Through the mud, sand, and over an undulating course that included a stair climb after a 180-degree bend, the elite men contested the 2021 USA Cycling national cyclocross championship.
In the first lap, seven riders separated themselves from more than 45 starters, and by the start of the second lap, six were in pursuit mode, chasing after the eventual winner Eric Brunner.
At the front of the race, cross racers and crit specialists battled for position, as the course in Cantigny Park, west of Chicago, Illinois, turned “greasy” in the fading daylight.
Brunner was off the front — and was chased for five of seven laps — while behind him podium positions were in play right through the second half of the final lap.
Scott McGill, Stephen Hyde, and Kerry Werner led the field into corner 1.
Gage Hecht led up Mt. Abus on lap 1.
Scott McGill was fifth wheel up the Abus run-up, behind Curtis White.
Eric Brunner moved into the lead by Pit 2 of lap 1.
Brunner got the time split from his team director, Grant Holicky, on lap 2.
L39ion of LA racer Lance Haidet was the 2017 U23 national ‘cross champion.
Caleb Swartz, a Wisconsin native who has raced many cyclocross races in Illinois, got a great start and stayed on Kerry Werner’s wheel for most of the race.
Brunner powered his way up Mt. Abus on lap 3.
Werner was one of many chasing Brunner, lap after lap.
Gage Hecht headed into one of the muddiest sections of the course on the 3rd lap.
Tobin Ortenblad picked up dollar bills left in the mud on the New Belgium stairs during the third lap.
Erin Feldhausen, the winner of the women’s master’s 40-44 race on Friday, enjoyed some pizza in the grass in the middle of the course during the men’s elite race.
Adam Saban was tempted by a dollar bill hand-up on lap 4.
Brunner had his head down through the Cantigny Tank Park at the end of lap 4.
As the sixth and final race of the day, the men had to contend with the muddiest conditions of all.
Brunner got a clean bike in Pit 1 on lap 6.
White climbing Mt. Abus for the final time.
Brunner on his way to capturing his first elite cyclocross national title.
Hecht chased, through the sandpit, but could not close down the gap to the front.
Werner established some breathing room between himself and Caleb Swart, on the final lap.
Eric Brunner is the 2021 elite national CX men’s champion.
Caleb Swartz was congratulated by his father, Andy Swartz, on his fifth-place finish.
Brunner, just after crossing the line to take the elite national CX title.
Stephen Hyde waved to the crowd after finishing ninth.
The 2021 USA Cycling elite national cyclocross men’s podium (left to right): Curtis White, Eric Brunner, and Gage Hecht.
White, Brunner, and Hecht celebrated on the podium.