More than 500 competitors opened the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships on Thursday in Bend, Oregon, in conditions no less than 100 degrees cooler than when the USA Cycling National Road Championships took place in Bend last July. Things warmed up to nearly freezing however before five national titles were awarded in the 55 and over master men’s age divisions on the first of four days of competition.
In the day’s first national title race, reigning national champion Gary Thacker (Louisville, Colorado/Chipotle/Titus) found himself in a fierce battle with Paul Curley (Taunton, Massachusetts./Gearworks-Spinarts), who fought his way up from the fourth row to win the 55-59 men’s national title. Curley, himself a 23-time national champ across multiple disciplines, came on strong late in the race to take out Thacker by a mere 17 seconds. Terrell Knight, Michael Longmire (Missoula, Montana/Northern Rockies) and Randy Silva (Albuquerque, New Mexico/Knob Hill Velo) rounded out the podium.
“The course was very technically challenging, but a lot of fun. I was looking forward to the next lap each time. It definitely favors those who have done this before,” said Curley. “Conditions are actually very similar in New England where we’re lucky to have a lot of great races and competition. There will be a lot more jerseys going back East before the competition is over.”
The “grand master” 60+ race saw more than 40 riders from 60-76 years-of-age take to the start with national championship age divisions separated by 30-second increments. Dan Norton (Ronald, Washington) was the first man across the line, winning the 60-64 division. For the second time on the day, the reigning champion, Phil Bannister (Putney, Vermont), was ousted as Norton blazed the course and took the victory by well over a minute.
“I knew there were some very good riders in my division so I just went out hard,” explained Norton. “In all it was a good course, good crowd and I’m happy.”
Bannister went on to skillfully out sprint bronze-medalist John Elgart (Sacramento, California/Webcor-Alto Velo) to wrap up the silver in the 60-64 division.
Ten 65-69 year-olds followed 30 seconds later, putting it all on the line for the stars-and-stripes. James Wagner (Auburn, Washington/Cycle Therapy 4 Corners), Robert Llamas (Montrose, California/Montrose Bike Shop) and Rob Lea (Taneytown, Maryland/TEAM Fuji) finished one-two-three in the day’s third set of medals. Wagner outpaced his group by more than a minute to win the national title.
Joe Salig (Bridgewater, New Jersey/Somerset Van Dessel) earned the 70-74 victory less than 30 seconds ahead of Erik Nordenson (Moab, Utah), while the contest’s oldest racer, Walt Axthelm (Durango, Colorado/DCCX) repeated his 2008 victory in the 75-79 category.
Hundreds of additional riders contested the expert course in the day’s earlier non-national championship “B”races.
The USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships will continue Friday, with riders in both junior and masters men’s and women’s categories fighting for their shot at a national title.
As a part of a testing demonstration, MyLaps Sports Timing ChipX timing system will be providing unofficial, immediate results for Friday afternoon’s masters races via the USA Cycling Web site.