PORTLAND, Ore. (VN) — Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com teammates Jeremy Powers and Tim Johnson fought a battle royal for the victory and the U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross crown on Sunday in Oregon, a fight that Powers won by a whisker.
Behind, Ryan Trebon (Kona) won a measure of redemption after being forced out of Saturday’s race by a snapped derailleur, snatching third place from an equally resurgent Todd Wells (Specialized) on day 2 of the Stanley Portland Cup.
It was a fast and furious contest, with the track turned tacky by a weekend of wind scouring Portland International Raceway. And the only way national champion Johnson could have been happier about Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com finishing one-two in the series finale and on the overall was if he had won the race himself.
Indeed, while he was praising his teammate for Sunday’s victory, Johnson was already looking ahead — toward next weekend’s U.S. national championship in Bend.
“That was one of the most fun races,” said Johnson. “The last four laps I think we were going absolutely balls to the wall. I gave everything I had. Jeremy had great legs and he rode a great race.
“Hopefully next week I’ll have better legs. For us to get one-two in the series and come down to a sprint like that is pretty cool.”
Cannondale firing on all cylinders
The Cannondale duo led the men at the start with Trebon hovering nearby. As usual, the Kona rider moved quickly to the front, eager for revenge after Saturday’s disappointment, and gave it the gas. Wells, also hoping for a better showing, followed in second with Johnson third, trailed by series leader Powers, Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) and Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale). The big man had a lot of company as he tried to lay down the law — there was a long Lycra line in his wake.
“He’s got a lot of power and a lot of talent,” Johnson said of Trebon. “He has a skill that I definitely don’t have. He can stand up and drill it and all of a sudden you’re going 5 mph fast than you thought you could. The question is whether or not he can do it in a course that’s twisty and turny like that.”
The Kona man’s pace put Powers into trouble, his face hung with doubt as he trailed off the leaders midway through the lap.
“I was hurting a lot,” he said. “I knew the second we got going, I was like, ‘Ah, man, this is not going to be good.’”
Trebon and Wells got a bit of separation after the motocross rhythm section and run-up, but it didn’t last. Wells and Powers both hopped the barriers, and Wells, Trebon and Johnson led the way through the finish for the first time.
Trebon, Wells and Johnson briefly opened a hint of daylight between themselves and Powers going into the second lap, but soon a five-man lead group formed up as Kabush closed in with a seven-second advantage over a disorganized chase.
Johnson drives the pace
Entering the third lap, with six to go, the leaders’ pace slowed a bit through the finish as Trebon took a moment to rub his left leg. Then Johnson came to the front, getting things rolling again. Kabush bobbled and briefly lost contact with the leaders, and then Johnson punched it, opening a small gap over Trebon and Powers, with Wells fourth and Kabush fifth.
Johnson had five seconds on Trebon at the barriers. Then his teammate Powers got in front of the big man going through the finish with five to go, pursued by Wells and Kabush.
The U.S. champion kept driving, adding to his advantage over Powers and Trebon, riding in and out of the saddle. Then Powers dropped Trebon and closed to within five seconds of his teammate as they snaked through a pair of up-and-down 180s.
“Tim hit it and I went through a moment of doubt and then I just put it together in my head and had to just drag him back,” said Powers.
At the barriers the teammates were together and Johnson led the way through the finish with four laps to go. Behind, Wells and Kabush were reeling Trebon in. It was looking like another bad day at the office for the Kona rider.
“Yesterday I was better. The course today didn’t really suit me,” said Trebon, who goes 6-foot-5-inches. “It’s hard for me to get through there and accelerate out of the turns as well.”
Powers pushes past
Johnson clung to a slight lead over Powers as Trebon fought to stay within sight of the leaders. And then Powers slipped past his teammate and into the lead. Trebon was hovering some six seconds back, trailed by Wells, with Kabush starting to lose ground.
Wells caught Trebon at the 180s, but the Cannondale boys were still well up the track, with Powers showing his strength, taking a gap as the two hit the motocross section and run-up.
Once again he rode the barriers as Johnson ran, and the two were just a bike length apart as they hit the finish with three laps to go. Wells moved into the third spot with three laps to go, Kabush looking downward, an ominous sign.
Johnson kept his teammate within a few bike lengths, while Wells hovered some six seconds back and Trebon fought to stay in contact four seconds further behind. Once again Powers padded his advantage on the run-up, but Johnson remained within striking distance.
Two laps to go and Johnson was just two seconds back. Wells was a solid third, five seconds in front of Trebon. Nobody was giving up, but it was settling down to a two-man race for the race win and the overall title.
A two-man tussle
Then Powers bobbled and Johnson caught him at the run-up — and it really was a two-man race. Powers rode the barriers, Johnson ran them, and neither man had a clear advantage as they got the bell lap.
“The last 25 minutes was just lightning fast,” said Johnson. “We gave everything we had to get around the course without crashing into trees and stakes and sliding out in the mud. It was pretty much full throttle the entire time.”
Behind, Trebon was nearly back on terms with Wells going through the finish, setting up another two-way tussle for the lower step on the podium.
“I thought he was gone,” said Wells. “I don’t know what happened; I must have lost some power with two laps to go because on the last lap after the pavement he caught me.”
With a half lap to race the Cannondale men were locked together, Powers in the front. The series leader took a slight edge going into the 180s, but the national champion clawed his way back onto Powers’ wheel. Meanwhile, Trebon slipped past Wells and into third position.
“I just had to get in front of him coming into the last lap and into the first set of pits,” said Trebon. “If he have gotten to the barriers in front of me, him hopping them, me running them, he would have definitely won the sprint.”
Powers hit the run first, Johnson closed, but then Powers rode away from him on the descent as he had all day. It was full gas going into the corners and toward the final trip over the hurdles.
Again Powers rode the barriers, but Johnson gave no ground.
A wing and a prayer
“‘Please God, don’t crash.’ That is what I was thinking,” said Powers. “That would have been perfect. I would have really set myself up for that VeloNews article that I did where I said bunny-hopping is fine. If I eat it at the most important moment of the season, that wouldn’t have been that great.”
Powers drilled it going onto the pavement and Johnson finally could not answer. It was Powers taking the win and the overall USGP title.
“I caught up to him and we were basically side by side and I had the decision whether or not to go on the inside or the outside,” said Johnson. “I chose to go on the outside, hoping that I could get into my pedals quickly and get going, but you turned right, you were on the pavement and before you know it, you were at the finish line. I just didn’t have the speed to get around him and it was a clear win.”
Seconds later, it was the runner outfoxing the bunny-hopper — Wells rode the barriers, Trebon ran them, and the big Kona rider came away with something to smile about after Saturday’s disappointment, sprinting in the saddle into third place on the day.
“Trebon’s a good sprinter and I wasn’t going to close that 10 feet and then some,” said Wells.
Johnson was disappointed to miss out on the race and series wins, but was happy to see his teammate – and roommate – wrap up his second weekend sweep in as many weeks.
“That’s what you ask for, the two of us to finish one-two like it was today and in the overall, like it was all season long, passing the jersey back and forth,” he said. “It’s bittersweet for me because I’m not wearing the jersey, but it’s a great thing because I couldn’t ask for someone better to be wearing it than Jeremy right now.”
Powers crossed the line with his familiar right fist pumped in the air over a hunched frame.
“This was a very special moment,” he said. “To be able to put my name on this list of people who have won the USGP, it feels really great and I’m super psyched to be able to bring it home.”
- Danny Summerhill (Holowesko Partners) took a sprint over Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus) in the U23 category after the pair battled in a five-rider group much of the day. Of the large, unruly group, Summerhill said: “To be honest, it was Zach and me not messing around, but watching each other. When somebody would go, everybody else would wait for Zach or me to chase it.”
- Wells’ fourth-place finish earned him third for the USGP overall. Wells earned the podium spot without winning a series event in 2010.
- 1. Jeremy Powers, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com, 57:46
- 2. Timothy Johnson, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com, at 0:01
- 3. Ryan Trebon, Kona, at 0:28
- 4. Todd Wells, Specialized, at 0:33
- 5. Geoff Kabush, Team Maxxis-Rocky Mount, at 1:21
Editor’s Note: Brian Holcombe is a reporter with VeloNews. He covers all things racing in the U.S. and has been accused of attacking too much on the VN lunch ride.
— Online editor at large Patrick O’Grady contributed to this report.