LAS VEGAS, Nev. (VN) – The place: the bowels of Interbike, on the Circulus miniature velodrome.
Former Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com teammates Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers faced off in a best-of-three pursuit contest in the Circulus velodrome Wednesday afternoon at Interbike. Powers’ new sponsor, Rapha, put together the grudge match on the first day of the industry tradeshow and the riders did not disappoint.
Battling aboard BMX bikes in three five-lap heats, Johnson and Powers fought for a golden pair of Oakley sunglasses – and glory, of course. At times Powers appeared more focused on trying to stay upright on the boards than putting time into Johnson, who rode smoothly to wins in the first and last heats to take the overall.
The event began with a boxing-style weigh-in and news conference, the riders answering ridiculous questions from host Jeremy Dunn with ridiculous responses. Johnson appeared to have knocked off a housekeeping cart for his corner wear, while Powers showed in shiny black trunks and robe borrowed by his Rapha-Focus manager Brian Dallas from a local boxing gym. Fashion turned out to be the only area the reigning USGP of Cyclocross champion had the upper hand.
Starting on opposite sides of the miniature track, Johnson nearly caught Powers three laps into the opening heat and won easily. He celebrated with a foot-scuff front wheelie in the infield mildly reminiscent in his Red Bull helmet of mind-blowing trials rider Danny McCaskill.
Powers came back with a suspect start, cutting a portion of the infield before gaining the track, to win the second heat on Johnson’s rear wheel. The officials – Rapha’s Dunn and Slate Olson – failed to whistle a foul on their rider and the result stood.
The final showdown had spectators banging the boards and loud music pumping. Powers dug too deeply in the opening lap, his bike weaving from the sprinter’s line to the edge of the boards, and he never recovered. Johnson stayed steady in the sprint lane and took the final lap by a bike length.
The showdown was all for fun and arguably the top two cyclocrossers in the States will take their fight to the grass for the first time Wednesday night for Cross Vegas at the Desert Breeze soccer complex near town. Stay tuned to VeloNews.com for extensive coverage of the world’s first C1 event of the season.
Powers takes heat #2
Powers came back on the strength of a suspect course cut to win heat #2, nearly lapping Johnson on the fifth lap. Photo: Brian Holcombe © VeloNews
Powers was focused
Powers was focused ahead of the race, but on the track he was concentrated more on keeping the rubber down and avoiding being caught than winning. Photo: Brian Holcombe © VeloNews
Olson masterminded the Circulus showdown
Rapha's Slate Olson was the mastermind behind the noon time showdown in the Circulus velodrome before Cross Vegas. Photo: Brian Holcombe © VeloNews
Powers and Johnson share a rare no-smiles moment before stepping onto the scale outside the velodrome. Photo: Brian Holcombe © VeloNews
Johnson shaving weight
Johnson shaved weight before stepping on the scale with a cheap, industrial garbage bag. His robe appeared to be taken from a room in a nearby hotel. Photo: Brian Holcombe © VeloNews
Olson urges Johnson on
Rapha's Slate Olson urges Johnson on as he catches Powers on the first lap of heat #1. Photo: Brian Holcombe © VeloNews
Duke and Carney take in the weigh-in
Johnson's new teammate Nicole Duke watched an hilarious weigh-in with Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth director Jonas Carney. Photo: Brian Holcombe © VeloNews
Beyond the planks
One of the best mustaches in cyclocross must mean the season is here. Videographer Sam Smith caught the action for Powers' Beyond the Barriers web video series. Photo: Brian Holcombe © VeloNews