‘Cross nats: Page makes it three in a row; Compton surprises ’em

In an attempt to unseat two-time defending national cyclo-cross champion Jonathan Page (Cervelo-Hot Tubes-Adidas-Mavic), rising 23-year-old talent Ryan Trebon (Kona) put up the fight of his life in a thrilling showdown Sunday afternoon at the 2004 cyclo-cross national championships in Portland, Oregon.

In an attempt to unseat two-time defending national cyclo-cross champion Jonathan Page (Cervelo-Hot Tubes-Adidas-Mavic), rising 23-year-old talent Ryan Trebon (Kona) put up the fight of his life in a thrilling showdown Sunday afternoon at the 2004 cyclo-cross national championships in Portland, Oregon.

After a customary fast start, Page took an early lead that appeared to be a repeat of his performances in similarly muddy conditions in 2002 and 2003, when the New Englander raced alone off the front, winning by margins of a minute or more ahead of perennial bridesmaid Todd Wells (GT-Hyundai).

But the tenacious Trebon, recent overall winner of the 2004 Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross series, clawed his way back to the race favorite on lap 5 of the 60-minute, 10-lap event. (Trebon also put up the greatest chase on Page at the 2003 nationals, also held at the Portland International Raceway, before a puncture relegated him to third place.)

This year the 6-foot-5 rider nicknamed “Treefarm” took pulls leading the race before a bobble on the penultimate lap, combined with some unlucky time spent weaving through lapped riders, sealed his fate. At the finish Page crossed the line 18 seconds ahead of a fading Trebon.

It was a thrilling climax to three days of national cyclo-cross championships, with the loud beating of drums from two full marching bands combined with an enthusiastic crowd of several hundred spectators ringing cowbells. Trebon, a pre-race underdog who lives in the nearby college town of Corvallis, was the clear crowd favorite.

Earlier in the afternoon, the virtually unknown Coloradan Katie Compton (Cody Racing-Fuji-Pro Cycling) had upset elite women’s favorites Ann Knapp (Kona) and Gina Hall (Missing Link), and the partisan crowd clearly was hoping for another upset surprise.

“I felt pretty bad out there today,” admitted Page, the only elite American to make a full-time career of ’cross, who flew to the U.S. Thursday after racing in the cyclo-cross World Cup event December 8 in Milan, Italy. “My hat’s off to Ryan,” Page said. “He’s a tough bike rider, and made it a great race.”

After a tight battle with Trebon’s teammate and close friend Barry Wicks, Wells crossed the line in third, his fourth consecutive top-three finish at ’cross nationals dating back to his national title win in 2001. Wicks took fourth, almost two minutes down, with the retiring Marc Gullickson (Redline), capping off an illustrious ’cross career that included a 1999 national championship, taking the final podium spot in fifth-place.

Compton surprises the competition
Hours earlier, the 26-year-old Compton surprised a top women’s field, winning the national ’cross title well ahead of second-placed finisher Hall.

Compton, the sighted captain of a Paralympic tandem team, has not competed in a single UCI event this season as Paralympic rules bar riders with UCI points from competing in those events. Compton has instead concentrated her preparation on racing in Colorado’s ACA races. Reminiscent of six-time ’cross national champion Alison Dunlap, Compton has consistently placed in the top 10 of the men’s Cat. 3 events, despite starting at the back of the field, and then gone on to win the women’s races later in the afternoon.

After Knapp took an early lead, Compton made a select group of three other riders: Knapp, Hall, Mary McConneloug (Seven Cycles). The quartet rode together until Compton powered through a muddy section ahead of the others, opening a slight gap that simply stretched out as the 50-minute race wore on.

“I’m really happy, and yeah, a little surprised,” said Compton, whose boyfriend, Mark Legg, had persuaded her to return to ’cross racing following a successful Paralympic campaign with visually impaired teammate Karissa Whitsell that saw the duo win a medal of each color (gold, silver, bronze) in track cycling. “I didn’t really know what to expect since I hadn’t raced against any of these girls.”

It was a disappointing day for Knapp, the 2002 national champ and pre-race favorite, who has mentioned plans to retire following the upcoming world cyclo-cross championships. Compton will not attend the world’s in order to retain her non-UCI standing. Compton’s ability to race at the national cyclo-cross championships — a UCI “CN” [national championship] event — and still retain her Paralympic status is an admittedly confusing situation.

Asked to explain how Compton could avoid earning UCI points at the national championships, USA Cycling technical director Matt Murphy offered this explanation: “The national championships is a UCI event inasmuch that UCI points can be earned, but it is not on the UCI-sanctioned calendar in terms of fees paid and a course description submitted. Being a national federation, we are given the opportunity to declare a national championship. The UCI honors those riders that compete in the national championship, but as far as I understand it those two are not the same thing. [U.S. ’cross nationals] is not on the UCI calendar because its CN status is given to us automatically. I suppose [Compton] has the opportunity to decline these UCI points. I’ll have to look into it with the UCI and possibly the IOC.”

Compton said simply: “As a pilot, I can’t have UCI points within three years of competing with a blind athlete. It keeps professional athletes from riding the front of the bike and just being stronger than the back rider and just winning. I can’t race at world’s and I can’t do any UCI races or get any UCI points. This race is USCF. It qualifies for world’s but it’s not UCI-sanctioned. I looked into that, because I was worried about it.”

In the junior men’s 17-18 event, 16-year-old Bjørn Selander of the Alan Factory Team took a convincing win in just his second year of cyclo-cross racing, leading from start to finish to beat Nicholas Weighall by 21 seconds.

U.S. Cyclo-cross National Championships
Portland, Oregon. December 12 (partial results)

Elite men
1. Jonathan Page, Cervelo-Hot Tubes, 55:15.475
2. Ryan Trebon, Kona-Clarks-LesGets, 55:33.556
3. Todd Wells, GT-Hyundai, 56:59.969
4. Barry Wicks, Kona, 57:08.056
5. Marc Gullickson, Redline, 57:35.628
6. Mark McCormack, Clif Bar-Colavita Olive Oil, 58:06.156
7. Jackson Stewart, Team Clif Bar Cyclocross, 58:06.378
8. Adam Craig, Maxxis-Giant, 59:22.670
9. Michael Broderick, Seven Cycles-Kenda, Chilmark, 59:33.538
10. Bart Gillespie, Biogen-Idec, 59:42.377
11. Andy Jacques-Maynes, Specialized, 1:00:12.142
12. Erik Tonkin, Kona, 1:00:19.990
13. Justin Robinson, Bullion Stil, 1:00:53.175
14. Ben Jacques-Maynes, Sierra Nevada Cycling, 1:01:11.120
15. Charlie Storm, Fuji-Btd, 1:01:25.064
16. Jason Tullous, Arizona Honey Wine, 1:01:29.738
17. Shannon Skerritt, Vanilla, 1:02:11.423

Elite women
1. Katie Compton, Cody Racing, 37:48.033
2. Gina Hall, Missing Link-Bianchi, 38:04.258
3. Ann Knapp, Kona, 38:05.407
4. Mary McConneloug, Seven Cycles-Kenda, 38:32.771
5. Sarah Kerlin, Velo Bella, 40:06.128
6. Christine Vardaros, Velo Bella, 40:17.898
7. Melissa Thomas, Bike Source-Tokyo Joes, 40:23.537
8. Rhonda Mazza, Vanilla-Team S&M, 40:53.598
9. Barbara Howe, Velo Bella, 41:03.638
10. Josie Beggs, Starbucks, 41:20.156
11. Gretchen Reeves, Rocky Mountain, 42:17.503
12. Suzanne King, Sunnyside Sports, 42:19.839
13. Rebecca Much, Alan Factory Team, 42:23.595
14. Melodie Metzger, Velo Bella, 42:25.208
15. Maureen Bruno Roy, Cyclocrossworld.Com, 42:56.993
16. Heather Szabo, Tokyo Joe’s, 43:06.348
17. Erin Kassoy, Velo Bella, Palo Alto, 43:07.586