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Dwight and Webber among multiple Boulder 2015 cyclocross champions

Brandon Dwight wins men's 40 - 44 national cyclocross championship

Brandon Dwight wins the 2015 men’s 40 – 44 national cyclocross championship

Sometimes they seem inseparable. In local cyclocross races Boulder Cycle Sport teammates Brandon Dwight and Pete Webber will speed through laps with one latched onto the other’s wheel, either as a pair or part of a larger group.

“I like racing with Pete because he’s a great teammate and we work well together,” Dwight said. “We’ve been in many races where we’ve been able to work as teammates to break away from other racers.”

During national championships they would also plan to work together when competing in the same master’s category. However according to Dwight, if that plan panned out, in the last couple of laps the strongest man was free to chase the win.

At the last four editions of cyclocross nationals, they both raced in the 40 to 44 category. Webber won three times and Dwight once. They finished one-two twice.

This year they both had the chance to win because they raced in different categories; while Dwight remained in the 40 to 44 group, Webber had aged into the 45 to 49 category. The two competitions ran back-to-back on day three of nationals; each won his race.

With Kristin Weber’s first place result the day before in the women’s 40 to 44 category, Boulder Cycle Sport netted three championship titles. It was the most ever in a single year for a team that has captured at least one title for the last eight years.

“It feels really good to help lead a team that can put together a string of performances like that,” Webber said after his victory. “We definitely motivated each other. I felt like what Kristin did yesterday set the stage for Brandon and I to drop the hammer today and set the stage for other riders from Boulder.”

Other riders, like Kate Powlison (Evol Racing) for example. She won the women’s 30 to 34 race the morning of Dwight and Webber’s successes. In fact Boulder riders claimed 50% of the masters gold medals on offer that day and others raced to top five results.

Webber attributed Boulder riders’ medal take to a weekly group ride during the cyclocross season that he has led for about 22 years. Powlison, Weber, and Dwight take part in it.

“We all do Wednesday Worlds together every Wednesday in Boulder and have for many years. That makes a huge difference and you can tell by when we crush it like this. How do we get so fast? It’s group training like that. It’s just a good group of friends from beginners to pros and we all hammer and have fun and it produces some really fast racers and countless national champions.”

However, national champion Dwight doesn’t mind racing with strangers from time to time.

“Truth be told,” he said, “these days Pete is a much stronger rider than I am. So I was glad to not have to deal with him this year!”

Pete Webber wins 44 - 49 2015 national cyclocross championship, his fifth national title

Pete Webber wins 44 – 49 2015 national cyclocross championship, his fifth national title

Gallery (more to come)

A dash of beauty and a dollop of heartbreak. Cyclocross racing does not discriminate.

Kristin Weber: mom, athlete, friend, and the new US masters 40 to 44 cyclocross champion

Kristin Weber: mom, athlete, friend, and the new US masters 40 to 44 cyclocross champion in Austin. “I got lucky today.”

After a dream season last year Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport) seemed practically destined – or as close as you can get to that promise in cyclocross – to become a national cyclocross champion in her age group. She started the masters 40 to 44 title race in Boulder, Colorado as the state’s best elite amateur woman cyclist based on her winning results in the season-long Colorado Cross Cup competition.

Then the vision of raised arms at the finish line, buoyed by roaring cheers from the crowd that included family from Michigan, faded on course at Valmont Bike Park. It wasn’t her day after all. Due to the stress and fatigue of caring for sick children in the days leading into the race and other factors, she finished sixth, just off the podium for the top five.

Meanwhile Melissa Barker (Evol Racing) had found her groove in the masters 35 to 39 title race in Boulder. She placed second, a great result in a talented national field after a cyclocross season with nary a win.

Now one year later in 2015, as these two women straddled their bikes in Austin, Texas on the front row of the starting masters 40 to 44 field that would yield the next national champion, Weber and Barker’s roles had reversed.

Melissa Barker on the start line in Austin and yes, that's some Colorado photo-bomb humor in the third row

Melissa Barker (center) and Kristal Boni (right) on the start line in Austin and yes, that’s some Colorado photo-bomb humor in the third row

The Boulder Cycle Sport rider’s results had improved as the season wound down, but fell short of last year’s take and Barker’s winning haul which made the Evol rider the new Colorado Cross Cup champion. On the start line in Austin, Barker was the new heir apparent of the destined win. She took the hole shot and the two Colorado women quickly outdistanced the field together.

Barker led into lap two with Weber trailing by several seconds.

In lap three Weber led with Barker on her wheel.

Then things fell apart for Barker in laps four and five and Weber gained a twenty second lead.

“I was right on Weber’s wheel, feeling pretty good. And then within a couple of minutes all of a sudden my legs kind of exploded. I had trouble even walking, physically getting up the stairs. Then I got back on [the bike] and could hardly move my legs,” Barker later recounted.

“It was everything I could do to actually finish the race. I’ve never had that happen in a ‘cross race.”

Ahead of her, one year off schedule, Weber raised her arms skyward at the finish line and became the new national champion in her age group.

“I really believe with nationals there is an element of luck. As a parent, my kids were sick last year, and I crashed, and I was on antibiotics. There were a number of things that were not lucky on the day,” Weber explained after the race in Austin.

“Today I went into it and I was feeling kind of lucky – I had inklings of it when I was warming up because I could feel there were a couple extra gears in my legs that I haven’t had in a while and I was just very hopeful that it would show up in the race. There were some moments when I could tell I had a little something extra today. I just patiently waited and then when I got a little gap I went for it. I got lucky.”

Barker finished second. “I’m exhausted from being back in school teaching. That’s not an excuse…it just didn’t come together for me today. I was less nervous than I was last year. I felt good, excited to race, but my body just didn’t really cooperate…My legs didn’t feel great warming up. And usually that happens to me and then they come around in the race; they never really came around today,” Barker said.

“Definitely I was hoping that this might be my year. I was second last year, I was second at worlds. I’ve had a lot of seconds in my time. Yea, I wanted it, for sure, and was feeling fairly confident that I had a shot at it…But I was second, so I’m psyched about that. Looking back on my season, I’m really proud of my best all-around rider result, the Cross Cup.”

After the race Weber acknowledged the talent in the field, especially in the women she races against every weekend during the cyclocross season in Colorado. That includes not only Barker, but third place on the day Kristal Boni (Rapid Racing).

“We are all really good friends. I think we all inspire each other to be faster and better and it’s such an awesome community that we are a part of. On any given day any one of those women could win and that’s what I love about the sport.”

Race action

Fast starters. Melissa Barker, right, takes the hole shot.

Fast starters. Melissa Barker, right, takes the hole shot in Austin at ‘cross nationals.

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Kristin Weber at the front of the early leader's group in lap 1 on the short limestone stairs

Kristin Weber at the front of the early leader’s group in lap 1 on the short limestone stairs in Zilker Park

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Melissa Barker has a gap on Kristin Weber at the beginning of lap two

Melissa Barker has a gap on Kristin Weber at the beginning of lap two

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Kristin Weber takes the lead in lap three

Kristin Weber takes the lead in lap three

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In lap 4, Kelly Goodwin threatened Kristal Boni's third place

In lap 4, Kelly Goodwin threatened Kristal Boni’s (foreground) third place

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Melissa Barker passes a lapped rider while chasing Kristin Weber in lap four

Melissa Barker passes a lapped rider while chasing Kristin Weber in lap four

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Photo gallery (more to come)

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

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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

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