers, who fell off the pace to leave only Johnson clinging to Trebon’s wheel. The wet, muddy conditions made the race a game of errors, and equipment selection determined who would get ahead or fall behind.
“Unfortunately I only brought one set of mud tires this weekend because I didn’t think it was going to be raining, so I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted – that’s when Tim caught me,” said Trebon, who started switching bikes nearly every lap midway through the race.
“I had to ride half a lap on normal profile tires until I could get my other bike back. I knew once I had my bike back that I could put an effort in to get away. I was going through the sand faster – that’s where I kept getting a gap and it was growing.”
Johnson, who has posted impressive results this season despite physical and mechanical mishaps, fought mightily to claim a spot on the podium and managed to move up to second from Saturday’s third-place finish.
“I started out really slow this season, I didn’t have the legs to go along with my ambition,” said Johnson. “I wanted to be higher than I was, but I kept getting beaten and losing positions when I didn’t expect it.
“But now my legs are catching up and I feel like the meat of the ‘cross season is here and hopefully I can have another good weekend in Portland to see if I can win the overall.”
Johnson’s teammate, Powers, finished off the podium in third while Trebon’s victory earned him the win and put him in the leader’s jersey for the final weekend December 1-2 in Portland, Oregon.
The agony of victory
Victory never looked as painful as it did on Georgia Gould (Luna) immediately following the women’s race. Icy hands that numbed the pain during the race gave way to agony as her fingers began to thaw, and “battle” was the word exchanged between Gould and runner-up Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com).
“From the start there was a group of five or six of us and the lead was always kind of changing, gaps were opening and then closing up,” said Gould. “It’s just hard when someone else is riding in front of you — when they mess up, you mess up. I had a few mistakes and a couple crashes.”
The Canadians — Wendy Simms (Kona–YourKey.com), Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain–Haywood) and Bessette — led the way through the first two laps until Bessette escaped, taking Gould with her. Simms and Sydor steadied a pace just high enough to hold off a chase group of Kerry Barnholt (Tokyo Joe’s–Van Dessel), Maureen Bruno Roy (IF–Wheelworks) and Katerina Nash (Luna), all of whom displayed finely tuned technical skills in the mucky conditions.
Gould called upon her own technical skills to get around slippery corners while Bessette dismounted and ran. Gould slid out a few times but managed to catch back on each time until Bessette went down late in the race and the Luna rider seized the opportunity to surge ahead with only minutes to go.
Gould extended a narrow lead over Bessette by 24 seconds and, sprinting all the way to the end, finished in spectacular style to level the playing field with Katie Compton (Spike Shooter), who won the first two rounds of the USGP.
U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross
Round 4, Trenton, NJ. Nov. 18
1. Ryan Trebon Kona-YourKey.com, 0:56:57
2. Tim Johnson, Cannondale-Leer-Cyclocrossworld, at 0:26
3. Jeremy Powers Cyclocrossworld.com, same time
4. Todd Wells, GT, at 1:21
5. Geoff Kabush Maxxis-Litespeed, at 1:25
1. Georgia Gould Luna, 36:05
2. Lyne Bessette (Can), Cyclocrossworld.com, at 0:24
3. Alison Sydor (Can), Rocky Mountain Haywood, at 0:29
4. Wendy Simms (Can), Kona-YourKey.com, at 0:35
5. Rachel Lloyd Proman-Paradigm, at 0:59