SUN PRAIRIE, Wisc. (VN) — Ryan Trebon (LTS-Felt) rode former world champion Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) off his wheel in the final lap to take the kickoff to the 2011 U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross series on Saturday.
Trebon, with a new one-man sponsorship deal after seven seasons with Kona, looked like his old self, matching all the technical prowess that Wellens and Jeremy Powers could throw at him, and then trumping them with an unmatchable attack in the last lap.
“It’s been a long year,” a satisfied Trebon said after the finish. “It’s been a lot of work with sponsors. This is very satisfying, it feels real good to win it for Dusty,” he said, referring to his mechanic and manager Dusty LaBarr.
Powers whacks ’em
Defending USGP series champion Powers is also with a new squad (Rapha-Focus) and got off to a fast start. He led through the first turn, nabbed the Avid-sponsored $250 holeshot prize, then turned a six-minute first lap, stringing the field out in one long line, before Wellens’ teammate Rob Peeters bridged to him.
“When there is a former world champion here, I want to make sure they know this my turf,” Powers said, referring to Wellens’ appearance this year and former rainbow man Erwin Vervecken’s appearance in Sun Prairie in 2009.
Powers’ efforts in the opening three laps eventually caught up with him, as Wellens, Trebon and Peeters came up and the four battled over the next few laps.
Powers consistently tried riding the long ‘run-up’ ascent, which has three log steps at the bottom that had to be hopped. When he made it cleanly, which he did every lap save two, it opened a gap over his companions. When he failed (and when Trebon swerved into him after a missed shift on the climb with three laps to go), it cost him time.
“It was good for me,” Powers said of the hill. “I whacked (Trebon and the others) a couple of times there.”
Wellens, who finishes up his two-week, four-race U.S. tour Sunday, did not have great legs on day 1 in Wisconsin. Nevertheless, the savvy Belgian had the skills and tactical sense to stay in contact with the two powerful Americans, both looking to take an early lead in the USGP for their new sponsors.
“I had a bad feeling,” Wellens said afterward. “I had the wrong tires so I changed bikes after three laps and I lost lots of time and that made it harder.”
Wellens said the frequent flying to get to races in the U.S., and the lack of a posh team RV at events that he has grown accustomed to in Europe, has left him fatigued.
Trebon of old
Coming off a season that was not his best, and with his new sponsor package (which includes SRAM and Clement tires, as well as Felt and LTS), Trebon was determined to make his mark.
“I wanted to come into the season with all guns a-blazing,” Trebon said. “We can’t wait for January to go good.”
Trebon said he felt especially confident in the turns and had no trouble matching Powers and Wellens there.
“Ryan was the best I’ve seen him in a couple of years,” Powers said. “He put me on the rivet a few times, he was so strong on the straights and in the wind.”
Three-man shake out
It was a Trebon, Wellens and Powers battle for the last six laps, chased by Wellens’ teammate Peeters and the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com duo of Jamey Driscoll and Tim Johnson. ‘Cross legend Jon Page broke his rear derailleur in the opening lap and was never in contention again.
With three to go Wellens lost contact after a Trebon acceleration, but when Trebon and Powers nearly collided near the top of the run-up, Wellens was able to reconnect.
On the next lap, Powers botched the logs, and Trebon ran the entire hill with Wellens right behind him. Going into the bell lap Powers had a big gap to close and not much time to do it.
Trebon was drilling it with Wellens on his wheel. Then the Belgian slipped past and gave it some throttle. Powers was just seconds back and closing.
Powers slipped out on a right hander before the run-up and lost contact with other two, and Trebon, hearing Powers’ slide (and the crowd’s reaction) put the hammer down for good, opening a gap that Wellens couldn’t close. Powers came in a dozen seconds back and out of the hunt.
“For 50 minutes were all super well-matched,” Trebon said. “On that last lap I heard what sounded like someone’s front tire slide out and when I looked back I had 10 feet so I hit the gas,” he said.
Trebon will wear the USGP series jersey for Sunday’s race.
When Vervecken raced in Wisconsin on 2009, Powers won on Saturday and Vervecken won on the second day.
Wellens said he’s hoping a good massage and a good night’s sleep will allow him to finish off his U.S. trip with a victory.
“I hope I can drop them tomorrow,” he said with a smile.