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BEND, Oregon (VN) — Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) wrapped up a winning weekend in Bend on Sunday, taking the final race of the Deschutes Brewery Cup weekend and confirming his 2011 Exergy U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross title.
The win was redemption for Powers, who caught flak for celebrating too early in his Saturday triumph when Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) nearly overtook him at the line.
After a four-man lead group became two with slightly over three laps to go, when Garmin-Cervélo’s Danny Summerhill hit the deck, the race boiled down to a two-man contest between Powers and Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale).
It would be no contest — Powers shot around Driscoll with two laps to race and that was all she wrote. He rode his own race to the line, and had plenty of time to organize an interruption-free victory celebration.
Kaboom goes Kabush
Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) got off to a strong start, leading early ahead of Ben Berden (Ops Ale-Stoemper) and putting a big gap on a long line of riders as the field ran through the barriers for the first time.
Usually a more tempered starter, Kabush said that with the fast Bend course and no teammates, he felt he needed to jump out early and allow the Rapha and Cannondale squads to work out the tactics behind him.
“That was like cross-eyed hard. It was ridiculous,” said Driscoll. “Usually he’s the kind of guy who just looks around and gets you when you’re fading towards the end.”
At the flyover Kabush had 10 seconds on the chase, headed by Summerhill and including day-one rivals Powers and Johnson. The chase was 10 seconds back at the start-finish as the Canadian rocketed into lap two.
“It was really, really fast and I definitely yesterday felt the effort in my legs,” said Powers. “I didn’t know if I was going to be able to bring it back.”
Kabush lost a bit of ground on lap two and the chase closed to within five seconds. Powers, Johnson, Summerhill, Driscoll and Chris Jones (Rapha) were breathing down his neck next time across the barriers, and at the flyover Johnson was leading the pursuit a handful of seconds down.
Johnson dumps it
Heading into lap three Kabush clung to a three-second gap when disaster struck for Johnson. A winner on the Bend course at the national championships in 2009, Johnson took over the chase and attacked the group heading onto a section of winding, sandy singletrack. He lost his front wheel leaving a stretch of pavement and went down.
“I had that corner dialed,” he said. “I had just attacked and I was about to catch Geoff and I just dumped it. Stupid move.”
Powers and Summerhill took up the pursuit ahead of Driscoll and Jones, closing to within five seconds on the stairs. The four-man chase was right on Kabush’s heels with six laps to go. Johnson crossed 22 seconds down.
Midway through the lap Kabush got company. Summerhill was on his best day of the ’cross season — on the last day of his ’cross season — and dragged the chase up to him with Powers sitting third wheel.
But the Canadian didn’t cave. He stayed on the front, leading the five-man group across the barriers and up and down the flyover, with Summerhill matching his speed. Johnson had latched onto the U23 heavyweight chase group with Zach McDonald (Rapha), Yannick Eckmann (Pearl Izumi-Shimano), Cody Kaiser (Cal Giant-Specialized) and Tristan Schouten (Cycloracing.com-Blue), but the leaders were 14 seconds ahead as Summerhill led the front group across the line and into five laps to go.
Suddenly Johnson was gone — and so were Eckmann’s hopes for the U23 series title. Kaiser went down in a banked, 180-degree corner that separated two high-speed asphalt straightaways and split the chase group in half. Johnson and McDonald snuck through, but the 18-year-old German national did not.
Behind Eckmann, Kaiser, third in the espoir standings, shouldered his bike and began a run, his rear derailleur hanging by the cable, over half of the course.
“What happened there was everyone just came together and hooked. There’s nothing you can do,” said McDonald. “It’s kind of depressing for everybody.”
Up front, Summerhill was still on the front with Kabush second wheel, Driscoll third and Powers fourth as the lap wound on. The elastic popped for Jones in the singletrack on the backside of the course and soon he was off the back, seven seconds behind at the stairs. Johnson was down 22 seconds.
With four to go the four-man lead group was solid. Summerhill was looking for help, and he got it — Driscoll took the front, and when Summerhill washed out his wheel and hit the deck the Cannondale rider was off the front with Powers chasing. Kabush slammed into the back of Summerhill and was hung up. He remounted and resumed the chase with Jones, while the Garmin man was left running to the pits and out of the running.
“I don’t know if Danny went down first or he got the worst of the tangling, but I just kind of instinctively just hit it as hard as I could when I saw that I had a gap,” said Driscoll.
And then there were two
Driscoll was a few bike lengths up on Powers at the barriers while Kabush and Jones chased a dozen seconds down. Powers held his fire over the flyover, then punched it on the pavement and grabbed Driscoll’s wheel, forging a two-man lead group with three laps to race.
Kabush was stuck with Jones for company — the Rapha man was not about to help the Canadian catch his teammate, and the two were dangling about eight seconds behind the leaders. At the barriers the gap was 13 seconds.
Series leader Powers, meanwhile, was in the driver’s seat. He had the USGP title locked and the legs to win, and sat back as Driscoll set the pace. Their gap established, the leaders backed off slightly for a lap, Powers tucked into the wheel.
Until they hit the line for two laps to go, that is. That’s where Powers gassed it, sweeping around the Cannondale rider to the left and into the lead.
“James made a couple of dabs and I thought, ‘Well, I better have a try,’ with two to go,” said Powers. “It’s really the only place to throw down that’s wide enough. … I picked this spot because I felt most comfortable and had the most space.”
Powers knew the finish straight was where he had to make his move, but the acceleration caught Driscoll off guard and turned out to be the deathblow.
“I was honestly not expecting it, but you know he is a bike racer and it’s bound to happen. It only made sense that he was sitting on me just ’cause Jones was in the group behind,” said Driscoll.
“He’s obviously super strong, so on top of me pulling for that lap or two, it was going be a miracle to let me be able to like get on his wheel and recover when he wanted to make his move.”
Powers punches it
At midlap Powers had a few bike lengths over Driscoll, and then he ramped it up, accelerating over a false flat and along the long stretch into the barriers. He took a four-second lead, added another second at the stairs, and as the bell for the final lap rang out he had another.
Driscoll looked like a man whose low-fuel light had just clicked on as he rolled into bell lap. Powers, meanwhile, was on cruise control, carving the corners, punching the climbs and extending his lead over the Cannondale chaser.
He had 12 seconds at the stairs and plenty of time to throw his finish-line party. With room to breathe, Powers pumped his right fist harder than usual and let out a yell before he crossed the line. The day after his inbox filled with outcry over his early celebration, Powers was back on top.
“Yesterday didn’t feel right. I felt embarrassed and pissed that I put my hands up too early,” he said. “Today feels like redemption for me.”
Driscoll followed nine seconds later for second place, with Kabush third at 22 seconds. After an up-and-down season that has been short on the results Driscoll expected, he said he would carry new confidence out of Bend.
“I definitely surprised myself because I didn’t feel that good in the warm-up,” said Driscoll. “I was planning on laying it all out there yesterday to try to get the best result I could for the weekend; but obviously I’m very, very pleased with my results this weekend.”
Back on the infield of the course, McDonald was pressing to hold onto 10th place with Eckmann 45 seconds behind him. Whichever rider took the top spot on the day would take the series title.
McDonald takes U23 title
In the end, the Rapha rider was able to hang on, with Eckmann trailing in for 11th overall and second in the espoir division.
Both sponsored by Focus Bikes, McDonald and Eckmann are friends outside of the course tape and the series winner said the title was bittersweet.
“I’m not exactly happy to win that way,” said McDonald. “I had to kind of justify it based on for us it’s been whoever has had the least shitty luck this season. … I mean, we’ve each had terrible races.”
Powers was more satisfied with his win and walked away with a carbon-fiber crown and a stack of series champion’s jerseys.
“I’m just really, really proud and happy,” he said. “It hasn’t come overnight; I’ve been working really hard at it for so long. If today I hadn’t won I would have been fine, but today it just felt right, it felt really good to win here.”
Editor-at-large Patrick O’Grady and David Boerner contributed to this report.
- 1. Jeremy Powers (USA), Rapha-Focus, 1:00:41
- 2. James Driscoll (USA), Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com, s.t.
- 3. Geoff Kabush (CAN), Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain, at 0:23
- 4. Christopher Jones (USA), Rapha-Focus, s.t.
- 5. Christian Heule (SUI), Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com, s.t.