The Men Junior 17/18 USGP competition concluded just as it had started, with a nail biters this past weekend at the STANLEY Portland Cup.
Two riders had been battling in the previous six races, Cody Kaiser of the California Giant-Specialized team and Yannick Eckmann of the Clif Bar Development team. Going into the finale, each rider had won 3 races with Eckmann taking the leader’s jersey in Mercer where Kaiser faltered in the Sunday mud to finish 6th.
2-up sprint. On a cold ghostly Saturday with the sun still not peeking through the grey mist, the boys lined up ready to go battle for 40 minutes. Straight from the gun the duel was back on as Kaiser and Eckmann took advantage of each other’s bobbles as they exchanged places at the front.
“I got a really good start, I was able to pull the holeshot, he actually caught me second or third turn into it and then he took the lead for the first two laps.” said Kaiser.
“in the back section around a corner he made a little mistake and I took a perfect line and passed him and I was in first place.” explained Eckmann.
Kaiser along with Chris Wallace (KCCX/Verge/Navigators) chased. “Cody and I worked together to get back up to him and then second lap, Yannick crashed.” said Wallace.
Wallace become the lone chaser in third. “I was a little bit behind Cody, Cody got around him and then I was behind Yannick and I had to click out because he was laying across the course. He had quite the crash on the backside.”
The lead changed again as Eckmann continued. “The next lap at the same place, I took the wrong line and went down, I didn’t crash, I didn’t get my whole body in the mud but just got off the bike then I jumped back on. He was right next to me at that time and when I jumped on, I went down again, he was taking off.”
Kaiser back in the lead. “On the second lap he slipped and I don’t know what happened and I was able to hold the gap for two thirds of the race .”
Back together. “I was just so frustrated to crash, I didn’t know if I was going to catch him again, but after awhile I was so mad I pulled myself together, I caught back thankfully. Then at the runup, he struggles there a little bit and that’s where I tried to attack, at the back section he caught me again.” said Eckmann.
It all came down to the final lap with Eckmann taking the lead. “I was sitting there watching his moves.” said Kaiser.
With the heavy mud making traction difficult, pitting was of prime importance. “I wanted to pit, make sure that I had a clean bike, clean tired, I think he stayed out so we regrouped” said Kaiser, as the duo was together going into the final corner.
Eckmann was the first to enter the turn, Kaiser came around him and won the 2-up sprint to the line.
“I was feeling really good, I got in early yesterday and ride quite a bit, that helped quite a bit.” said a smiling Kaiser.
“I was so tired from catching him so I didn’t have anything left for the sprint.” said Eckmann.
Wallace had to defend late surges from both Skyler Trujillo (Black Sheep) and Robin Eckmann (Clif Bar Development. “Skyler was right there, it worried me that he was going to come up. Robin was coming at the end very quickly. ” said Wallace.
Wallace’s strategy was simple. “Just ride really hard the whole time, you can’t make a mistake or you’re pretty much done. ”
One more race…
“Tomorrow, I have to win and he has to finish third so I might have to do some recruiting or something.” said Kaiser. “Tomorrow should be a race of attrition, I have nothing to lose.”
“Second place, I just need a second place, first or second.” said Eckmann.
Nothing to lose. Sunday brought another cold blustery day with grey skies. The course had dried out overnight which was to Kaiser’s liking.
Kaiser had another blitzing start, getting a gap as the riders left the motocross section. Eckmann led the chase group with Jeffrey Bahnson (Thule/Van Dessell), Trujillo and Robin Eckmann.
Then Yannick Eckmann had problems. “I had a flat on the rear tire, that’s why I switched my bike on the first lap and when I switched bikes, on the second bike halfway through the race course my front tire went flat and I couldn’t stear anymore, I just going allover.”
Kaiser was keeping the pressure on at the front, increasing his gap.
“I had a little something chapped, so I went straight from the gun and I knew I had nothing to lost, just go for it and everything clicked. I know Yannick bobbled in a couple of laps and I bobbled on one lap and I just had to put the hammer down.” said Kaiser. His bobble? “A woop, it was soggy on the bottom, the front tire kind of stuck and I went over.”
Kaiser kept motoring on to solo to victory with ample time to celebrate.
Eckmann, who needed to finish second to win the overall, had to contend with Bahnson who was mounting as attack. “I was really concerned, I was riding as hard as I could the whole time. I was trying to chase Cody down which was okay if it didn’t happen but from the back I had to watch out so I wouldn’t get third.”
Eckmann did manage to hold on to second. Behind the battle was on for third as two riders sprinted to the line, Bahnson and Robin Eckmann. Bahnson kicked in the afterburners to take the final spot on the podium.
“I got off the pavement first and then going into the mud I was not feeling that well and then on the first lap I slipped and fell over the barriers, and then they guy behind me crashed into me and our bikes were hanging to each other. From then on, I was just going trying to get at least third. ” said Robin Eckmann who finished fourth.
USGP leader. Yannick Eckmann won the overall USGP, with Kaiser finishing in second spot and his older brother Robin in third.
“It’s great, it’s definitely awesome.” said a beaming Yannick Eckmann. “I’m in the first year of the 17/18 so it’s even a bigger achievement for me to win the overall.”
“I think I had him outnumbered on the wins but one bad day in the mud in New Jersey kind of wrecked it, lost by a few points but it’s alright I had a great day today, a great day yesterday. ” said Kaiser who claimed victory in 5 of the 8 races in the series.
“I had a great race in both the first two weekends, really well in Wisconsin, pretty well in Kentucky and then for some reason in New Jersey I had an okay start the first day and finished third, the second day, something happened, it didn’t work out too well, I wasn’t quick in the mud and that’s what ended up doing it for the series.” said Kaiser who finished sixth that day.
Eckmann finished top 2 in every race of the series. “It’s good, I know that I can keep my speed constant so keeping the placement constant too is good. It’s amazing that I could even pull it off. I was really proud of myself of myself.”
“I can be feel pretty good about the third place because I was just trying to go over the season, transfer to road season now and hopefully I can hold my form over the next two weeks that I take off.” said Robin Eckmann who is now done with cross.
What’s next? Yannick Eckmann is going to Europe to attend Euro Cross Camp and Kaiser has the US National Championships coming up, and then hopefully a trip to Worlds.
Kaiser is the favorite going into the Bend race.
“I do know the competition that is going to be there so it is a bit of an encouragement there. I looked at the weather and it looks like it’s going to be cold and frozen which is even better for me, fast and dry.”
Photo Gallery of Saturday’s race (Click for larger images)
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Photo Gallery of Sunday’s race (Click for larger images)
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