Updated—Sunday, January 8, 11:00 pm CST
Jeremy Powers finally put the torment of coming up short at nationals to rest today, winning the elite cyclocross national championship over Ryan Trebon (LTS-Felt) and Jonathan Page (Planet Bike).
Powers (Rapha-Focus), the most successful U.S. rider this season, broke a four-man stranglehold on a crown that has been traded for 11 years between Page, Trebon, Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld), and Todd Wells (Specialized).
Powers crashed last year in front of Wells and the two tangled, sending Powers’ brake into his rim and his hopes of a national title once more into the mud. But he was vindicated on Sunday in Wisconsin.
It was a thrilling race, with the pre-race favorites exchanging blows for five laps, only to be caught by the previous day’s U23 champion Zach McDonald (Rapha), before Powers sprung from the group for victory on the penultimate lap.
The USA Cycling cyclocross national championships course at Badger Prairie park outside Verona, Wisconsin underwent a daily freeze-thaw cycle all week. The course was pummeled into a muddy, rutted mess all day as mild winter highs melted the frosty ground, then frozen back in place overnight, leaving the morning racers to contend with icy ruts that sent their tires veering in unintended trajectories.
By the time the elite men raced on Sunday afternoon, the course had been beaten into a slippery batter by the elite women as it softened, then kneaded into a slimy dough during the men’s warmup.
McDonald’s Unlikely Holeshot
The race started with an unexpected holeshot by Saturday’s U23 champion Zach McDonald. Then Zach surprised again by over-cooking the first corner into the grass and piling into a line of spectators and photographers.
“You’d almost call it the rookie move,” McDonald admitted afterward. “I grabbed the brakes and there was just nothing there.”
McDonald was up and running shortly, but dozens of spots back.
Meanwhile Trebon, fresh off a six-week break from racing after a knee injury sustained during a crash in Louisville followed by two wins in as many days in Chicago, took over. Dylan McNicholas (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld) sat on the tall man’s wheel coming into the course’s long first climb—the first of two significant climbs with a very steep ramp midway.
Trebon got out of his saddle and stampeded up the long climb like a runaway elephant, gapping everyone off his wheel, but he was tailed by a group of McNicholas, Johnson, Page, and Powers when he came back down the hill two minutes later.
Amateur McNicholas rode with “the big four” for the next lap and up the long climb the second time around, but was absent when the favorites emerged from the course’s backside.