Logan Owen continued a nearly decade-long streak of cyclocross national titles Saturday in Boulder, Colorado, when he held on for a wire-to-wire win in the men’s under-23 race at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships.
Just 18 years old, Owen beat California Giant-Specialized teammate and defending champion Yannick Eckmann in his first nationals since graduating the junior ranks.
“It was great,” said Owen. “That’s the way I want to win a race: in the front, start to finish.”
Indeed, Owen immediately took charge in a frenetic first lap, distancing Eckmann and Curtis White (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) on the wind-lashed Valmont Bike Park course.
White couldn’t hang on, and the race soon boiled down to a two-man contest, with the defending champion just seconds behind his first-year espoir teammate.
Behind the two leaders, Cal Giant teammate Cody Kaiser soon established himself in third, putting on a show each time he rode the “Belgian Steps” on the backside of the course.
Eckmann fought back from a poor start to finish second, 10 seconds down, with Kaiser third at 2:22 as Cal Giant swept the top three spots. White rebounded for fourth, just ahead of Cal Giant’s Tobin Ortenblad.
The win gave Owen a ninth consecutive national title in the discipline, dating back to his 2005 junior-division win, as a 10-year-old, in Providence.
“I was very confident. I was also very nervous. I knew anything could happen,” Owen said. “I knew I had the legs, and I knew I could do it, but that was one of the hardest ones I’ve ever tried to win.
“It’s emotional for me — my grandparents came from Washington to see me race, and they’ve never really come out for a national championship.”
Eckmann brought it back from deep in the top 20 to within four seconds after three laps, but that was as close as he would get.
The defending champ said he had “bad luck” at the start and gave the chase his all.
“That took a lot more energy out of me,” he said. “But I gave everything I had. I’m okay with the results. Wanted that top spot, but you know, it is what it is.”
The new champion praised his predecessor for “a great job.”
“I love him. He’s a great teammate and a really good friend,” said Owen. “I’m proud of him. I’m proud of myself, too. We both went out and raced our hardest, and that’s what I’m most proud of.
“I made a bobble on the last lap, and [Eckmann] came back, but then he bobbled as well, and I came in for the win.
Owen said the victory meant more to him than all his junior titles.
“This was my first year in the U23s, and I really wanted to make a statement and keep that streak alive,” he said. “I wasn’t going to be too depressed if I lost, because I’m 18, and he is 20, but I knew I had the best shot at winning it.”
Check back for more from day 4 of the 2014 U.S. cyclocross national championships.