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By Chris Milliman, Special to VeloNews
Round five of the Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross, run Saturday in Bridgeton, New Jersey, could be used in coming years by Kona as a how-to video in the finer points of winning a difficult ’cross race. Kona riders Ann Knapp and Ryan Trebon swept to wins on the fast, twisting and sandy Bridgeton course, though each rider took a different route to their ultimate destinations on the top step of the podium.
There can be no doubt that Trebon has been riding a sweet patch of form for the past month. The lanky mountain biker won the fourth USGP race in Gloucester, Massachusetts, at the end of October, and would have won both stops in the New England Series last weekend had he not crashed while leading the second day’s race. In Bridgeton, Trebon played the waiting game for the first two laps of the elite men’s race before launching what proved the winning attack on lap three, though according to Todd Wells (GT-Hyundai), the only rider capable of latching onto Trebon’s wheel, “attack” might not be the right word.
“He didn’t really attack, he’s just riding so good, it blew us apart. I was on the rivet just to stay with him – he was asking me to pull through and I told him I was going as fast I could,” said Wells, who ended up third on the day.
Wells eventually dropped his chain and slid back to a chase group containing Maxxis-Giant riders Adam Craig and Geoff Kabush, and Trebon’s Kona teammate Barry Wicks. With Wicks only along for the ride and not putting any effort into catching his comrade, the resulting trio of working riders made no dent in Trebon’s half-minute lead as the laps wound down.
“We tried to bring him back, but I kept making mistakes,” said Kabush, who maintained his USGP series lead by finishing second to Trebon in the race. “With about three to go I figured it was a race for second place. On the last lap I just tried to keep as much momentum as possible. I killed myself on the run-up to get those few seconds.”
As for Trebon, he said: “I just felt good out there, I was just rollin’. I was hurting a little on the beach run, because I’m not that good a runner, but I felt awesome. I wanted to make up for crashing last week [in Massachusetts]. I didn’t really want to be out there the whole time by myself, but it can be more relaxing when you’re by yourself.”
Knapp runs away with win
Known as one of the best runners on the ’cross circuit, Knapp may have been licking her chops when she saw the lengthy beach run section of the course, but the joy was short-lived when the elfin Knapp found the widely spaced, foot-plus-high steps of the course’s main run-up. Regardless, the 36-year-old Seattleite used the running sections of the course to set the pace in an elite trio of women that developed on the second lap. Together with Knapp, Mary McConneloug (Seven Cycles) and Gina Hall (Missing Link) put almost two minutes into the next closest riders.
If the open, fast wooded sections seemed to favor Hall, and the sandpit ride McConneloug, the run-up proved the decisive point in Knapp’s win. Entering the final trip up the eight-step grunt, and with Hall already dispatched, Knapp gave enough extra juice to the re-mount and acceleration out of the run-up to gap McConneloug.
“I felt good, I knew this was the race right here and that I needed to save something for the end,” said McConneloug, who finished second to Knapp for the second straight USGP race. “She just had a bit more. At the top of the run-up she got just a few more feet and I couldn’t close it down.”
As for Hall, who finished third, the running section proved her undoing. “I felt like I could handle the bike well,” said Hall. “It was on the runs, all of them, that I suffered. They’re great runners and I have to work on my running.”
As for Knapp, who put the USGP series title out of reach, the quality of her competition seemed to make the win carry more weight. “We all were closely matched on this course. I think my eyes were seeing all the riding and not so much the running. It looked like a big freeway to me, but it turned out great.”
The sixth and final round of the USGP will be contested on Sunday in Highland Park, New Jersey.
Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross
Round 5, Bridgeton, NJ. November 20
1. Ann Knapp, Kona, 39:33
2. Mary McConneloug, Seven Cycles, 39:37
3. Gina Hall, Missing Link, 39:56
4. Rhonda Mazza, Vanilla-S&M, 41:29
5. Melissa Thomas, Bike Source, 41:30
6. Barbara Howe, Velo Bella, 41:31
7. Josie Beggs, Starbucks, 41:37
8. Sarah Kerlin, Velo Bella, 42:05
9. Maureen Bruno Roy, 42:09
10. Christine Vardaros, Velo Bella, 42:17
1. Ryan Trebon, Kona, 55.32
2. Geoff Kabush, Maxxis Giant, 56:26
3. Todd Wells, GT-Hyundai, same time
4. Barry Wicks, Kona, s.t.
5. Adam Craig, Maxxis Giant, 56:50
6. Marc Gullickson, Redline, 57:02
7. Jackson Stewart, Clif Bar, 57:10
8. Andy Jacques-Maynes, Specialized, 57:11
9. Mark McCormack, Clif Bar-Colavita, 57:16
10. Ben Jacques-Maynes, Sierra Nevada Brewing, 58:12