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The very best of the 2014 U.S. cyclocross national championships

The 2014 nationals were chock full of memorable performances and Neal Rogers runs down his list of the best

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BOULDER, Colo. (VN) — Between Wednesday morning and Sunday evening, more than 40 national cyclocross championship races were held at Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, Colorado (about 500 meters from VeloNews headquarters). It was an eventful week, marked by a pre-race snowstorm, muddy snowmelt, strong winds, large crowds — including an estimated 6,000 on Sunday — and exciting racing.

As always, some key performances defined these national championships. We selected a few that stood out, which we present here.

Best in Show: Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus)

Though he’s several years younger than his top rivals — or perhaps because of it — Jeremy Powers has emerged as the top elite American man on the cyclocross circuit. He took his first title in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2012, to crown a season that saw him take the overall title at the U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross series. Powers was dominant again during the 2012-2013 season, again winning the USGP overall, but he fell short at nationals, opening the door for Jonathan Page to take a fourth elite title; running on fumes from a tiring early-season UCI-point blitz, Powers finished a disappointing sixth.

Powers has returned to form this year, but a win at nationals was never a guarantee. Riders like Page, Tim Johnson, Ryan Trebon, and Jamey Driscoll were all contenders for the stars-and-stripes jersey in the most prestigious, and most hotly contested, battle of the national championships. Powers took to the start line as the odds-on favorite and thrived under the pressure, leading from the first lap to the last, winning ahead of Trebon by 43 seconds.

Hail to the Queen: Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective)

In 2004, Katie Compton showed up to the national cyclocross championships in Portland, Oregon, as a relative unknown, the stoker of a Paralympic tandem team. She quickly filled the void left behind by six-time national champion Alison Dunlap, a friend in their shared hometown of Colorado Springs, who had retired after taking the 2003 ’cross national title.

Since that muddy breakthrough in Portland, no American woman has come close to dethroning Compton; she took a mind-boggling 10th straight nationals victory on Sunday, 49 seconds ahead of the emerging Elle Anderson. Now 35, Compton appears to be as good, or better, than ever, winning the World Cup overall again this season for a second consecutive year. Compton rode in complete control in Boulder, calmly chasing Anderson for the first lap to avoid going too deep at altitude, and then locking into a significant, solo lead for the final half hour of racing, just as she has for an unfathomable 10-year streak. Compton is the greatest American to ever race cyclocross, and what we’re witnessing is nothing less than history in the making.

Heir to the Throne: Elle Anderson (Cal Giant-Specialized)

Two years ago in Madison, Wisconsin, a 23-year-old Elle Anderson was pulled by officials in her first cyclocross national championship, finishing out of the top 35, three laps down on Katie Compton. Last year, in Madison, Anderson finished 12th.

The winner of USA Cycling’s Pro Cyclocross Calendar in only her third season, Anderson finished second in Boulder on Sunday, bested only by Compton. Anderson is not yet at Compton’s level, but she’s also 10 years younger, and has quickly become the next-best woman in American cyclocross. Given her trajectory, it’s not a question of if Anderson will win a national title, but rather when, and how many.

Breakthrough Performance: Allen Krughoff (Raleigh-Clement)

Boulder resident Allen Krughoff, 29, took one of the biggest wins of his career in December when he won the Colorado state cyclocross championship, but few could have predicted that a month later he’d be finishing in the top five of the national championship, 19 seconds behind three-time champion Tim Johnson. Krughoff cheered Driscoll through the finish from behind and was elated with his results — and rightfully so.

The Future is Now: Logan Owen (Cal Giant-Specialized)

Eight national titles at the junior level is impressive, but in his first year as an under-23 rider, Washington’s Logan Owen proved that he’s the real deal, riding off the front, alone, from start to finish, and stripping former U23 champion Yannick Eckmann of his 2013 title.

Gone, But Not Forgotten: Amy Dombroski

A national cyclocross championships, held in Boulder, Colorado — it’s a combination that would have been a dream for hometown favorite Amy Dromboski, a three-time national U23 champion and third-place finisher at the 2009 elite race in Bend, Oregon. Tragically, the 26-year-old Dombroski was killed in a training accident near Brussels, Belgium, in October.

Her death shook both the international cyclocross and Colorado cycling communities, and those two circles intersected last week in Boulder, where Dombroski’s spirit was present throughout. On Thursday night, SRAM held a silent-auction benefit for her newly formed foundation. Women’s singlespeed champion Maureen Bruno Roy kept Dombroski in her thoughts throughout the week; on Saturday, masters 35-39 winner Russell Stevenson wore an “Amy D” heart-with-lightning bolt sweatshirt atop the podium, donning the same logo stickered on stems and top tubes across seemingly every category of the championships.

Dombroski may be gone, but her memory was vibrant at the 2014 cyclocross national championships.

Do the Right Thing: SRAM

Components manufacturer SRAM faced a public relations nightmare when it was forced to recall its hydraulic disc brakes in December due to master cylinder failures in frigid temperatures. With U.S. nationals a month away, the timing couldn’t have been worse for early-adopting racers who had sought out the advantage of advanced stopping power in slick, muddy conditions.

In an effort to save face and renew the loyalty of its elite-level consumers, SRAM sent a small army of mechanics to Boulder, offering free, on-the-spot replacement of hydraulic disc brake calipers and levers with its Avid BB7 SL mechanical calipers and levers, along with the promise of a new set of re-engineered hydraulic brakes once they are available. It wasn’t cheap, and it wasn’t easy, but it was a huge effort towards redemption.

SRAM continues hydraulic brake swaps, will launch improved model in May

Down to the Wire: Russell Stevenson (Voler Custom CX) and Jake Wells (Stan’s NoTubes); Meredith Miller (Cal Giant-Specialized) and Crystal Anthony (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies)

Considering that a technical cyclocross course, like that at Valmont Bike Park, offers so many challenges, repeated on each lap, the fact that two riders could come to the finish line together, dead even and perfectly matched, fighting for a podium spot, is almost unimaginable. It happened twice in Boulder in major competitions, providing two of the most exciting battles of the week.

The masters men 35-39 race came down to a bike throw and photo finish between defending champion Russell Stevenson and Colorado’s Jake Wells. Stevenson, a 2013 masters world champion, took the jersey by just millimeters. The following day, finishing behind Compton and Anderson, Boulder’s Meredith Miller and New Englander Crystal Anthony battled down to the wire for the bronze medal, with Miller just edging the Optum rider for third place.

Hometown Hero: Pete Webber (Boulder Cycle Sport)

Former masters world champion Pete Webber is Boulder’s resident cyclocross authority, the man who runs weekly Wednesday Worlds workouts, coaches junior racers, and helped design Valmont Bike Park, and, more specifically, the national championship course — which explains why the rutted, off-camber descent immediately following the 5280 staircase was dubbed “Pete’s Plunge.”

On Saturday morning Webber, who races for Boulder Cycle Sport, put on a dominant performance in the masters 40-44 race, winning by 37 seconds ahead of Mark Savery (Trek Cyclocross Collective). The following day, he was wearing an orange vest, swinging a shovel on course maintenance duty, just minutes before the start of the elite men’s race. Countless riders, officials, fans, and volunteers made these nationals happen, including those from USA Cycling, Valmont Bike Park, and the City of Boulder, but if there is one person that embodied the event, it was Webber.

Best Tweet: JD Bilodeau

Boulder is known for its affluent outdoor community. This tweet perhaps best summed up the host city’s residents. “The nice thing about that off camber is that if you crash you land in the biggest pile of Patagonia puffy coats ever. ‪#safetyfirst‬”

VeloNews Office Bragging Rights: Managing Editor Chris Case (Boulder Cycle Sport)

Though he’d hoped to better his silver medal from masters national championships in 2012, a fourth place in the masters 35-39, followed by 23rd in the elite category, was pretty impressive from our humble colleague. An honorable mention to tech writer Logan VonBokel, for winning the non-championship industry race, held in slick, muddy conditions on Wednesday.