The Belgian put on a show of dominance for the relatively small crowd that braved the cold rain to watch the race in person — and for the rest of the field of pros, who saw what a two-time world champion can do in difficult conditions.
After taking a break for the women’s race the rain returned with a vengeance for the second race in the Exergy U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross series. It was good news for riders known for their skills in the mud, including Wellens and European-based American Jon Page, who took second on the day.
“I was laughing to myself when it was raining really, really hard this morning,” Page said.
Another celebrated mudder, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com’s Tim Johnson, crashed on the first lap and hurt his right shin. He dropped out on the next lap.
The course was well-soaked by mid-morning Sunday, with the heaviest rain, thunder and even a brief hail storm hitting during the Masters race that preceded the pro women. Officials were keeping an eye out for lightning and possible funnel clouds that were mentioned in one forecast. Neither materialized near the race venue.
The rain picked up again as the men staged; during the race it stopped and started several times, with a rainbow rising behind the pits for much of the race.
Wellens’ Telenet-Fideo teammate Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) grabbed the hole shot followed by Page (Planet Bike-Blue Bicycles) and Christian Heule (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com). Saturday’s winner Ryan Trebon (LTS-Felt) was well back in the bunch in the early going.
Page soon slipped into second place, just behind Peeters, with Heule sitting third. Trebon was in sixth with Wellens to keep him company.
Going through the start-finish with four laps to go Wellens and Peeters had separated themselves from the others, and Trebon was leading the chase. The pace popped Page off the back, but Heule stuck with Trebon.
Wellens comes on
Wellens later said he had difficulty finding a tempo for the first lap or two, but then settled into a steady pace.
“I could just go one tempo, but that tempo was fast enough to beat them,” he said.
Wellens had not brought mud tires to the U.S. and had to borrow a set of wheels from masters racer Bill Elliston, who had been showing Wellens and Peeters around Wisconsin all week. With mud tires (Challenge Limus) on the bike he started, but not on his pit bike, Wellens never switched bikes during the race. Meanwhile many of his competitors took a clean bike almost every lap.
His bike muddy but working just fine, Wellens shed his teammate at mid-race. Trebon was hitting his stride after struggling early in the day and soon settled into second place.
With three laps to go Wellens was all alone racing through the start-finish — and so was Trebon, perhaps five seconds behind. A resurgent Page fought back up to Trebon and passed him.
With two to go, Wellens was gone and looking unbeatable, accelerating out of the saddle as he went through the start-finish line, perhaps a dozen seconds ahead of the two Americans.
The battle now was for second place. Trebon was looking stronger than Page on the straights, but Page could make up ground on the technical sections.
On the last half lap, Trebon slid out on a side slope leading into the run-up and Page pounced, cranking to a satisfying second place after a frustrating race Saturday.
“We were both on the rivet,” Page said after. “(Trebon) made a mistake and I was able to capitalize on it.”
A cheerful Trebon said he had fun “playing in the mud.”
“It’s always fun in the mud, but sometimes it’s a little more frustrating than others,” he said. With a shake of his head, Trebon said his crash on the final lap, which allowed Page to grab the second spot on podium, was his only crash of the difficult race.
- Page, Wellens and Peeters are each headed back to Europe this week, while some of the Americans will head to the Gloucester Grand Prix in Massachusetts. The USGP resumes in two weeks in Fort Collins, Colorado.
- Wellens took the series lead Sunday, but will not defend it, leaving Trebon positioned best in the series with three race weekends remaining. Trebon is followed by Peeters and Page, neither of whom are expected to race anymore USGP events this year. Jamey Driscoll is fifth.
- Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus) won the U23 competition Sunday. Saturday’s U23 winner, Yannick Eckmann (Shimano-Pearli Izumi), was second and retains the series lead.
- 1. Bart Wellens, Telenet Fidea Cycling Team, in 59:42
- 2. Jonathan Page, Planet Bike/Blue Bicycles, at 15
- 3. Ryan Trebon, LTS-Felt, at 27
- 4. Rob Peeters, Telenet Fidea Cycling Team, at 49
- 5. Christian Heule, Cannondale Pb Cyclocrossworld.c, at 1:01
- Name, Team, Race #1, Race #2, Total points
- 1. Bart Wellens, Telenet Fidea Cycling Team, 40 50 90
- 2. Ryan Trebon, LTS-Felt, 50 34 84
- 3. Rob Peeters, Telenet Fidea Cycling Team, 30 30 60
- 4. Jonathan Page, Planet Bike/blue Bicycles, 10 40 50
- 5. James Driscoll, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com, 26 23 49
Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) slipped to ninth place on the technical and slower Sunday course. Photo: Wil Matthews
Elite men stage behind the Avid Shortly Ultimate Holeshot start banner before Sunday's race. The threatening clouds gave way shortly after the start with heavy rain. Photo: Wil Matthews
Off-camber sections of the course that were rideable on Saturday were barely runable after Sunday's rains. Photo: Wil Matthews
USGP Elite Women's series leader Katerina Nash (Luna) sails over the uphill-approach barriers mid-way through the Sunday race. Photo: Wil Matthews
McDonald warms up
Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus) stayed sheltered under the team tent during the afternoon rainstorms, but went on to redeem his difficulties from Saturday by winning the U-23 race. Photo: Wil Matthews
Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) shows the toll of his efforts from Sunday's USGP Planet Bike Cup after crossing the finish following seven technical and difficult laps. Photo: Wil Matthews
Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus) scans the course after dropping Yannick Eckmann (Pearl Izumi) who would settle for second. McDonald and Eckmann were trading the U-23 lead up to the final lap. Photo: Wil Matthews
Wellens goes well
With two laps to go, Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) had a 15-second gap over the Page-Trebon duo, and held it to the finish where his victory earned him the USGP series leader's jersey. Photo: Wil Matthews
Driscoll swaps bikes
Jamie Driscoll (Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com) takes a bike swap during the heavy rains in the first half of the Elite Men's race. The sodden course kept pit activity high. Photo: Wil Matthews
Peeters grabs the holeshot prime
Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) takes the Avid Shortly Ultimate Holeshot award in the first turn ahead of Saturday's winner Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus.) Photo: Wil Matthews
Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) takes a quiet moment at staging before the start of Sunday's Elite Men's race. Page turned around his performance from Saturday by staying active in the lead group and securing second place in Sunday's race. Photo: Wil Matthews
Katerina Nash (Luna) celebrates her victory in Sunday's USGP Planet Bike Cup following a dominating ride through a technical and slippery course. Photo: Wil Matthews
Wellens warms up
Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) warms up before the start of the Elite Men's race. Wellen's victory Sunday placed him in the USGP leader's jersey. Photo: Wil Matthews
Mo bike change
Mo Bruno Roy (Bob's Red Mill) takes a clean bike during Sunday's elite women's race from Matt Roy while Cannondale team manager Stu Thorne lends a hand in the background. Bike swaps are less common in the women's races owing to 45-minute race duration, but Sunday's mudfest had many riders swapping bikes every lap. Photo: Wil Matthews
Nicole Duke (Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com) held third for the majority of the race, maintaining a comfortable gap over her chasers but unable to close the gap to the Luna duo of Nash and Gould. Photo: Wil Matthews
Georgia Gould (Luna) leads teammate Katerina Nash on the second lap through the infield. Nash surged past Gould when Gould fell on a tricky turn after the run-up, and maintained the lead to the finish. Photo: Wil Matthews
The Luna Chix warm up
Georgia Gould (Luna) warms up with teammate Katerina Nash shortly before the Elite Women's race. Photo: Wil Matthews
The heavy rain throughout the day left the grassy venue saturated and sloppy. Photo: Wil Matthews
Batten the hatches
Morning rain gave way to afternoon thunderstorms, which drenched the Sun Prairie venue. Photo: Wil Matthews
Christian Heule (Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com) watches the rain from the comfort of the team compound a few hours before the start of the Elite Men's race. Photo: Wil Matthews
McShane masters the masters
Mike McShane (Bob's Red Mill) solidified his lead in the USGP Masters 45+ series Sunday. McShane has targeted the 2012 UCI Masters World Championships, which will be held in his hometown of Louisville, as a major competition goal. Photo: Wil Matthews