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Trebon, Nash triumph in the ‘Jersey mud

Mercer Cup, Day 1: Trebon and Nash triumph

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By Fred Dreier

2009 Mercer Cup, Day 1. Photo: ©BenRossPhotography.com
Trebon outrode and outran the competition.

A race course coated in peanut buttery mud couldn’t keep Ryan Trebon (Kona-FSA) and Katerina Nash (Luna) from victory at Saturday’s round of the U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross. Both Nash and Trebon took convincing solo victories — as well as the series lead — in the muck at Mercer County Park, located just outside Princeton, New Jersey.

“It was hard. Unless you dropped out after one lap, you’re going to be tired after that race,” said Trebon, who out-dueled perennial rival Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) for the win. “It was maximum effort the whole time. There was no easy part. It was a total slog through the mud.”

Trebon runs away with it

Rain and high winds pelted the area for two days before the event, saturating the park’s green lawn, which has hosted the USGP round since 2007. The conditions were bad enough for USGP officials to scrap a scheduled course pre-ride on Friday evening, as gusting winds blew over course markers and sent marking stakes flying.

On Saturday morning the amateur racers faced standing water and soggy ground, which was soon churned into slippery mud under their tires. A long, flat straightaway of the backside of the 1.7-mile course became unrideable midway through the day, forcing racers to dismount and run nearly 80 yards with their bikes shouldered.

As the day wore on, the slippery slop dried into thick, peanut butter-like mud.

2009 Mercer Cup, Day 1. Photo: ©BenRossPhotography.com
Derailleurs were the day's big losers.

“I’ve never seen mud like this,” said frame builder Richard Sachs, who won the Men’s 55-plus division. “I was lucky to have my wife and a buddy working my pit. I pitted often.”

A well-manned tech pit was crucial in the elite men’s race, which was the last event to hit the muddy track. Trebon said he handed off bikes every half lap, allowing his mechanic, Dusty Labarr, to spray down the rigs between exchanges. As more racers adopted the tactic, a sizable line grew for the two pressure washers.

“I’m taking our own gas pressure washer into the pit — I haul big barrels of water in there, but we just can’t wait in line,” Labarr said before the race. “You can imagine it. All 80 guys in the race are going to come in and it’s going to be a mess.”

It was a mess for some. Canadian Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain-Maxxis) grabbed the hole shot, and was followed closely by Christopher Jones (Champion Systems), Chance Noble (California Giant Strawberry), Trebon and Johnson. After slipping to third, Kabush saw his podium chances end after muddy chunks caught in his chain and he ripped his derailleur off.

“My legs were pretty well cooked from the run,” Kabush said. “I was basically at the furthest point from the pit.”

Jones was also forced to run after crashing a short time later.

That left Trebon and Johnson to duke it out for the win. Trebon played the aggressor role, forcing Johnson to chase. Johnson spent two laps riding just a few bike lengths behind Trebon. But on the penultimate lap, Trebon used his long, lanky legs to get his gap on the long running section.

Carrying his bike like a suitcase in his right hand, Trebon sprinted off.

2009 Mercer Cup, Day 1. Photo: ©BenRossPhotography.com
Trebon on his way to passing Kabush in the second lap.

“I train a lot for running. I’ve been running a lot,” Trebon said. “It’s not so much that I can run fast; I can get back on the bike quickly.”

Behind the two, series leader Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) rode his way into third place after a dismal start. The surge earned Driscoll the SRAM Most Aggressive Rider award. It was a consolation prize, as Trebon took over the series lead with his win.

Johnson, who won the second day of the second USGP round, held October 25 in Louisville, Kentucky, said Trebon simply out-powered the field.

“Today was about power riding, and Ryan had the watts,” Johnson said.

Nash decimates the field

Nash made victory look easy, riding away from Alison Sydor (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) and Luna teammates Georgia Gould and Alison Dunlap on the opening lap of the race.

Nash stretched her gap out to more than a minute by the race’s end.

2009 Mercer Cup, Day 1. Photo: ©BenRossPhotography.com
Nash was unbeatable in the mud.

“I didn’t have anyone who could go with me today, so I just rode my own lines,” Nash said. “It’s different when you are battling with someone.”

Nash just came back from battling in the European ’cross scene. Nash showed she has the form to fight the world’s best, and finished fourth at the European championships and fifth at the World Cup in Nommay, France. Those results are building the Czech rider up for the 2010 world championships, which are to be held in her home country.

With her win, Nash has solidified her grip on the USGP. The defending series champion won both races in Louisville and was second to Katie Compton on both days of the USGP’s first weekend, in Wisconsin.

Behind Nash, Gould battled with a resilient Meredith Miller (California Giant Berry) for second. Miller, who is not known for her skills in the mud, chased down Gould and made contact on the next-to-last lap. A bobble sent Miller back into third place, which is her best result to date on the USGP.

“Riding in (the mud) is like nothing I’ve ever done before,” said Miller, the current national road race champion. “I’ve raced on the cobbles in Europe. This is a totally different beast. It’s new stuff for me.”

Behind Miller, Dunlap rolled across the line in fourth place. Dunlap, who is in her return season to racing after retiring in 2005, said the mud race brought back old memories of pain and suffering.

“Mentally it’s very challenging to race in this,” Dunlap said. “You feel so slow. You’re trying to put so much power into the pedals and just going nowhere. You have to keep positive. You have to tell yourself that you’re still racing.”