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Junior Gage Hecht wins elite Colorado state cyclocross championship

Gage Hecht wins the elite race at 2014 Colorado state cyclocross championships in Castle Rock

Gage Hecht wins the elite race at 2014 Colorado state cyclocross championships in Castle Rock

Snow and sleet continued to fall outside the team tent where Gage Hecht sat with a steaming hot towel draped over his feet. He’d just pulled off a major upset in cycling but what he needed most now was a pair of sponsor-appropriate socks. After all, the 16 year-old couldn’t raise his arms on the top step of the podium without the right footwear.

It wouldn’t be pro, and that’s the way he had just raced his bike.

Allen Krughoff dug in to make up for a first lap flat

Allen Krughoff dug in to make up for a first lap flat

Hecht, who competes on the Alpha Bicycle Co. team, had just earned the elite Colorado state cyclocross championship in a field that included riders who race across the US and in Europe, such as Allen Krughoff (Noosa Professional Cyclocross Team), Jake Wells (Stan’s NoTubes) and Brady Kappius (Clif Bar), as well as super-strong local men like Spencer Powlison (Evol Racing) and Chris Baddick (Boulder Cycle Sport).

The Alpha Bicycle Co. rider may be the youngest winner ever in the men’s elite category of the Colorado cyclocross championship. Three years ago Yannick Eckmann won at age 18. According to Kappius, Danny Summerhill took the title at age 19 and Alex Coelho won as a young man although older than 16 at the time.

Race action

Early in the first lap about ten or so riders slipped ahead of Hecht on the paved uphill start. Baddick took the hole shot, followed by Tim Allen (Feedback Sports), Wells, and Kappius.

Elite men's field 15 seconds to start

Elite men’s field 15 seconds to start

In a characteristic move Allen attempted to peel off the front, but Kappius and Wells kept him company and they quickly established a small gap. Hecht joined them in the second lap. Next on course were Baddick, Boulder Cycle Sport’s U23 rider Grant Ellwood and Shawn Milne, Krughoff, Steven Stefko (First City Cycling), and Powlison.

The lead group blew apart during the next couple of laps around the circuit. Allen sustained an injury near the highest point on the west side of the course that caused him to abandon the race. Wells slid out in a corner and lost time resetting his chain.

While they suffered Hecht bent low over the bike and shot off the front into the relentless north wind. It was half-way through the sixty minute slither over a narrow trail that resembled pulverized Oreo cookies bordered by accumulating snow. Transitions from dirt to pavement had become glacial.

Allen Krughoff chases down Brady Kappius and Gage Hecht

Allen Krughoff chases down Brady Kappius and Gage Hecht

Kappius strived to match the young man’s pace but soon lost ten seconds. Krughoff closed in and passed him on his way to catch Hecht; the Noosa rider had made up a lot of ground since flatting in the first lap.

Meanwhile, Stefko had snuck up in position and now threatened Kappius’ third place. Powlison would get the better of Wells and several others and advance to fifth place as the race wound down.

According to one spectator, over the remaining laps Hecht gained time on Krughoff on the east side of the course where a steady ascent carried riders through a mud pit, tight as well as sweeping turns, and a set of three barriers before returning to the finishing straight.

“I heard I was getting some time on him in the mud puddle, so maybe I found a better line down there,” Hecht said after the race. “But I think it was just maintaining balance the entire course and making the least mistakes that kept me alive in that race.”

Cassidy Bailey through the middle

Cassidy Bailey through the middle

Balance especially came into play on the wicked, slick off-camber descent on the course’s southwest side. While the elite women generally took advantage of the thick pole at the apex of highest turn, fewer men used it during the single speed race earlier that day.

Hecht chose his approach based on how steady he felt coming into the U-turn. “It depended on however my balance was feeling. Most of the time I was kind of off on that descent, so I got off and ran just because I knew I wasn’t safe riding it.”

After thirty minutes in the fading light alone, Hecht won with a cushion of twenty seconds over Krughoff. Like Meredith Miller (Noosa Professional Cyclocross Team) in the women’s elite race one hour before, he had bested the reigning state champion. In 2013 Krughoff beat Hecht by twenty-one seconds for the win.

“I’m ecstatic about it, it’s awesome,” the junior said about turning the tables this year. “I don’t know what to say, I’m just so excited.” The day before he won the junior 17 – 18 state title.

The next finishers rolled in clenching fists for joy or bowed over the handlebars, depleted from the effort in the cold. Almost a minute after Krughoff finished, Stefko claimed third. Kappius finished fourth. Powlison got fifth, shadowed by Milne.

Off to Europe again

Some had predicted Hecht’s victory. He’d won a local elite race the week before as well as another in frigid mid-November conditions and had recently returned from a cyclocross trip to Europe with USA Cycling where he won the junior’s race affiliated with the World Cup event in in Koksijde, Belgium. USAC’s story about his success, which is rare for an American junior in Europe, mentioned he’d “beat out three Belgian favorites for the win.”

This week the Parker, Colorado resident returns to Europe for another block of competition. He’ll likely face the same Belgians at his first race, the World Cup event at Namur. Unlike Koksijde, the juniors’ contest at Namur carries World Cup status.

“I’m extremely excited going into Europe,” Hecht said. “Just coming off of this it’s going to be a great pleasure to know where I am compared just to Colorado. Then to move on to Europe, to keep trying to get results over there, it would be great.”

Slippery corners demanded lots of ruddering. Jake Wells demonstrates.

Slippery corners demanded lots of ruddering. Jake Wells demonstrates.

Wells, who placed ninth in the end with his hopes for a podium finish dashed in that corner, shared his thoughts about Hecht after the race.

“He’s impressive. I got to spend a little bit of time with him in the [Vail] valley doing some riding. He’s a great kid. He’s been working hard to get to this point. If you watch him race on the road you know he’s got good fitness and today shows he’s got great handling skills as well. So he’s the real deal. He’s the future of Colorado if not U.S. cyclocross.”

Hecht will also compete in Austin, Texas at the U.S. national cyclocross championships in early January in the 17 – 18 category. He first raced nationals at age nine and placed second. Subsequently at ‘cross nationals he’s won another silver and four gold medals. Hecht is also a multiple-time track, time trial, criterium, and road national champion.

Video: race scenes and elite podium presentation

Gallery

Meredith Miller takes a snowy state cyclocross title after fiery fight with Georgia Gould

Meredith Miller wins the 2014 Colorado state cyclocross championship ahead of last year's champion, Georgia Gould

Meredith Miller wins the 2014 Colorado state cyclocross championship ahead of last year’s champion, Georgia Gould

It seemed like they’d come to the finish line through the wind-driven sleet and snow together. But in the end Meredith Miller (Noosa Professional Cyclocross Team) foiled Georgia Gould’s best efforts and won the Colorado cyclocross championship on Sunday by a margin of four seconds.

Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport) took the field of twenty-five into the first turn after an uphill start. Junior Katie Clouse (Canyon Bicycles) tucked in behind her with Gould (Luna Pro Team) and Miller close by. The riders got their first taste of elevation change as they snaked up then down a hillside at the Rhyolite Park venue in Castle Rock.

Just a few minutes later Gould led into one of the trickiest sections of the course which had been taped off for other categories in the morning. She quickly negotiated the slippery off-camber U-turn at a run with Clouse in her slipstream. After a small gap Amanda Miller (Boulder Cycle Sport), Meredith Miller, and Melissa Barker (Evol Racing) steered a long chain of riders through the turn.

Georgia Gould chasing Meredith Miller

Georgia Gould chasing Meredith Miller

Gould tried to separate herself from the field early and carried a lead of ten seconds as lap two unfurled. Amanda Miller, Meredith Miller, and Clouse formed the chase group. Barker raced alone behind them. This set of riders held onto the top five positions for the remainder of the race.

But it wasn’t easy. The slippery conditions felled Barker a handful of times and she later described the snowy competition as “going as fast as I could without crashing.” Clouse soon drifted away from the front but maintained fourth place on course.

Going into lap three Meredith Miller charged ahead of Gould with a slight lead of five seconds. She doubled that gap but then Gould closed it and the pair rode together in the final lap. Miller sliced into the wind at the front.

“There’s not a lot of places to pass out there that don’t require a lot more effort, so that last lap I thought, ‘I’m going to lead because if I make a mistake I’d probably make her make one too,’” Miller said after the race. “And I didn’t want it to be the other way around.”

Melissa Barker is the 2014 Colorado Cross Cup leader

Melissa Barker is the 2014 Colorado Cross Cup leader

Miller gained a little separation in the last kilometer. She padded her lead a bit as the race announcer cried, “Gould has bobbled!” and swung onto the paved finish straight, raising her arms in a victory salute with Gould trailing just behind. Amanda Miller came in third over a minute later. Clouse crossed the line fourth and Barker fifth. Barker’s result confirmed her top spot in the Colorado Cross Cup season-long points competition.

Just a few months ago, in the week before she won CrossVegas, Miller placed first in a race on a similar Rhyolite Park course.

“It’s kind of cool to win when it was super-hot and dry and dusty then and now in these completely opposite conditions,” she said. “I’m glad to know I have the skill and can do it in all sorts of conditions. [Today] it was all about confidence and not making mistakes.”

Miller will spend the rest of December at home, training and regrouping before competing in Dallas where she will “kick-start the legs again before going to nationals.”

Meredith Mille and Georgia Gould in the last kilometer at Rhyolite Park

Meredith Miller and Georgia Gould in the last kilometer at Rhyolite Park

Video: race scenes plus post-race interview with Meredith Miller

Gallery

Every kid counts: juniors take on 2014 Colorado cyclocross championships

Cider spray podium at 2014 Colorado state cyclocross championships

Cider spray podium at 2014 Colorado state cyclocross championships

It’s the biggest show of the year aside from national championships.

Almost 120 kids ages eight to seventeen pedaled, pushed or dragged bikes uphill and over wood planks on Saturday. They passed and encouraged each other across dry grass, paved paths, and a bit of mud for twenty-five to forty minutes at this year’s Colorado state cyclocross championships.

Share their experiences with this set of photos and video. Some of them will be back at it on Sunday, racing in adult categories.

Gallery (more to come)

Up, down, repeat: 2014 Colorado state cyclocross championships course

The long run-up on Rhyolite Park course pitches up more at the top

The long run-up on the Rhyolite Park course pitches up at the top

Obstacles add spice to a cyclocross race. Run-ups and barriers force cyclists – with certain exceptions – to dismount and carry or push the bike. When sand is rideable the minute grains can seize control of some racers’ bikes while others sail through.

But sometimes topography generates the most difficulty in a race. The Colorado state cyclocross championships venue falls into that bucket. The course at Rhyolite Park straddles a narrow hollow and winds up and down hillsides on three sides. Repeated climbing and descending wears riders out, making the contest ultimately a test of fitness, says Pete Webber. Webber, a masters national cyclocross champion, coaches the Boulder Junior Cycling team whose members competed today.

Colorado state championship racing continues tomorrow. Here’s a look at the major challenges elite and other riders will face.

The start

A long uphill drag on wide pavement followed by a turn onto a dirt lane quickly separates the field.

Men's 55 plus field starts at the 2014 Colorado state cyclocross championships

Men’s 55 plus field starts at the 2014 Colorado state cyclocross championships

West hill climb

Coming after the longer run-up, the S-turned uphill trail can sap a rider’s resolve in the final laps.

South section of the west hill at Rhyolite Park

South section of the west hill at Rhyolite Park

Off-camber high line

A short steep rise after descending the west hill leads ‘crossers into two tricky off-camber U-turns as the course drops back downhill. Lined with parched grass, this slippery when dry section could turn into a skating rink tomorrow if enough rain and snow falls. Weather predictions mention rain until early afternoon followed by a few inches of snow.

Forced into an outside line, Eric Brunner slid out on this off-camber turn

Forced into an outside line, Eric Brunner slid out on this off-camber turn

Short steps

Riders pass the pit then ascend the west hill again. The journey takes them up three to four railroad tie steps.

Kristin Weber on the short steps in the 35 plus race

Kristin Weber on the short steps in the 35 plus race

Sand bend

A long undulating descent and straightaway leads into a sweep of sand. Racers can get caught behind riders who falter here. Today most spun through with their egos intact as they approached Saturday’s one wet spot on the course.

Dawson School rider aces the sand

Dawson School rider aces the sand

Mud dip

Whether full-speed-ahead or tentative, the majority remained upright through the mud dip on Saturday. An unfortunate few took a bath.

Utah junior takes the middle line through the Rhyolite mud dip

Utah junior takes the middle line through the Rhyolite mud dip

Triple barriers

A slightly uphill jaunt that veers north then south carries riders into a twisty section that slows them down before a set of three barriers. The course designer must be keen to find out if single speeder Nic Handy or elite riders Tim Allen, Brady Kappius, Allen Krughoff, and Spencer Powlison will remain on their bikes and hop over them.

The barriers are top right in this view into the heart of the Rhyolite course

The barriers are top left in this view into the heart of the Rhyolite course

Field day

A few tight curves mixed in with long bends through a field of tall grass drops riders at the end of the paved finish straight. Fast curves and another pass by the pit leads into the longer run-up and then the west hill climb.

What's left from the men's 55 plus start clothing toss

Leftovers from the men’s 55 plus start clothing toss

Cyclo X series wraps-up with wins for Vestal and Baddick, ushers in state championships

Cyclo X Louisville field start in the depths of the "Bowl of Death." Here the women's elite riders take off.

Cyclo X Louisville fields start in the depths of the “Bowl of Death.” Here the women’s elite riders take off followed by the 35+ women.

[updated 11/30/2014]

The 16th edition of the Cyclo X series wrapped up on the weekend before Thanksgiving at the Louisville, CO venue. In the elite races Caitlyn Vestal (Feedback Sports) took her tenth win of season and Chris Baddick (Boulder Cycle Sport) his third. Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport) and Spencer Powlison (Evol Racing) both earned the overall series lead thanks to their consistently strong performances during the seven race series and the double points on offer at Louisville where they both finished third.

Caitlyn Vestal slices through sand

Caitlyn Vestal slices through sand

Dubbed the “Bowl of Death,” the course’s main feature is a reservoir-sized depression adjacent to the Louisville Rec Center; it occupies the heart of the course. Ominous as it sounds – and the four dips into and out of it every lap did test riders’ fitness – the winning move in the men’s race happened on a longish paved uphill section that fed into a sandpit off to the east of the bowl.

Chris Baddick in charge

Chris Baddick in charge

That’s where Baddick outdistanced Allen Krughoff (Noosa Pro Cyclocross Team) with two laps remaining. After Jingle Cross Krughoff halted his UCI racing schedule. He returned home to Boulder for a period of rebuilding after trying to race back into form following a lengthy mid-season illness.

In the women’s race Vestal broke away from a small group of leaders early in the second of five laps. In a repeat of her win at this year’s Feedback Cup, she steadily extended her lead, in full command of the race and, like Baddick, crossed the finish line solo.

Allen Krughoff in chase mode

Allen Krughoff in chase mode

With their recent sets of wins Vestal and Baddick are primed for the state cyclocross championships, which take place in two weeks. Baddick has previously said he’s targeted states since the start of the cyclocross season.

If Krughoff raced in Louisville while still on the upswing, he should be set to attempt to defend the state title which he earned at the same venue as this year’s championships. The Rhyolite Park course in Castle Rock seems to fit his strengths; he also finished second there to Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing) just before CrossVegas.

For full results from Cyclo X Louisville, the previous six races, and the overall points, see the Without Limits Productions website.

Watch Brady Kappius hop a set of barriers that leads into a run-up.

xxx

Gallery

Move over mistakes. Consistency pays off in cyclocross.

Spencer Powlison, Chris Baddick, and Brady Kappius slipped away from the men's elite field after a mishap in the Sienna Lake ditch

Spencer Powlison, Chris Baddick, and Brady Kappius slipped away from the men’s elite field after a mishap in the Sienna Lake ditch

Several mistakes helped decide the outcome of the men’s elite race at Cyclo X Sienna Lake on Saturday. But the guys that made them are still on top.

Coming out of the first pass through an earthen drainage ditch, Ken Benesh (Evol Racing) clipped out and paused near the top of the steep pitch. That held up the field behind him long enough for teammate Spencer Powlison, Chris Baddick (Boulder Cycle Sport), and Brady Kappius (Clif Bar) to sneak off the front where the first two would stay.

However, thanks to consistently showing up to races and finishing well, Benesh still leads the Cyclo X series with two of seven races remaining. He’s also second in the annual Colorado Cross Cup competition.

Spencer Powlison drives the leading group

Spencer Powlison drives the leading group

Similarly, with two laps left in the Sienna Lake race, a slight washout by Powlison in a grassy corner assisted Baddick’s escape into the lead. While that’s a frustrating way to lose, Powlison currently ranks first in the Cross Cup competition.

Mistakes happen. But Benesh and Powlison are still the best in two important series challenges on the Front Range. And rivals like Baddick who won Saturday’s race know it.

“Spencer’s been the guy to beat this year in Colorado and he’s so consistent,” Baddick said, before the podium on Saturday. “He hardly ever makes mistakes because he is so smooth on the bike. To beat him feels really good.”

Chris Baddick wins Sienna Lake on an unusually warm day for early November in Colorado

Chris Baddick wins Sienna Lake on an unusually warm day for early November in Colorado

Race action

Another drama played out at Sienna Lake in the leaders’ wake: Kappius’ defense of third place in the face of an onslaught piloted by Benesh, Mitch Hoke (The Pro’s Closet CX Team), and junior Pan American champion Gage Hecht (Alpha Bicycle Co.).

Kappius dropped away from the leaders after two laps and rode alone.

“I kept getting gapped out of the corners. So I took a couple of laps and kind of recovered a bit while Gage [Hecht] and Mitch [Hoke] caught me,” the Clif Bar rider explained. “I rode with them until the end. We started playing cat and mouse a bit, so Ken [Benesh] was able to catch up to us with a little over one to go.”

Steven Stefko

Steven Stefko

Meanwhile Steven Stefko (First City Cycling), second in the Cyclo X series standings, had moved up and trailed Benesh.

With about two laps to go Baddick found separation from Powlison.

“On the grassy corners just after the start/finish Spencer just slightly washed out his front wheel and ended up putting a foot down,” Baddick said. “That gave me a couple of seconds and that was pretty useful to get a gap.”

While Baddick played with the red zone to maintain that gap, action heated up in the Kappius group.

According to Kappius, at the start of the bell lap Hecht and Benesh tried to split the group. From the pavement the track took multiple turns on grass before directing riders into the ditch. Benesh slid out there and lost a bit of time.

Gage Hecht moves up

Gage Hecht moves up

Coming into the finish Benesh marked Stefko who motored just behind him and Kappius executed his plan to secure third place.

“I knew the finishing straight was pretty short and there is a little bit of an off-camber coming into it. I didn’t think anybody could get around somebody [there], so I wanted to come into it first,” Kappius said. “That last half lap was me just going about as hard as I could in the straights and recovering in the corners where I knew nobody could pass me. I was looking over my shoulder the whole time.

“I was able to come into the finish leading and put it in the drops, did 20 hard pedal strokes and held on for third.”

He held on by a whisker ahead of Hoke who finished fourth with the same time. Hecht arrived a second later. Stefko poured himself into the sprint for sixth, but Benesh got the best of him.

See the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website for full results from Cyclo X Sienna Lake.

The next Cyclo X series race takes place at the Boulder Reservoir on November 15.

Brady Kappius edges out Mitch Hoke for third and Ken Benesh holds off Steven Stefko

Brady Kappius edges out Mitch Hoke for third and Ken Benesh holds off Steven Stefko

Gallery

Wins harder to land in Colorado’s amateur elite women’s field

Kristin Weber got her first win of this season at Cyclo-X Sienna Lake in Broomfield, Colorado

Kristin Weber got her first win of this season at Cyclo-X Sienna Lake in Broomfield, Colorado

When would not winning as often be a good thing?

By this time last year Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport) had stacked up five cyclocross wins. Coming into last weekend’s Front Range Cyclo X Sienna Lake race, she had yet to score her first.

Instead of dwelling entirely on whether she’d ever win again (banishing that thought forever is difficult for nearly all humans), she considered the big picture. “I actually just kept saying to my coach Anne Trombley that I felt like I was faster than last year, even though I had a bunch of wins last year.

“There’s always six to ten women who come out on a given weekend and can win a race. I knew it was making me faster by having all those fast people randomly show up to a lot of our local races,” Weber said, referring to a set of very strong local amateur women combined with a pro rider or two at every weekend race.

“But I think the competition has gotten faster. So I just feel like the bar has been raised a little bit.” Even the juniors, she said, are faster this year.

Megan Carrington, third at Sienna Lake, raced Cat 3 last season

Megan Carrington, third at Sienna Lake, raced cat 3 last season

Part of the explanation for what she’s experiencing could be the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado’s added emphasis on attracting women to bike racing. The lower category fields are expanding in numbers. With that growth, perhaps more women are taking what might be the toughest leap up in competition: from category 3 to elite or open races. Several women in the Sienna Lake field raced category 3 last year.

More women racing and advancing their skills is a great situation overall; additional competition drives riders to improve which makes winning all the more satisfying.

“It feels really good [to win] to tell you the truth,” Weber said after crossing the line first at Sienna Lake, “because we’ve just had so many strong women this year.”

Race action

An errant cyclist pedaling across the road near the start area created a bit of disarray after the whistle. Weber slotted into fourth position on the first bend. Typically a fast starter, she had aimed for the front, but hesitated in the confusion.

“I wanted to be in the ditch first,” she explained later. “I came by three people to get to the ditch first because often in the beginning of this race the ditch can be a big divider if someone crashes or everyone is nervous about it.” Sure enough, her concern came to pass in the men’s elite race that followed.

Only Evol Racing’s Kate Powlison could match Weber’s trajectory around the predominantly grassy and pavement course. The two pulled away early and stayed away together until the next to last lap.

Kate Powlison and Kristin Weber mid-race at Sienna Lake

Kate Powlison and Kristin Weber mid-race at Sienna Lake

“Kate [Powlison] was riding so strong on the power sections and I knew I was faster than her in the technical, so I just made one move,” Weber said. “Right before the ditch I just stepped it up for like 10 seconds and then I made that gap.

“I would get ahead of her in the technical sections and then she would close it up. It was definitely some cat and mouse with us because we had different strengths today. I was worried.”

Behind them Margell Abel (Natural Grocers) and Megan Carrington (Naked Women’s Racing) fought for the third spot on the podium; Carrington captured it. Abel finished fourth. Kristal Boni (Rapid Racing) and Karen Hogan (Kappius Components) came in together and placed fifth and sixth.

See the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website for full results from Cyclo X Sienna Lake.

The next Cyclo X series race takes place at the Boulder Reservoir on November 15. Melissa Barker (Evol Racing) currently leads the seven-race series by two points over teammate Kristen Legan.

Kristin Weber's family watched her win at Sienna Lake

Kristin Weber’s family watched her win at Sienna Lake

Gallery

Feedback Cup illustrates the local foundation of cyclocross

Team Small Batch rider on the Feedback Cup course, near the Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center fencing

Team Small Batch rider on the Feedback Cup course, near the Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center fencing

[updated 11/10/2014]

Sunday’s Feedback Cup ‘cross event provided an outstanding reminder of what cyclocross is all about.

Sure, ‘cross is about physical achievement as well as a life lesson in taking bad luck with the good. But even more so the Feedback Cup in Golden, Colorado exemplified the sport’s community foundation and the dedication of people who commit personal resources to elevate local bike racing to a high quality level. Golden-based Feedback Sports put on the event. The company makes and sells bicycle work stands and other accessories.

Those familiar with the course sandwiched between a youth detention center and golf course near the foot of South Table Mountain found something new: a long pit of sand entered after a strategically-placed ninety degree turn. One after another of the guys scheduled to start the elite men’s race scoped it out, trying to ride it. Almost all of those who could pedal through it – and they were in the minority – ground away in slow motion as tires lost traction in the silty stuff.

Leaders in the elite men's race run the Golden sand

Leaders in the elite men’s race run the Golden sand

According to Tim Allen, Feedback Sports employee and ‘cross team member, the sand was donated by Jay Kenney of the Kenney Brothers Foundation. Lee Waldman and the Feedback Sports crew installed a dozen or more railroad ties to contain the new feature. Kenney joined them to distribute the sand.

“That sandpit blew Valmont’s away,” said Allen.

He was referring to Valmont Bike Park in Boulder. An awesome space for a cyclocross race with diverse features, it hosts local races, but it’s designed to hold world-class events, like the Boulder Cup UCI contest and cyclocross nationals, which touched down in Valmont last January.

So there was something very sweet about a local course adding such a stellar feature, courtesy of a benefactor. The addition tops off years of course design supplied by Waldman.

That feel-good aurora stands in stark contrast to what must happen in the Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center adjacent to the course. In late August four male teens between the ages of 14 and 17 escaped from that facility. On their way out they assaulted a 65 year-old employee. A press release from the City of Golden Police Department about the incident read: “Attempted Homicide and Escape at Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center.” The four teens were caught the next day.

A Denver Post article about the break-out said, “Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center is described by the Department of Human Services as an ‘intensive’ treatment program for up to 130 ‘highest risk’ male juvenile offenders committed to the facility by the courts. The agency says that up to 75 percent of those in the facility have been diagnosed with mental health issues, and more than half have substance-abuse issues.”

It’s hard to stand in the shadow of the Youth Services Center during a cyclocross race at the Golden course and not wonder a few things. Are some of those kids watching from a window behind the high security fence surrounding the building? Did they ride bikes when they were younger? Did any of them grow up in a safe, friendly community like the greater cyclocross family present at the Feedback Cup?

Sometimes we cyclists can be so devoted to our sport we become a bit insular. The Youth Services Center stands as a reminder to not take our cycling community for granted and to share its benefits with anyone we think might need some family love.

Now back to the race.

Feedback Cup elite women’s race action

Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport) unleashed another fiery start and captured the holeshot. Caitlyn Vestal (Feedback Sports) and Erin Huck (Scott-3Rox) tailed her along with the rest of the field.

Kristin Weber aces the holeshot in the elite women's race

Kristin Weber aces the holeshot in the elite women’s race

The new sandpit appeared near the end of each lap. Aside from riding into it during lap one, Vestal ran it.

“You could make it like half-way [riding] through, but it’s just an energy sapper,” Vestal said. “But I think Erin Huck rode it through the whole way a couple of times. That’s sweet. She was on her mountain bike which is awesome.”

When the women arrived to tackle the new feature for the first time, Weber and Vestal crossed in the lead together. Kate Powlison (Evol Racing) and Kristal Boni (Rapid Racing) pursued 20 seconds later. Next was a large group led by Feedback Sports’ Lisa Hudson, containing six riders with Huck now near the back. But the new Scott-3Rox rider wouldn’t stay there for long.

Erin Huck finished second in the Feedback Cup on a mountain bike

Erin Huck finished second in the Feedback Cup on a mountain bike

Although pretty new to ‘cross, coming into the Feedback Cup Huck had already finished top five in four of five local cyclocross races this season.

Why is this year’s number two in the USA Cycling Pro XC Tour and world mountain bike championships pick racing cyclocross? In a Twitter exchange she explained: “for a new, fun challenge – lots to learn!” In those five previous races she competed on a ‘cross bike. She chose fat tires for Golden because she desired a “refresher on the mtb” before starting Iceman Cometh on November 8 in Michigan.

By lap three Huck was in third and chasing down Weber on the loose, dry course while up ahead Vestal had pulled away with a 30 second lead. Coming into the sand Huck moved into second on course. She couldn’t catch Vestal who would win with a gap of over a minute, but she collected another cyclocross podium place to add to her growing collection.

Weber finished third. Megan Carrington (Naked Women’s Racing) surged in the final laps and arrived fourth with Powlison in for fifth.

Caitlyn Vestal makes it a two-for-two winning weekend at the Feedback Cup

Caitlyn Vestal makes it a two-for-two winning weekend at the Feedback Cup

Vestal’s victory was number two on the weekend; the day before she won Schoolyard Cross. Right now she’s one of the Front Range’s most winning elite women. How has this lady with a full time job been so successful? She attributes it to sixteen years of racing experience and her training program.

“I’m doing a lot of high anaerobic threshold workouts. I also rest really hard. I take rest really, really seriously and I know my body needs about two days fully off the bike a week,” she said. “I run and I lift. I try to keep it really balanced because I just feel a lot better when I do that. So just really strength based workouts seem to help me a lot.”

Feedback Cup elite men’s race action

After Allen claimed the holeshot a group of five leaders quickly formed with Allen at the front. It included Chris Baddick (Boulder Cycle Sport), Spencer Powlison (Evol Racing), Brady Kappius (Clif Bar), and Garrett Gerchar (Clif Bar Devo Cyclocross Team).

A mechanical dispatched Baddick from the race. Gerchar dangled then dropped off the lead group.

Bryan Alders and Taylor Carrington on dip #2

Bryan Alders and Taylor Carrington on dip #2

Near the beginning of lap five Allen washed out at the bottom of the first of two consecutive sharp descents on the opposite side of the course from the sandpit. By the time he ran his bike up the hill, Kappius and Powlison had flown beyond reach, however he maintained a lead over Gerchar. Next on course were Taylor Carrington in a Feedback Sports kit and Bryan Alders (Marin Bikes Factory Team); they carried on as a duo and eventually passed Gerchar.

As Kappius and Powlison approached the climb leading into the sandpit it seemed the winner would be decided in a sprint to the line. But the presence of a lapped 35+ rider in a corner – that field started a minute or so after the elite pack – became as decisive as that climb.

Powlison later explained what happened. The lapped rider “didn’t understand where he needed to be, so he was on the inside corner where we needed to be riding.” Powlison swung wide around him. “I slipped out because I was in a totally different line than I was accustomed to. I kind of put my knee down then popped back up but Brady passed me and I could never come back after that.

“It’s just really frustrating. I think they need to start pulling lapped riders on the final lap because it’s just pointless. It wouldn’t have made any difference [to the 35+ rider] – there was no one in front of him and no one behind him.”

Spencer Powlison and Brady Kappius climbing out of dip #1

Spencer Powlison and Brady Kappius climbing out of dip #1

Kappius entered the sand first and won. Powlison arrived twelve seconds later. Allen came in third. Alders finished fourth with Carrington next in fifth. Gerchar finished sixth.

Did bad luck alone siphon off Powlison’s chance for a double win weekend, or was it Kappius’ plan for how to shake him? It’s hard to say.

“There were definitely some fast sweepy corners where Spencer was on the edge, taking it a bit faster than I wanted to. So I knew as long as I could stay with him on those that when we got to this last climb I’d be able to try to do something there,” Kappius said. “Unfortunately we got a little bit of lapped 35+ traffic and probably it should have been a little closer at the end…” The veteran Clif Bar rider especially enjoyed winning that day in the presence of his family.

Brady Kappius wins the second Feedback Cup

Brady Kappius wins the second Feedback Cup

Regarding the sandpit, Kappius said he ran it every lap and offered praise for the new obstacle. “It’s sweet. I like having ones that are hard enough that you actually have to think about riding it or not.”

Then he commented on making the decision about dismounting to handle an obstacle. “I think lately I’ve been kind of conservative on my ‘should I ride it or should I run it’ deals; I didn’t even ride the barriers the first lap then I saw I was getting gapped so I went for it again. On those kinds of things, my train of thought is, unless you can do it 99 percent of the time, the amount of time you gain isn’t worth screwing up that one time.”

See the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website for full results from the second edition of the Feedback Cup.

Feedback Cup men's elite podium (l - r): Taylor Carrington 5th, Tim Allen 3rd, Brady Kappius 1st, Spencer Powlison 2nd, Bryan Alders 4th

Feedback Cup men’s elite podium (l – r): Taylor Carrington 5th, Tim Allen 3rd, Brady Kappius 1st, Spencer Powlison 2nd, Bryan Alders 4th

Gallery

Canadian cyclocross championships course snapshots

New Canadian ‘cross champions who will take home maple leaf jerseys on Saturday own their titles for 2015. To get them they need to win on a 3.2 kilometer course with a little bit of everything. The circuit travels through riverside park and a popular entertainment spot called The Forks in Winnipeg.

The start grid sits about 150 meters behind the finish arch, which is on the east side of the course near the new Canadian Museum for human rights.

Kick Cancer Derby corporate team relay race at the finish arch

During the Kick Cancer Derby corporate team relay mates tagged each other at the finish arch

Riders veer right onto grass as they head out, onto gravel, and then back onto grass to ascend then descend a low hill. There’s a couple of off-camber grassy turns here, one of which exits uphill.

Jeremy Durrin pre-rides an off camber section

Jeremy Durrin pre-rides an off camber section

The wrong gear going into the hill after that off -camber U-turn means a dab

The wrong gear going into the hill after that off -camber U-turn means a dab

More grass, barriers, and then a short section of cobblestones precedes a flat open area that houses a double pit. If there’s one theme to this course it’s alternating surfaces. Riders move from grass to thin gravel on to grass to thin gravel. They repeat the formula with short sections of loose dirt on the run-ups, cobbles, pavement, and sand.

Human Rights Museum overlooks the double pit

The new Human Rights Museum overlooks the double pit

The next section flows alongside and in sight of the Red River. A short downhill with roots poking out of soil dips onto a flat section of chalky soil littered with leaves. The run-up that follows is steep; it carries riders up to the main level of the course then dips down to the river in steps.

Short drop down to the Red River

Second short drop down to the Red River

Contestant in the University race approaching the "Abyss"

Contestant in the University race approaching the “Abyss”

The long, very steep run-up dubbed the “Abyss” will get competitors’ hearts pumping faster. Dry as it was on Friday riders easily dug their toes into footholds in the loose soil. If it rains — which it might on Sunday for the C2 Manitoba Grand Prix, it will become really interesting.

Catharine Pendrel on the Abyss run-up during course preview

Catharine Pendrel on the Abyss run-up during course preview

A little thin gravel and concrete later, the course swings right onto loose bark and into 46 meters of sand pit number one. The sand runs a few inches deep here.

Maghalie Rochette scoping out the sand

Maghalie Rochette scoping out the sand

After a U-turn on grass with a set of thick tree trunks, sand pit number two follows. It’s the same length as pit number one. However, the sand feels more compacted here.

Pipe-smoking professor (?) approaches sand pit two

Pipe-smoking professor (?) approaches sand pit two

From the sand a long stone staircase ascends to the heart of The Forks where shops and take-out foods from around the world are located. The custom-made podium rests in this area.

Inlaid stones form the surface in The Forks marketplace where the podium waits

Inlaid stones form the surface in The Forks marketplace where the podium waits

The course turns right around the edge of the marketplace. As it swerves south, cobbles appear. A section of dirt topped with scattered gravel and then grass leads into a small amphitheater where a sweeping curves and a U-turn sit on sloping grass.

Cobblestones, the real thing, in pretty good condition

Cobblestones, the real thing, in pretty good condition

Riders enter the amphitheater on the river side and exit opposite

Riders enter the amphitheater on the river side and exit opposite

A little bit of cobbles, a little bit of grass, and then a little bit of packed service strewn with gravel brings riders back to the start/finish area. Whew.

Cyclo X Valmont tests elite women’s sprinting legs

Catharine Pendrel, Nicole Duke, and Amanda Miller sped off the front early in the elite women's Cyclo X race at Valmont Bike Park

Catharine Pendrel, Nicole Duke, and Amanda Miller sped off the front early in the elite women’s Cyclo X race at Valmont Bike Park

So often at Front Range cyclocross races the winner crosses the finish line alone. The elite women’s Cyclo X series race at Valmont Bike Park on October 19 bucked that trend as Nicole Duke (Marin-Spy) and Boulder Cycle Sport’s Amanda Miller rounded the last turn before the start/finish straight together. About 100 meters of hypoxia stretched before them.

Amanda Miller puts the hurt on Nicole Duke in the sprint for the win at Valmont Bike Park.

Amanda Miller puts the hurt on Nicole Duke in the sprint for the win at Valmont Bike Park.

When the sprint to the line began Miller wasn’t sure how it would end up, she said later. The prior Friday night at Cross of the North thirteen year-old Katie Clouse beat her in a two-up sprint, and that memory had planted a seed of doubt in her mind.

But Miller took the win, her first so far this season as a new member of the formidable black and orange team kitted team. Duke finished right behind her.

Third place Caitlyn Vestal (Feedback Sports) came in 38 seconds later for third, alone. Evol Racing’s Melissa Barker, also solo, arrived in fourth place. Both women are having very strong seasons to-date.

Kate Powlison holds off Kristin Weber in the sprint for fifth at Valmont Bike Park

Kate Powlison holds off Kristin Weber in the sprint for fifth at Valmont Bike Park

Then a group of four took the last corner and stormed toward the finish line, raising a collective plume of dust as they pounded on the pedals in search of fifth place. The group consisted of Kate Powlison and Kristen Legan of Evol Racing, Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport), and Margell Abel (Natural Grocers). Legan dropped off the pace. Powlison proved best of the remaining three, but Weber was right there, back by less than a second.

Gallery

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