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Maureen Bruno Roy and Justin Lindine win the 2015 singlespeed US cyclocross championships

[updated 1/13/2015]

The first championship races at the 2015 USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships in Austin’s Zilker Park delivered two winners who dominated from the opening lap on a dry course.

Maureen Bruno Roy (Bob’s Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles) and Justin Lindine (Team Redline) captured the singlespeed titles on a course that played out as more complex and challenging than it appeared on paper and in a preliminary preview video completed before the course tape went up.

Women's 2015 singlespeed US cyclocross championships top five

Women’s 2015 singlespeed US cyclocross championships top five (l – r): Blatt 4th, Cutler 2nd, Bruno Roy 1st, Sherrill 3rd, Seib 5th

Women’s top three the same as 2014 but reshuffled

Last year Bruno Roy won the title by conquering muddy, icy conditions in Boulder. Now one year later she lined up feeling the weight of expectations for a repeat performance.

Speaking after the finish, she said, “I’m happy. It’s hard when you come back to defend a race that you’re supposed to win. It’s definitely a little bit of pressure, so it’s nice when things work out well.”

Early on Jessica Cutler (Market Street Cycling Club) threatened Bruno Roy’s chances with a strong performance of her own. Cutler finished third last year.

Mo Bruno Roy tackles the uneven long limestone steps in Zilker Park

Mo Bruno Roy tackles the uneven long limestone steps in Zilker Park

“Jessica Cutler was like ten, eight seconds behind me for the first couple laps. So I did not go easy,” Bruno Roy said. “She kept me honest for sure.” Headwinds also challenged Bruno Roy and the field whenever they pointed their bikes northeast.

Colorado’s Rebecca Blatt (Van Dessel Factory Team) finished fourth after moving up from about tenth on course in the opening laps.

When asked how the course fit the singlespeed effort, Blatt commented, “I felt like it was very punchy. And it’s the first time I really raced singlespeed with women so I really didn’t know what gearing to use. I actually talked to Mo [Bruno Roy] and Craig Etheridge (Raleigh Clement’s singlespeed racer – ed.) ahead of time to get some ideas. It’s one that you need to gear down for a little bit because there is so much punchiness to it. You’re going to be a little under-geared at the start and maybe get dropped a little bit, but I think in the end with all the steep turns and 180’s you need a smaller gear. But it was fun. It always kept you on your toes.”

Bruno Roy thought the course design made for a “great” singlespeed course. “It’s pretty technical and there’s not a lot of places to rest…you are just pushing, pushing, pushing. Maybe on a flat section coming through the start I was spinning out pretty hard – and that’s your rest.”

Rebecca Blatt third on course in Zilker Park

Rebecca Blatt third on course in Zilker Park

Blatt didn’t find much rest either. She had charged into third position mid-race, but a surging Ellen Sherrill (Voler/HRS/Rock Lobster) set her back one place.

Even Sherrill, who came in second in 2014, couldn’t make contact with Cutler who finished forty seconds after Roy and just under a minute before Sherrill. Junior Melissa Seib (Bikeman.com), age 16 according to the race announcer, outfoxed dozens of more senior riders and came in fifth.

Men's 2015 singlespeed US cyclocross championships top five

Men’s 2015 singlespeed US cyclocross championships top five (l-r): Uhl 4th, Neff 2nd, Lindine 1st, Allen 3rd, Heithecker 5th

Tim Allen comes third in the final sprint from chase group of four

Lindine found his result a bit of a surprise, but energizing. It was just his second singlespeed ‘cross race, though he shreds for play on a one-geared mountain bike.

Justin Lindine blasted off the front and stayed there to become the new singlespeed champion

Justin Lindine blasted off the front and stayed there to become the new singlespeed champion

“I did singlespeed cyclocross worlds (in October – ed.) and then this. So I didn’t entirely know what to expect. I spend a lot of time on my mountain bike singlespeed – just riding, not so much racing. So I was optimistic,” Lindine said.

“But against a stacked group of guys who have won national championships before, and a bunch of unknown quantities too, like Tristan [Uhl], and then Adam [Myerson], and guys who haven’t raced singlespeed before but wanted to try it – I’m psyched [to win].”

As the massive field strung out over the course, a chase group of four solidified behind Lindine. It contained last year’s winner Tim Allen (Feedback Sports), Isaac Neff (5Nines/Motorless Motion), Austin’s Tristan Uhl (787 Racing), and Troy Heithecker (Roosters/Biker’s Edge-UT). Neff placed third in 2013.

“It was a bike race. We were battling the whole time, throwing elbows, making moves,” Allen later recounted. “It was quite the battle. It was awesome. We were having a blast and spectators, fans, were yelling at us. There was a local guy in the group, Tristan [Uhl], so that made it really exciting because that’s all I could hear, was ‘Tristan!’ He was the crowd favorite. So being with him we just had so much energy from the crowd. It was cool.

Tim Allen on the limestone stairs

Tim Allen on the limestone stairs

“I was just glad that I had the legs and was even able to race.” In mid-December Allen was injured at the Colorado state cyclocross championships and pulled out of the elite race. His badly bruised leg is still black and blue, but he’s comfortable on the bike.

The strong winds that buffeted the women an hour earlier continued into the men’s race. “The wind killed me,” the slight Allen said. “So it was not my cup of tea, but it was fun, a great course design and really good atmosphere.” While new to singlespeed cyclocross last year, Allen has an 11 year history of singlespeed mountain bike competition that encompasses world championship events in Europe.

Unlike Bruno Roy, Allen said he didn’t feel the pressure of a defending champion. “I wanted to win, but I want to win every race I enter. For me just because it’s a national championship, I don’t do anything different. It’s just another bike race.

“It’s comforting to be number one with 153 guys in the field; that was nice to be on the front. But when I’m out there racing I don’t really think, ‘Oh I have to win or my sponsors are going to drop me,’ or something [like that]. I just do my thing and have fun.” (only 135 riders started out of the 150-plus registrants – ed.)

Video scenes from the women’s race

Video scenes from the men’s race

Gallery (more to come)

2015 Cyclocross national championships: singlespeed speculation

Brady Kappius holds onto second at the single speed national championship finish

Brady Kappius holds onto second at the 2014 singlespeed national championships

[updated 1/7/2015]

You could claim it doesn’t make any sense. And you’d be right. Bikes have lots of gears, and so many people say, “Racing with just one gear is totally illogical.” That’s probably why singlespeed enjoys a “fringe” status within cyclocross. Climbing a steep hill in one hard gear might be another reason.

But at least 189 athletes think singlespeed cyclocross racing is legitimate enough to register and race for a US national title in the single-geared contest tomorrow at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas. In fact, based on the counts of registered riders on the USA Cycling website for each category of competition at cyclocross nationals, the men’s singlespeed group tops the list with 151 racers. That number exceeds the last three years’ field sizes. The 2015 women’s field of 38 is more than double the 2014 field.

One possible reason for that growth is the new for 2015 USAC rule that prevents riders from reaching for medals in both their masters age group and the elite categories. Riders can race in two championship competitions this year by tackling the singlespeed and elite categories. Tomorrow’s singlespeed races will be the first championship battles over five days of the national competition.

However, given the growth in the size of singlespeed fields here on the Front Range in Colorado, something else must attract riders to the challenge. Some enjoy the live or die choice of gear size they make based on the course conditions. Others like the test of their bike handling skills – finding out how much speed they can carry through corners, for example.

But fundamentally – at least from an observer’s perspective, singlespeeders have more fun. Whether it’s because they are good bike handlers or again trying to maintain speed, they’re more likely to bunny-hop barriers. They’re more likely to throw tricks if there’s a place to catch a decent amount of air. The wacky costumes some race in (Adam Craig raced in jean cut-offs in 2013 and won) and enough tattoo sleeves to employ an ink master for a year create a colorful atmosphere that excites spectators and hence makes suffering even more fun.

All that said, vying for a medal is of course serious business too. Here’s a look at those who might podium tomorrow while having a great time. For the past three years’ top five finishers, check the charts below. Find registered riders here.

Mo Bruno Roy on the 5280 Stairs at Valmont Bike Park

Mo Bruno Roy on the 5280 Stairs at Valmont Bike Park

Singlespeed divas

Maureen Bruno Roy (Bob’s Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles). Winner of October’s Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championships and last year’s national title, Bruno Roy will be tough to beat. She’s built up solid miles of singlespeed experience to handle varied conditions and has raced well recently.

Ellen Sherrill, 2nd in 2014 in Boulder

Ellen Sherrill, 2nd in 2014 in Boulder

Ellen Sherrill (Voler/HRS/Rock Lobster). Sherrill placed second in 2014 and fifth in 2013. She very nearly won the 2012 Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championships, finishing second. Any woman who, like Sherrill, can through-hike the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail will be a tough competitor.

Jessica Cutler (Market Street Cycling Club). Perhaps all we need to know about Cutler is the outcome of a December 14th race called Kringle Kross; she won in the men’s mixed singlespeed category. She’s also earned several top 3s in UCI elite races this season and finished third in singlespeed at nationals last year.

In any ‘cross race the five podium spots could fall into many deserving hands, especially if the weather is bad. Additional women who could be there include Coloradoans Kristal Boni (Rapid Racing) and Rebecca Blatt (Van Dessel Factory Team). The absence of Ellen Noble (JAM Fund/NCC), fifth in 2014 and second in 2013, should open up the race as well.

Place 2014 2013 2012
1 Maureen Bruno Roy Kari Studley Kari Studley
2 Ellen Sherrill Ellen Noble Meghan Korol
3 Jessica Cutler Amber Markey Lauri Webber
4 Amanda Nauman Katrina Dowidchuk Nicole Borem
5 Ellen Noble Ellen Sherrill Jennifer Maxwell

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Singlespeed dudes

Tim Allen wins Altitude Adjustment Cross single speed day 1

Tim Allen wins Altitude Adjustment Cross singlespeed day 1

Tim Allen (Feedback Sports), last year’s champion. Allen returns after a resounding win in 2014 when he assembled his one-geared cyclocross bike just days before the race. The flatter and what seems to be a less technical course in Austin compared to the 2014 design in Boulder is less favorable for him. But messy weather or slippery off-camber corners could change that.

Brady Kappius (CLIF Bar). The distinctively lanky Kappius just won’t give up until he wins this event. He finished second last year and fifth in 2012. A mechanical took him out of the race early in 2013. Based on his performance in the elite multi-geared race at the Colorado state championships in December, he’s fit. Like Allen, he’s better suited to more technical courses. He’s optimistic even so. “If it is pretty dry it can get slick, but it’s not as ideal [for me] as Boulder last year!” he wrote in a message. “Looks like some good twists and turns. It should be fun no matter what.”

Craig Etheridge in Madison, Wisconsin at the 2013 nationals

Craig Etheridge in Madison, Wisconsin at the 2013 nationals

Craig Etheridge (Raleigh Clement). Easily recognizable in civies due to his ginger hair, this north-westerner hasn’t placed in the top five in the last two years (he didn’t enter the race in 2012). However his singlespeed results this season through December have been stellar with multiple wins on the USAC Pro CX circuit. This could be his year to pull on a championship jersey.

Justin Lindine (Team Redline). The USAC prediction system scores Lindine as most likely to win. Based on the races reported at crossresults.com, he’s not a frequent singlespeeder, though he did enter this year’s Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championships in late October. Is he a threat to the three men above even though some argue the prediction system isn’t the ideal way to select a favorite? Yes. He’s placed top three in his last trio of elite races, including second on day one at Resolution Cross Cup in Dallas last weekend. So he’s going well. And while he owns ten years of mountain biking singlespeed history, Allen didn’t have loads of cyclocross singlespeed experience in his legs when he won in Boulder.

A number of other guys should shape the race as well. Take into account Coloradoans Colby Pearce (Single Barrel CX), J.J. Clark, and Dan Porter (First City Cycling Team), as well as Adam Myerson (Astellas Cycling Team), Isaac Neff (5Nines/Motorless Motion) who was third in 2013, and local riders who will feed off the Texas fan frenzy.

Place 2014 2013 2012
1 Tim Allen Adam Craig Aaron Bradford
2 Brady Kappius Aaron Bradford JT Fountain
3 Corey Stelljes Isaac Neff Michael Gaertner
4 William Iaia Jared Nieters Scott Chapin
5 Colby Pearce Adam Myerson Brady Kappius

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For ProVéloPassion coverage of singlespeed national championships from 2012 to 2014, see these stories:

2012: “Course tape ruins Colorado Champ’s run at singlespeed cycocross national title

2013: “Craig and Kappius: single speed ‘cross nationals strategies and steeds

2013: “Singlespeed ‘cross nationals sweet for Adam Craig, sour for Brady Kappius

2014: “Singlespeed medals and mayhem at cyclocross nationals

2014: “Tim Allen, the likely unlikely 2014 singlespeed cyclocross national champion

 

 

Urban Denver venues diversify cyclocross

The cry of an urban cyclocross warrior

The cry of an urban cyclocross warrior

Two cyclocross races staged by DMM Solutions and Events this fall in Denver, Colorado jogged through gritty city locations instead of a green park or suburban field laced with tall grass.

Mile High Urban CX Chaos (MUCCY) transpired at a construction site. The Stadium Arena and Hall at the National Western Complex adjacent to I-70 hosted Cowboy Cross; some might call it ranch ‘cross, but it took place in the city, so let’s classify it as urban ‘cross too.

Nic Handy rolls past the stock-pens at the National Western Complex

Nic Handy rolls past stock-pen fencing at the National Western Complex in Denver

The venues offered differing course material: MUCCY rolled entirely outdoors, while much of Cowboy Cross wound through an indoor dirt arena that normally welcomes bucking broncos and across concrete-floored holding areas for livestock that are full during January’s annual Stock Show. The course also traversed an asphalt parking lot and gravel embankment.

Tim Allen crosses the MUCCY pipes

Tim Allen crosses the MUCCY pipes

Aside from their urban location, the two events had a couple of characteristics in common. One is the use of obstacles that don’t appear on your typical cyclocross course, like livestock fencing and pipes.

Just past one liquor hand-up corner that marked the end of pavement, multiple pipe crossings littered the MUCCY course and led riders to the main obstacles: run-ups and drop-offs along the sides of steeply pitched dirt piles and a ditch that awaits a building foundation. A shipping container and human-sized graffiti scrawl across a wall added industrial decorative touches.

Grafitti wall

“This diabolical course is not your average ‘cross course. It is VERY technical and that’s why I like it,” Tim Allen (Feedback Sports) noted by email.

Allen decided tackling the course’s hiccups would be more fun on a mountain bike for the open race at MUCCY. “There were stairs that I was able to ride up and down, and other gnarly obstacles including curbs, wooden ramps, steel pipes, mud, mud, more mud, sand and snow! Not to mention some crazy steep off-camber and mandatory run-ups!”

Approaching the MUCCY drop-off with a fine view of downtown Denver

Approaching the MUCCY drop-off with a fine view of downtown Denver

At Cowboy Cross racers carved turns around stock-pen fencing and hay carts. They zig-zagged under the arena stadium-style seating.

Both venues offered the traditional sand pit obstacle. The one positioned in the arena at Cowboy Cross may have been the deepest riders would see during the ‘cross season.

The atypical challenges transformed these urban cyclocross into a wackier kind of competition for riders and spectators. Allen, who won the men’s open race for the third year in a row at MUCCY and the single speed match earlier in the day, explains.

“My favorite part of this race is the atmosphere. It’s not a serious ‘points’ race, so lots of the fast guys don’t show up (unfortunately). This race also encourages (almost forces) hand-ups. There were several shots of whiskey and Lagunitas IPA available and the spectators were in top form!”

Enjoying the atmosphere at MUCCY

Enjoying the atmosphere at MUCCY

DMM Solutions and Events scheduled an adaptive cycling class for both races. At MUCCY, The atmosphere became inspiring when the hand cyclists took the start line.

Hand cyclists’ rigs sit low to the ground, run on three wheels, and weigh-in heavier than their two wheeled cousins. Consequently, deep sand or loose dirt bog down these riders more easily. At MUCCY kids were eager to help them negotiate those surfaces.

With the kids’ help and on their own steam, the hand cyclists covered almost the same course as the other riders.

Assisting a hand cyclist out of the construction pit at MUCCY

Assisting a hand cyclist out of the construction pit at MUCCY

Celebrating the end of a great day: Deirdre Moynihan of DMM Solutions and Events shares a laugh with Tim Allen

Celebrating the end of a great day: Deirdre Moynihan of DMM Solutions and Events shares a laugh with Tim Allen

A practical urban cyclocross medal

A practical urban cyclocross medal

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

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