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Jeremy Powers (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) went out early and held off a late chase from teammate Tim Johnson to take the win at Boulder’s Colorado Cross Classic, the fifth round of the North American Cyclocross Trophy.
Johnson left Todd Wells (Specialized) with four laps remaining to finish second.
In women’s racing, meanwhile, Katie Compton (Planet Bike) dropped Georgia Gould (Luna) and Nicole Duke (Hudz-Subaru) on the second lap and soloed to victory.
Sand, stairs and tricky corners
The two-mile course at the reservoir featured a number of tight turns with loose dirt and sand, bumpy, high-speed corners and two long sandpits. The first sandpit was moist and somewhat compact, but a tricky entrance and a 120-degree corner and uphill exit caused trouble for a number of riders.
The second pit was 70 feet in length with a 180-degree corner midway through and an exit over three timber stairs that required most competitors to dismount. Adam Craig (Rabobank) rode the stairs a handful of times to the crowd’s loud approval.
Six asphalt and grass criterium corners led riders onto the nearly flat finish straight, just ahead of the course’s only set of barriers just beyond the start/finish. Many elite and amateur riders called the design the best they’d seen at the iconic race site.
Powers has used his powerful start successfully this season and Saturday was no different. He took a lead of two bike lengths over Johnson into the first corner. When Johnson waved Ryan Trebon (Kona-FSA) into his familiar position as first chaser, the gap opened to five seconds.
Powers’ technical skills and his meticulous tire choice — he went through four options during warm-ups — carried him through the loose, high-speed corners on the backside of the course. When he arrived to the 50-foot section of sand nearest the water, his gap was nearly 10 seconds.
“I feel like I nailed the first lap,” said Powers. “I went hard, but I didn’t go into the red.”
Trebon led Johnson and teammate Jamey Driscoll, Wells, U23 national champion Danny Summerhill (Holowesko Partners) and Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus) for the opening lap.
Midway through the first circuit, Trebon felt a tinge of pain on a tight, uphill 180-degree corner 500 feet after the beach.
“I started riding and I could feel every pedal stroke,” he said. “We got to the barriers and I tried to get off the bike and it was that same instant pain. I couldn’t even walk over the barriers.”
The tall Kona rider, who has spent the season dueling with the one-two Powers-Johnson punch, kept the pace high in the chase through the start-finish for the second lap. But when he put a foot down at the barriers for the second time, Trebon pulled up lame.
“I got off and I was like, ‘Oh shit. I can’t pedal any more,’” he said. “The instant I put my foot on the ground it was a really sharp pain.”
As Trebon bent over his top tube on the left side of the course, Wells took up the chase. At that point, Powers’ gap had gone out to 15 seconds and the pro mountain biker could not bring it down over the fast, open course.
At his team trailer a few minutes later Trebon was disappointed and in pain, but hoped he would be able to start Sunday at the UCI C1 Boulder Cup.
Wells chases, Johnson capitalizes
“I was chasing, Tim was sitting in,” said Wells. “I decided to chase hard for a little bit, but I saw I wasn’t going to bring him back so I tried to just settle in there and try to work on second.”
With four laps remaining, Wells bobbled and went wide around a tough corner leading onto the beach and Johnson passed.
“I took it really fast and slid out,” said Wells. “Johnson nailed it.”
The reigning national ’cross champion punched it across the sand and up into the exit corner to dispatch Wells.
“I just hit the gas as hard as I could,” said Johnson. “To lead that section was a huge advantage.”
Powers’ gap, which had grown to more than 30 seconds, came down immediately as the leader’s teammate set out in pursuit.
Meanwhile, Jones fell off the pace and Driscoll, Summerhill, Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) and surprise of the day Alex Candelario (World Bicycle Relief) battled for fourth.
Summerhill’s right shoulder was wrapped in kinesio tape below his skinsuit after a nasty crash at the track earlier this month. There was no indication of that injury, however, and he looked strong with 25 minutes remaining, attacking the corners out of the saddle. Kabush was too strong for the group, however, and rode away three laps from the finish.
Candelario kept the gas on through a series of winding criterium corners, and the road veteran — who hasn’t raced ’cross for nearly 10 years — was able to power away from Summerhill and Driscoll.
“I wanted to ride smooth and not crash,” said Candelario.
On the front of the race, Johnson couldn’t close and Powers opened the penultimate lap with a 22-second advantage. His shoulders weaving over his churning legs, the race leader remained conservative and avoided any mistakes on the bell lap.
Behind him, Johnson led Wells by 15 seconds and would not give up his advantage.
“To win the race I should have gone earlier; instead I waited a few more laps until Jeremy had his gap,” said Johnson. “By the time I got going it was too late.”
Powers cleaned the 180-degree sandpit and ran smoothly up a set of three timber stairs, headed for the NACT series lead. He crossed the line with his usual fist pump and was proud to erase his past struggles at the reservoir.
“I’ve had so many problems at this race in the past,” said Powers. “I’m proud to be able to win in Boulder.”
Johnson spoke after the finish about how well the team is clicking during a string of major U.S. race wins.
“We’ve been really lucky to race without any mechanicals, without any crazy issues and we’re having a blast,” he said. “We are racing against each other, but it’s nice to help each other when we can.”
Wells held off a surging Kabush for third and looked ahead as his fitness improves after a two-week break in early October.
“I took a good couple weeks off and have been just logging in some long miles,” said Wells. “I always try to peak for nationals. After a long season, to be good in October, I can’t be good in December too.”
Wells was nearly good enough Saturday and will take to the climbing-heavy Boulder Cup course Sunday afternoon. The elite men roll off at 3:30 p.m. Mountain time.
Singlespeed cyclocross world champion Wendy Simms (Ridley-FSA) grabbed the hole shot coming off the pavement into the first corner and the day’s only artificial barriers. Teal Stetson-Lee (Cal Giant-Specialized) held Simms’ wheel, Compton in third.
Meredith Miller (Cal Giant-Specialized) followed Compton through the barriers and down a thick patch of gravel, but continued her streak of Saturday mishaps when she touched down in a loose corner soon after. The former road national champion lay on the ground, unable to unclip from her pedals, as the entire race rolled past.
“I just slid out. I have no idea and all of a sudden I was on the ground,” said Miller. “Once again, I got back up and started chasing. I need to break this habit.”
The crash caused a small split at the front of the race, catching Gould out after a slow start.
“I messed up,” she said of the start. “It took me a little bit to get up there.”
Gould closed the gap through a set of high-speed corners on the far end of the course. Compton went to the front of what became a group of three riders — Compton, Gould and Duke — and the Luna rider knew that she could not let the Aigle World Cup winner escape early. Gould rode aggressively and made a tough pass on Duke in a tight left-hand corner — for which she apologized at the finish — and found Compton’s wheel ahead of the long sandpit cut by a 180-degree turn.
When Gould bobbled around the corner, Compton capitalized and opened the throttle.
“I wanted to hit it first and when I got back on the gap I saw I had a little bit of a gap so I just accelerated and stayed on the gas because I knew she was going to have to work to close it,” said Compton.
Gould remounted mid-pit, but jumped off again when the move turned out slow.
“I was my own worst enemy out there,” said Gould, a deft bike handler who ran into trouble Saturday. “I jumped off and ran around and thought I should try to ride a little bit. And then I jumped off again. It was just one bad mistake after another.”
Compton immediately opened a 15-second gap and wouldn’t look back. Duke did not clean the long sandpit and fell behind Gould. Two-thirds through the first lap the race was decided. Gould and Duke both settled in for the chase, each knowing that the rider ahead was strong and a catch was unlikely.
“I thought, ‘This sucks. This is going to get a lot harder before it gets easier,’” said Gould.
Down, but far from out
Midway through the race the leader didn’t look back, but did look down when a section of course tape blew into her handlebars and sent her flying at top speed. Compton was back on her bike quickly and lost only a handful of seconds to Gould. After the race she exposed a badly bruised arm and shoulder and walked in pain to the podium presentation.
Behind the top three, Miller played it cool, passing riders as quickly as she could to claw back into contention. She rode through Devon Haskell (Bike Station Aptos), Maureen Bruno-Roy (Bob’s Red Mill), Kerry Barnholt (Scott-Ritchey) and Simms. With a lap to go the Cal Giant leader sat fourth.
“I was just trying to push myself hard,” said Duke, whose advantage over Miller shrank at one point to under 15 seconds. “When you don’t have someone to chase right in front of you it’s kind of hard to keep motivated. Meredith definitely kept me motivated.”
Up the road Compton took a lead of nearly a minute into the bell lap. Her face quiet with concentration, she rode consistently over the bumpy course, and after riding perhaps her smoothest try in the sand, to huge cheers from the three-deep crowd lining the pit, she came onto the finish straight and raised both hands in the air.
Compton said that she is continuing to race herself into shape after an injury suffered at the world mountain bike championships caused her to get a late start on her season.
“Georgia’s riding really well right now, so I figured she was going to go out and give me a run for my money and make it hard,” said Compton. “She’s a great bike racer, a great competitor. I love it when she shows up to a race because I know she’s going to do everything she can to win. I really respect that and I always look forward to racing against her.”
Gould kept churning her gear through the backside of the course, her face the picture of 35 minutes of high altitude pain. The Luna rider dug deeply, holding off Duke and preserving her second-place finish.
Afterward Gould said that Compton’s strength requires error-free riding for 40 minutes.
“You’ve got to make no mistakes and unfortunately I was making a lot of mistakes,” she said. “It’s disappointing because I would like it to be a more exciting race. … If you can’t win, the second best thing is to be the best loser.”
Duke, a mother of two who just picked up the ’cross bike a couple of years ago, held off Miller for third. She was thrilled with the result at the line and said she kept the gas on with Miller chasing.
“That was enough to just keep me pinning it for the last few laps,” she said. “I just kept it pretty consistent.”
- 1. Jeremy Powers, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com, 59:49
- 2. Tim Johnson, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com, 1:00:04
- 3. Todd Wells, Specialized, 1:00:37
- 4. Geoff Kabush, Maxxis-Rocky Mountain, 1:01:12
- 5. Alex Candelario, World Bicycle Relief, 1:01:27
- 1. Katie Compton, Planet Bike, 36:17
- 2. Georgia Gould, Team Luna, 36:51
- 3. Nicole Duke, Hudz-Vista Subaru, 38:16
- 4. Meredith Miller, California Giant-Specialized, 38:38
- 5. Terry Barnholt, Scott-Ritchey, 39:02