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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (VN) – The place: the bowels of Interbike, on the Circulus miniature velodrome.
Former Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com teammates Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers faced off in a best-of-three pursuit contest in the Circulus velodrome Wednesday afternoon at Interbike. Powers’ new sponsor, Rapha, put together the grudge match on the first day of the industry tradeshow and the riders did not disappoint.
Battling aboard BMX bikes in three five-lap heats, Johnson and Powers fought for a golden pair of Oakley sunglasses – and glory, of course. At times Powers appeared more focused on trying to stay upright on the boards than putting time into Johnson, who rode smoothly to wins in the first and last heats to take the overall.
The event began with a boxing-style weigh-in and news conference, the riders answering ridiculous questions from host Jeremy Dunn with ridiculous responses. Johnson appeared to have knocked off a housekeeping cart for his corner wear, while Powers showed in shiny black trunks and robe borrowed by his Rapha-Focus manager Brian Dallas from a local boxing gym. Fashion turned out to be the only area the reigning USGP of Cyclocross champion had the upper hand.
Starting on opposite sides of the miniature track, Johnson nearly caught Powers three laps into the opening heat and won easily. He celebrated with a foot-scuff front wheelie in the infield mildly reminiscent in his Red Bull helmet of mind-blowing trials rider Danny McCaskill.
Powers came back with a suspect start, cutting a portion of the infield before gaining the track, to win the second heat on Johnson’s rear wheel. The officials – Rapha’s Dunn and Slate Olson – failed to whistle a foul on their rider and the result stood.
The final showdown had spectators banging the boards and loud music pumping. Powers dug too deeply in the opening lap, his bike weaving from the sprinter’s line to the edge of the boards, and he never recovered. Johnson stayed steady in the sprint lane and took the final lap by a bike length.
The showdown was all for fun and arguably the top two cyclocrossers in the States will take their fight to the grass for the first time Wednesday night for Cross Vegas at the Desert Breeze soccer complex near town. Stay tuned to VeloNews.com for extensive coverage of the world’s first C1 event of the season.