Danny Summerhill (Garmin-Transitions) and Cody Kaiser (Cal Giant) earned the U23 and Junior 17-18 national titles as the next generation of American cyclocross was featured on a muddy course in Bend, Oregon, on Saturday. Four master men’s titles were also awarded on the penultimate day of racing at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships.
Temperatures warmed into the forties around Bend’s Old Mill District causing treacherously slippery course conditions as the early week snow and ice turned to mud in time for the mid-day U23 national championship.
Garmin-Transitions rider, Daniel Summerhill solidified his spot on the U23 U.S. cyclocross world championship team by winning the title on Saturday, but it wasn’t easy.
Moving up age classes after a stellar silver medal showing in last year’s 17-18 contest Luke Keough (Champion Systems) grabbed the hole shot just ahead of Summerhill and mountain bike pro Chance Noble (Cal Giant), who powered his way up from the fourth row.
With last year’s junior national champion Zach McDonald (Stevens Classic Cycle) out of contention due to a mechanical, the three leaders rode together out front for the early part of the race. It wasn’t until the start of the third lap that Keough fell off pace after a bobble on the off camber downhill on the back side of the course. Noble was able to stay with Summerhill for the next few laps but ultimately fell off the pace of the former world junior championship silver medalist, settling for second in the U23 contest.
“It was definitely different than I ever expected. The people up there in the first lap were not the people I expected to see there,” said Summerhill. “Chance (Noble) rode amazingly. I hadn’t seen anything like that from him in a long time. Riding lap after lap with him made me really nervous. He was riding phenomenally. He had the corners way better than I did. I had so many nerves coming into this race my legs didn’t feel too great at all.”
Once Summerhill was able to settle his nerves and get into the race, he opened up a considerable gap on Noble. As the last couple of laps wound down, Summerhill stretched out his lead and was able to roll through the finishing stretch with his hands held high.
“Once I got a couple laps closer to the finish I started to get a bit more confident and loose with the corners,” said Summerhill.
The next stop is the U23 cyclocross world championships at Tábor in the Czech Republic. On winning the U23 national championships, he said, “It sets me up well (for the world championships). But if anyone has any tips or advice for how to calm the nerves down feel free to shoot me an email because I think nerves are my worst enemy. I woke up too early this morning. Saturday didn’t come soon enough.”
In the 17-18 division, it was another classic battle of 1-2-3 as Skyler Trujillo (Black Sheep) grabbed the hole shot with Jeff Bahnson (Thule-Vandessel) and Kaiser quickly latching on to his wheel.
The 2008 15-16 national champion, Bahnson put the pressure on early and built a five second gap, but by the third lap Kaiser was able to pull away for the nearly 50 second victory. That left Bahnson and Trujillo to battle it out for the silver going into the final turn where the Delaware native got the best of the Rocky Mountain rider. Chris Wallace (KCCX-Verge) grabbed fourth before John Burton (Joy Ride Bikes) won a sprint to the finish to grab the final podium spot.
“It was a good battle between Bahnson, Trujillo and myself,” said Kaiser. “It was slick out there so it really came down to who made the least mistakes.”
Colorado boys Grant Berry (Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory), Matt Pacocha (Hudz-Subaru) and Jake Wells (Mafia Racing) got out front quickly in the 30-34 contest. Wells was chased out of the lead group halfway through the race, leaving Pacocha and Berry to fight it out for the next few laps until Berry was able to open a 20-second gap when Pacocha made a few decisive mistakes.
“I was trying to race clean and see how it was going to play out,” said Pacocha, test editor for VeloNews. “Things were cooling off so late in the day and the grass was really freezing up, making it really slippery. I had a little crash and he was able to get away.”
After a disappointing season, Boulder, Colorado’s Jonathan Baker (Hudz-Subaru) finally turned things around and earned the masters 35-39 U.S. national cyclocross title. It was a close race all the way until the last lap between the USGP masters 35+ series leader, Ali Goulet (Church of the Big Ring), Justin Robinson (California Giant) and Brandon Dwight (Boulder Cycle Sport).
From the gun, Goulet attacked the field, distancing himself from everyone for the first few laps of the race. Slowly, Dwight and Robinson bridged their way up to the rider from Salt Lake City, Utah. The three spent the rest of the race attacking each other. Dwight had several mishaps, including at least two crashes and a flat tire nearby the bike pit. Meanwhile, Baker worked his way through a dense field after a bad start from the fourth row.
“I started fourth row so I had to pick my way through everybody. By the time I got to the front the leaders already had a big gap.”
With just two laps to go, all bets were on Goulet, Dwight, and Robinson. Quietly cranking his way up, Baker joined the leaders with a lap to go. Once he joined them, he took no hesitation before quickly riding away.
“I just kept on the gas and kept smooth,” said Baker. “I tried not to make any mistakes. As soon as I got there everybody started having problems. I just got to the front and hammered the last lap. Robinson was hanging tough though.”
“I was shooting for a top ten because my season hasn’t been that great this year. So this is a bit of redemption. I had a great support squad and mechanics with my Hudz-Subaru team. I crashed once but I didn’t lose much time and I had no mechanicals.”
After a successful USGP campaign, Goulet had to settle for third on the day to Robinson, with Dwight finishing fourth. “I wasn’t going outside of my zone,” said Goulet. “We were putting in efforts at the front and I think Baker was just going steady. When he got to us he just went full gas.”