Cyclocross

’Cross nats: Favorites eager for Sunday with weather on the way

Returning national champs Honsinger and Hecht line up against recently crowned Pan-Am champs Nuss and Brunner.

Get access to everything we publish when you join VeloNews or Outside+.

A full week of USA Cycling national cyclocross championships culminates this Sunday with the elite races. A host of young American talent recently descended on Wheaton, Illinois to check out the course, including reigning national champions Clara Honsinger (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) and Gage Hecht (Aevelo).

Read also: Everything you want to know about the 2021 USAC national cyclocross championships

Fresh off some European racing — including a win at GP Jolien Verschueren — (formerly Koppenburgcross) Honsinger said she’s eager to fight to keep the national jersey.

“The races in Europe are a pretty high intensity and aggressive,” said Honsinger, who was third in the third World Cup in muddy conditions in Fayetteville. “It keeps me sharp for the domestic races.”

As with Hecht, Honsinger earned her jersey two seasons ago and got to keep it an extra year due to Covid canceling the last nationals.

“After two years, I just kind of assumed it was mine…” Honsinger joked. “No, I earned it. And just recently I was realizing, now that nationals are here, how hard I will have to fight to earn it again.”

Clara Honsinger won the 2021 Koppenbergcross. (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Raylyn Nuss (Steve Tilford Foundation) recently won the Pan-American championship in hot and dry conditions. Rain and perhaps snow are in the forecast between now and Sunday.

“That’s one thing I love about ’cross; it will always change, day to day, sometimes even lap to lap,” Nuss said. “I love the buzz around the changing weather conditions.”

Nuss hadn’t yet done a full pre-ride, but said she liked how the course is broken up with “a lot of off-camber sections and some punchy elevation.”

Like Nuss, Eric Brunner (Blue Competition Cycles) is a recently crowned Pan-American champ.

“Last weekend I really didn’t feel a lot of pressure, at least from the outside. But I did put pressure on myself,” Brunner said of the Pan-Am race. “I honestly like big races, that’s when I get really excited to race. Yes, there’s more pressure now, but I’m more confident now. I will approach this like any other race, and I’m really looking forward to Sunday.”

Mia Aseltine, 18, is part of both the Cannondale Cyclocrossworld.com devo team and USA Cycling’s Olympic Development Academy. Aseltine said she has appreciated traveling and racing with the help of the Olympic Development Academy.

“The ODA provides amazing coaches and mechanics through the weekends, helping me with things like pre-riding the course,” Aseltine said. “At the start of the season, traveling without my parents was really stressful, but after the first weekend with ODA, I started to really look forward to it.”

You can watch the 2021 USAC National Cyclocross championship racing live on FloSports this weekend, and of course, read the race coverage here on VeloNews.