LOUISVILLE, Ky. (VN) — Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) won a thrilling two-man battle with Ryan Trebon (LTS-Felt) to claim the Derby City Cup on Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky.
After 59 minutes of punch after punch between the two top U.S. ’cross racers of this season, what promised to be a finishing-straight showdown ended with a dropped chain and the skip of a rear wheel.
It was a cool, blustery day on the rolling circuit at Eva Bandman Park during the third round of the 2011 Exergy U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross series.
Ben Berden (Ops Ale-Stoemper) got the holeshot, leading the 64-man field off the pavement and onto the grass. Powers was right behind him, as was series leader Trebon, who quickly slotted into the lead and took a little gap. Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus) was there, too.
Jones jumped away from the leaders, pulling the team card for Powers in the wind. Behind the roadie, who just returned from a 10-day vacation to Hawaii, Trebon was forced to pull.
Fresh off the Kuaui beaches, Jones didn’t last long solo in the wind, and the race quickly turned into a three-man affair, with Trebon on the front and the Rapha duo on his wheel. Jones briefly lost contact, dismounting as Trebon and Powers rode a section that had forced other riders off the bike all day, and the chase stacked up behind.
At the end of lap one Trebon and Powers had a slight edge on Jones and Berden, but they coalesced into a four-man lead group at the flyover run-up.
Not for long, though — Trebon powered off the front on lap two and took a lead over the other three. Once again he rode the run-up, as did Powers, who closed on the big LTS rider. Jones went down on the technical sidehill above the forest on the backside of the course and as Trebon and Powers hit the pavement they sat up briefly, looking over their shoulders, to let Berden catch on.
Meanwhile, road tactics were taking over in the first chase group, which contained Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com), Todd Wells (Specialized), Danny Summerhill (Garmin) and Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain-Maxxis).
At the flyover on lap three the lead trio had seven seconds on the eight-man chase. Trebon and Powers swapped pulls in the wind, with the series leader doing a bulk of the work in the open field surrounding the pits. After he and Powers rode the steep, loose run-up, they gapped Berden, who had flatted, and this time through the start-finish they didn’t wait for him.
Going into lap four Trebon took a slight edge over Powers by running the barriers while Powers bunny-hopped them, but the two were back together at the flyover. Powers took the front, while behind Johnson, Wells and Summerhill led the chase. The gap shrank under five seconds, but ballooned again when Wells flatted — not the fortune he was looking for after his La Ruta de los Conquistadores triumph in Costa Rica last week.
Johnson took the chase by the horns as the gap grew and shot out alone in pursuit of the leaders. Johnson was perhaps a dozen seconds behind in third as Trebon led Powers along the backside of the course.
“Once I got away from them I was just trying to do the fastest laps that I could and hope that they were going to get in trouble in front,” said Johnson. “It just didn’t end up that way.”
Powers bobbled on the technical hillside and Trebon gave it the gas. They were soon back together, Powers’ jaw hanging open loosely while Trebon gritted his teeth and stood out of the saddle, upping the pace at every chance.
Again, the lead swapped and Powers took the front on the backside and led up the run-up. Johnson came as close as six seconds on the bends up and down the hill below the finish straight, but faultered on the run-up going into the bell lap and fell to 12 seconds.
Up ahead, the high-speed cat-and-mouse games began. The two leaders remained locked together going into the flyover, and it seemed the rideable run-up would settle the score. The finale we’d seen at the New Belgium Cup in October — the country’s top two riders going head-to-head to the final kilometer — was set to unfold on the banks of the Ohio River.
With half a lap remaining Trebon was at the front and drilling it. Johnson was solidly in third but too far back to make contact.
“I put a big effort in and was really trying to push it through that technical section,” said Trebon. “I was just going a little too fast and had to take longer to slow down to start turning.”
Trebon stood and attacked hard onto the first hump, the so-called Selle Italia run-up, leading into the final, super-technical half kilometer. Powers said he knew during pre-ride that this would be the place Trebon would try to make his last-lap move and he clung tight to the wheel. The first decision point would come in an off-camber 180-degree turn at the base of a descent off the hill.
“It was the last moment to make a pass,” Powers told VeloNews. “That was the absolute last moment. A couple times he had already messed that up during the race and I knew that that was the moment; that was it.”
As they approached the corner, Powers came to the inside of Trebon, half-wheeling the tall, two-time national ’cross champion. Trebon saw him there, on his left hip, and braking hard into the turn, extended his left foot into the inside line. The block didn’t work and Powers snuck through, nailing a narrow strip of grass on the inside of the corner.
“I saw him. That’s why I stuck my leg out, to keep him from coming and then I was just going too fast. I was braking and braking and not slowing down and I had to take it wide,” said Trebon. “He came inside of me.”
Both riders said the pass was clean, Powers slipping past without any contact.
Trebon stayed calm, even when Powers bobbled in the S-turn seconds later and was forced to dismount. The Rapha man was fighting cramps in his hands and arms, compounded with an hour of anaerobic output.
“He was on the limit and making small mistakes,” said Trebon. “I think he bobbled three times in that last four or five sections through there.”
Powers led into the run-up the final time through and when he rode it and nailed the exit ahead of Trebon, he took a two-bike lead into the final corner onto the paved finish straight. Just 120 meters lay between Powers and the win, but Trebon was right there and feeling fresh.
“I was just like, ‘Oh, this is perfect position,’” said Trebon.
Click, click, crunch — Trebon shifted into his sprint gear as he stood on the pedals and his rear wheel rose six inches off the ground. He had thrown his chain under the pressure of a full-cassette shift. The race was over.
“I was trying to drop down gears too fast and when you’re overloading the front end of the bike anyway, putting down 1,400, 1,500 watts, the chain just fell off,” he said. “It’s disappointing, but there are bigger things in life than losing a bike race at the end. … I didn’t get the opportunity to lose. I took it away from myself.”
Up ahead, Powers enjoyed the victory, with Johnson trailing in behind Trebon for third. Geoff Kabush ran fourth with Summerhill fifth.
“Today was just me biding time and seeing where I could get one or two seconds,” said Powers. “It wasn’t pretty on the last lap, but I made a pass on the inside. I did the best that I could; I did the only move that I could at that point.
“Ryan took the outside line and I came underneath. … I was just going way too fast and overcooked a couple corners, but like I said, it wasn’t pretty but it worked out and I’m really, really happy to win here today.”
Online editor at large Patrick O’Grady contributed to this report.
- 1. Jeremy Powers (USA), Rapha-Focus, 56:52:00
- 2. Ryan Trebon (USA), LTS-Felt, at 0:03
- 3. Timothy Johnson (USA), Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com, at 0:27
- 4. Geoff Kabush (CAN), Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain, at 0:46
- 5. Daniel Summerhill (USA), Chipotle Development Team, at 0:55