Jeremy Powers successfully defended his title as American cyclocross champion Sunday, surviving the challenges of Stephen Hyde and Logan Owen in a hard-fought contest in Asheville, North Carolina.
The victory marked Powers’ third straight win at nationals and fourth career cyclocross championship title. Hyde took runner-up honors, while Owen claimed the third podium step in his first championship race at the elite level after earning 10 consecutive titles as a junior.
Powers (Aspire Racing) and Hyde (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) made the start Sunday as the clear favorites under intermittent snow in Asheville, but it was 20-year-old Owen (California Giant-Specialized) who charged out to the early lead. Looking comfortable on the varied course terrain, particularly on an off-camber section that gave several other riders trouble, Owen shot off the front almost immediately and spent some time riding solo before Powers and Hyde caught up to him midway through the first lap. Together, the trio rapidly distanced the rest of the field, holding an advantage of 17 seconds over the nearest chasing group after just one lap.
Owen made a few attempts during the second lap to gap Powers and Hyde, but he was unable to break away, with Powers unflinching in pursuit every time. Powers’ own initial attempts to get clear were unsuccessful as well, but as his rivals found themselves in trouble at various points throughout the next several laps, the tide begin to turn in his favor.
Hyde hit the deck after misjudging a corner in the third lap, forcing him to expend extra energy to catch back up to Powers and Owen, who navigated the terrain more comfortably. Meanwhile, Owen started to show a chink in his armor on the steep ascent of the Ingles Heckle Hill. With every trip up the climb, he lost ground to Powers and Hyde and was forced to dig deep playing catchup.
With around three laps to go, a flagging Owen began to fade from the lead group, and then Hyde went down again misjudging a corner. That was all Powers needed to get away for good. Hyde remounted quickly and looked determined to keep Powers from leaving him behind, but the 32-year-old defending champion gradually built an advantage that climbed up to 13 seconds by the time he started his seventh and final lap around the course.
The gap proved insurmountable for Hyde. Powers rode a clean last lap and took enough of an advantage into the waning moments of the race to begin his celebration before rounding the final corner.
“I was just out there giving 110%, basically tried to race from the front today,” Powers said. “I knew guys were going to make mistakes because it was a race that was really hard and over the course of 60 minutes, it’s going to definitely wear on you.
“I gave up the front a couple of times, but I felt more comfortable in the front on the off-camber stuff because I knew I didn’t want to be affected by someone else’s mistakes.”
The strategy paid dividends for Powers, putting him in position to take advantage of Hyde’s difficulties in some of the course’s more technical sections.
“We’re good friends but that’s cyclocross,” Powers said. “You have to take the moment when you have it. I heard he had a couple of spots where he skipped a pedal or clipped a pedal or something, so I was capitalizing on those. It was definitely a day like that.”
Powers finished on a time of 56:45, with a 10-second lead over second-placed Hyde. Owen took third, 41 seconds back.
The next closest rider, Jonathan Page, finished over two and a half minutes behind Powers.