Solo wins were the words of the day. The expected west-east battle on day 2 of the USGP Mercer Cup didn’t happen as Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) powered away from the field in the first lap to take another solo win. Yesterday’s winner Ryan Trebon (KONA) had a terrible start and battled to move from twentieth to finish second. Troy Wells (Specialized) had a fabulous day moving up from a fourth row start, battling his way around riders to round off the podium. (See more photos in gallery)
“It feels really good.” said a smiling Johnson when I asked him what it felt like to have a kickass win. “It feels very nice, I won’t lie. It’s always nice to win, it’s awesome.”
After yesterday’s win by Trebon, everyone expected the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com team to hit hard. “It’s not so much fury,” answered Johnson when asked what motivated him today, “when you go to a race like yesterday and it was an easy thing for me to understand. We were riding through some really hard mud, he was just powering away from me and it was the battle that I couldn’t win but today was another day and another chance, it’s just another shot to try and win.”
Trebon keeps the USGP leader’s jersey going into the final races in Portland. “It’s pretty important,” said Trebon about the lead. “I’m looking forwards to going to Portland in the lead, I like racing in Portland, it’s not going to be 70 degrees and sunny, it’s probably going to be 45 and pissing rain.”
The sun was out, the weather balmy for November, the mud from yesterday was drying off making the course faster and faster as the day went on. Everyone was tired after Saturday’s tough race and recovery was key, including mental recovery.
“On a double weekend like this, it’s not so much how your legs are doing, it’s how your head is doing.” explained Johnson. “If you can wake up in the morning and just be ready to suffer because everybody did the same race yesterday, everybody went just as hard and everybody’s legs should be feeling about the same. If you don’t give in into that then you have every chance in beating somebody who gives up before the race even starts.”
Kaboom! The race started off with a bang as Davide Frattini (Fuji) took the holeshot with Johnson and Canadian Cross Champ Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain-Maxxis) on his wheel. US Cross Champion Trebon however had a bad start putting him in twentieth spot going into the muddy technical sections.
“I had a bad start, I didn’t miss my pedals but I got my toes stuck in it, I easily dropped back fifteen slots.” said Trebon whose teammate Barry Wicks also had a bad start. “We both had a pretty bad starts, I don’t know, sometimes it happens, I just try not to freak out so much but the problem was that we had a couple of turns with a bottleneck and those guys easily had 15 seconds and I’m already in the back.”
Johnson noticed and hit it hard. “The reason I went so fast at the beginning because I knew that Ryan specifically had a bad start. When it’s chaotic like that and you get a gap, it’s worth a lot because then I can slow down and keep going lap after lap after lap and they all have to go faster to try and catch me.”
Frattini, Johnson, Chris Jones (Champion), Jesse Anthony (Jamis), Dan Timmerman (Richard Sachs-RGM), Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart) and Kabush all lined up at the front and hit the gas. Also in the front group was Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) who had a good start, Luke Keough (Champion Systems) and the U23 riders Valentin Scherz (Pro-Cycles/Scott/Newwork) and Danny Summerhill (Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin).
Johnson turned the power on and by the second lap flew off the front with a gap of 15 seconds on Kabush who was chasing solo in second spot. Timmerman, Frattini, Anthony, Driscoll were in the third group with Trebon who had moved up to seventh spot.
Trebon continued to move up with Driscoll shadowing him until the duo had dropped everyone. The men were hauling ass, setting a time of 7:32 on the lap as they battled behind Johnson. Trebon continued to step on the gas, dropped Driscoll and went after Kabush.
“I spent a lot of energy chasing trying to get to Geoff. I tried to chase Tim down, I wasn’t making any grounds, he was going pretty fast, I was hurting out there, so try to conserve. ” said Trebon.
Kabush had other issues to contend with. “I was fighting hard the first half of the race and then just started to go. I’m really running out of gas at these races, I’m still having stomach issues from the flu I had, I don’t know if I’m not getting any calories but I was cracking hard the last lap and a half, I was looking for the finish.”
Trebon caught and passed Kabush with less than five laps to go, while Johnson was powering at the front with a gap of 30 seconds now.
The course conditions had changed completed from yesterday’s thick peanut-buttery mud, and Johnson focused on choosing the correct line around the technical corners with deep ruts. I watched as he often took a different line at the front, sometimes choosing to run the high line while the other rode another line.
“Yesterday you could keep the gas on and point your bike anywhere you wanted and it would stick.” said Johnson about the conditions. “Today you couldn’t, if you went too hard your tires would spin, if you went too easy, you’d bog down. The correct line choices paid off big time. If you made the right line choice, it would pay off.”
Trebon quickly dropped Kabush and for the next laps, the hunt was on but Johnson kept the pace high, and the gap was not only coming down but it was slowly increasing.
“With about two to go, I just had to conserve my second place because I knew I wasn’t going to catch him he was going too well.” said Trebon.
But he also had to contend with Troy Wells (Specialized) who surged from the fourth row, starting with position 31 and was now hunting him.
“With two to go, I cross-rutted and crashed and Todd was closing in, and I thought ‘oh man, I need second place’. I couldn’t let Todd catch me and luckily I was able to hold him off.” said Trebon.
Most Aggressive Wells. “I was going slowly in the beginning,” said Wells, “a lot of guys can go pretty fast in the beginning and then they blow up after five or ten minutes and then I could start picking my way through the group.”
Wells picked his way around riders using both his technical skills in the corners and powering on the straights. “It’s pretty easy to pass on these long flat straights but I felt that I was making up some time in the corners as well, just picking up a second here, a second there.”
Wells has been absent from the cross scene since CrossVegas as he had to contend with sickness and surgery. “I was planning to start my cyclocross season in Boulder and had a little setback, got sick and I had to take a little bit of time off.” said Wells who is focusing on Cross Nationals now.
“I thought I’d be where I was yesterday, ” said Wells about his form. “I didn’t think I’d be that good today, I was happy out there. Hopefully this is a good sign that I will be ready for Bend.”
“It’s nice to have Todd back, that’s the kind of rider he is, he’s world class so it’s good to have him back.” said Johnson about Wells.
Johnson had plenty of time to enjoy his victory crossing the line one minute before Trebon and then Wells. Kabush held on to fourth with Driscoll in fifth. Wicks took sixth on his birthday, Frattini was seventh, Timmerman eighth, Scherz ninth and Jones rounded off the top 10.
In the aggressively fought U23 race, Scherz took the win ahead of Summerhill and Gavin Mannion (Hot Tubes). All three were in the top 15 and seven riders under the age of 23 placed in the top 30.
Nash continues to rule USGP races. Katerina Nash of the Luna Chix team continued to dominate the USGP races, taking her fourth solo USGP victory in a row by sweeping the Mercer Cup weekend of races. Amy Dombroski (Schlamm) kept up with Nash for a lap or so before dropping back to second with a substantial gap to the rest of the field. Meredith Miller (California Giant/Specialized) won the battle for third, making it her second podium this weekend.
Nash now has a commanding lead in the USGP series with two races to go in Portland. She is using the series the get ready for the World Championships in her home country of the Czech Republic.
“It’s been going great, it’s exciting.” said Nash. “We have two more races to go in Portland which I always enjoy because it’s challenging, the atmosphere is just awesome, I’m looking forwards to the final races and I’m really happy so far with my season.”
Laura Van Gilder (C3 Athletes) used her speed to get the holeshot and position herself at the front but Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain-Maxxis) came around her to lead into the first technical muddy turn. Nash was in third wheel followed by her teammate Georgia Gould, DeeDee Winfield (C3 Athletes), Natasha Elliott (Garneau-Club Chaussures), Sue Butler (Monavie-Cannondale), Andrea Smith (Minutemen) and Maureen Bruno-Roy (MM Racing). The bottleneck was forming as Alison Dunlap (Luna), Miller and Dombroski were all trying to come around.
“We started and went really hard, I had a couple of problems in the first two corners and I was like ‘okay, ride your bike’. ” said Nash who moved to the front where she stayed for the whole race. Dombroski has started her surge forwards and would pass riders one by one as she hunted Nash. After one lap Nash had a gap of 15 seconds but Dombroski was closing in and she finally made contact in the second lap.
“When I was there, I was trying to conserve, to just follow her lines and try and do what Katerina does. She has the pistol and the trigger finger and I was trying to stick on her wheel for just as long as I could and did what I could. ” said Dombroski who was awarded the Most Aggressive prize for her ride.
Dombroski stayed on her wheel, watching, learning, until Nash lit the fuse and motored away. Dombroski settled in and the gap between the two stayed at 30 seconds for the rest of the race.
Nash focused on her lines and enjoyed the beautiful weather and the appreciative crowd. “I was enjoying all the spectators out here, throughout the switchbacks, cheering for us, that was great. I felt a little bit lonely on the other side of the course but I was ‘there are out there, I have to go back there’. It was a good course once again.”
Meanwhile behind the two leaders, the top 10 was battling it out, re-shuffling positions. Once again, Miller used her road power to pick off riders as she moved up making her way to Gould who was sitting in third spot after passing Sydor.
“When I caught her today, I was following her wheel as she is a better technical rider than I am so I followed her lines. said Miller about Gould. “I started to feel that I still had a little bit more in the legs to go a little bit faster so I thought ‘I’ll just come around her and see what you can do’ and I just kept putting a little bit more time into her as we went on. I just kept my head down and went for it.”
Using the long straightaway by the pit, Miller did just that, head down she put time into Gould. With Nash and Dombroski out of reach at around one minute ahead, Miller worked on making it to the podium two days in a row.
“I had enough of fourth place so whatever I had to do. I had to move myself up instead of back and well I guess it worked out for me in the mud this weekend.” said Miller.
Gould crossed the line solo in fourth followed by Dunlap, Sydor, Van Gilder, Bruno-Roy, Kari Studley (Velo Bella) and Kaitlin Antonneau (Planet Bike).
What’s next? The series concludes with the two races in Portland, Oregon on December 5 & 6, the weekend before US National Cross Championships. It should be a doozy.
Elite Men Top 10
1. Timothy Johnson (Cannondale/cyclocrossworld.com)
2. Ryan Trebon (KONA)
3. Todd Wells (Specialized)
4. Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain)
5. Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale / CyclocrossWorld.com)
6. Barry Wicks (Kona)
7. davide frattini (Team Fuji)
8. Dan Timmerman (RICHARD SACHS – RGM WATCHES – RADIX)
9. Valentin Scherz (PRO CYCLES-SCOTT-NEWWORK)
10. Christopher Jones (Team Champion System)
Elite Women Top 10
1. Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team)
2. Amy Dombroski (Richard Sachs-RGM Watches-Radix)
3. Meredith Miller (Team TIBCO)
4. Georgia Gould (LUNA Pro Team)
5. Alison Dunlap (LUNA Pro Team)
6. Alison Sydor (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain)
7. Laura Van Gilder (C3 Sollay)
8. Maureen Bruno Roy (MM Racing p/b Seven Cycles)
9. Kari Studley (Velo Bella)
10. Kaitlin Antonneau (Planet Bike)
Complete results here