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Owen on ‘cross nationals: ‘I might as well challenge myself’

Logan Owen has won 10 national championships in a row, but an 11th title could be tricky as the young star will race with the elites for his first time.

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Logan Owen’s nationals win streak currently sits at 10 — he’s never lost. And lately, he’s not only won ‘cross championships, he’s dominated them, putting on brilliant displays of power and finesse.

Heading into the 2016 USA Cycling cyclocross nationals, the California Giant rider chose to race with the elites instead of the under-23s. “Honestly there is not a whole lot of difference between winning 11 in a row or 10 in a row,” he said of the choice that could end his stars-and-stripes streak.

“I have been battling with the top guys in the elite race, and I am considered one of the top guys in the elite race anyways, so I figured, hey I might as well challenge myself,” Owen said ahead of his trip to Asheville, North Carolina, where he’ll race on Sunday.

Owen delayed the start of his ‘cross season to recover from an intense road season and has been slowly building fitness since the beginning of November. He swept the Subaru Cyclo Cup weekend, his second racing weekend this season, and proved his form a week later on the hallowed dunes of Koksijde, finishing ninth in the under-23 World Cup race.

The season has not been all smooth sailing for Owen though, as he has battled sickness twice in December. “I was actually sick before I went over there,” Owen said of his Christmas block of racing in Europe. “I still made the decision to race Namur because I thought I was feeling healthier, even though I clearly wasn’t, and on a course like that you can’t really hide that.”

Owen got a much-needed mental boost before leaving Europe, finishing seventh at the under-23 Superprestige in Diegem. But his battle with illness was not done yet. “I got the flu and that kind of hurt me a bit, but I’m starting to feel better now and I’ve got some good training in the last couple of days, and I’m starting to feel good again,” Owen said.

Before the Christmas trip, he showed his strength and power at Jingle Cross, where he dueled with the two odds-on favorites for Asheville: Stephen Hyde and reigning national champ Jeremy Powers. Owen ultimately finished second; a late bobble, clipping in after running the barriers, provided the gap Powers needed to win.

“I had a lot of mud in my cleats, but I was running them just as fast as he was riding them,” Owen said of the barriers, which were close to the finish, similar to Asheville’s course. “I have been practicing that, trust me, and I knew I had the edge on [Powers] there, and I knew I could have possibly taken the win had I not bobbled there.”

The hilly course in Asheville plays to Owen’s strengths. “I think it is going to suit me really well because I am light, and I go uphill really well on those punchy climbs,” he said of the nationals course, which reminds him of Jingle Cross. “I can see [Powers or Hyde] hit it from the gun and try to make that separation, and I can definitely see it coming down to a three-way battle again.”

If it rains as predicted, Owen believes the pendulum swings in his favor. “If it’s a muddy race, I would say it suits me more than anyone else,” Owen said. “I grew up in the Northwest and I have raced mud my whole life; that’s what I am good at — muddy and a hard hilly course, and that’s what it looks like it is.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.