The two favorites came through in the U23 and Junior 17-18 races with Danny Summerhill (Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin) and Cody Kaiser (California Giant/Specialized) taking the titles in their respective races on a muddy course in Bend on Saturday.
Temperatures warmed into the forties around Bend’s Old Mill District causing treacherously slippery course conditions as the early week snow and ice turned to mud.
Bike handler’s course. Kaiser had called it on Friday when he said the course suited him. On his last season as a 17-18 rider, he soloed to his first National title of his career capping off a great season that included five USGP wins.
“I haven’t won a GP or a National Championship and did that all in one year. I’m pretty happy. Next year is U23 now for me, I’m kind of happy to move up. It’s always tough when we stay with the guys, I’m always the first one up, I leave early so once I’m able not to sleep in but more just roll with the team, it will be a little more camaraderie and stuff like that.” said Kaiser who said that no he would not be sleeping in the jersey.
Kaiser used his fast speed to get another holeshot and put the pressure on the field. Behind him lined up were Jeffrey Bahnson (Thule/Van Dessel), Skyler Trujillo (Black Sheep), Benjamin Swedberg (Rad Racing) and Chris Wallace (KCCX/Verge/Navigators). Swedberg faded and it left the other four at the front.
A flat took Wallace out of the front. “At the top of the climb, I was descending, I think I hit a rock, I flatted. The four of us, Cody, Jeff, Skyler and me were all together and I flatted and dropped back pretty far.”
That left three battling in the lead group: Kaiser, Bahnson and Trujillo. On the second lap, it was Bahnson’s turn to apply the pressure.
“Bahnson had ten bike lengths or so, I was sitting in, playing it safe and see how everrything laid out and I was able to catch him.” said the always cool customer Kaiser.
Trujillo was sitting in watching the other two. “I was like ‘alright if they’re going to stay together and they don’t look like they’re in any rush to get my up there to pull’, so I totally just sat on. And then Jeff shot away and I couldn’t get around Cody but luckily he pulled him back in.”
On the third lap, Kaiser attacked and only Trujillo could go with him until Kaiser put in another attack on the stairs, Trujillo fell and that was it.
“Then Cody went away and I had to get passed Jeff and I got passed him and just went for it.” said Trujillo. “Then as soon as I caught Cody I crashed twice, jacked up my front break.”
“I think I went out too early, I blew up. I got a front flat towards the middle of the race, it was a slow leak I think, when it went flat after the first pit, I rode a half lap with a flat tire. ” said Bahnson who caught up with Trujillo.
The only rider not to crash, Kaiser crossed the line with a gap of almost two minutes. “I had no issues, I felt really comfortable in this stuff. It wasn’t too much of a thick mud, it was definitely a bike handler’s course and that’s me.”
Bahnson won the silver medal. “The course was great for me, it was a lot fun, slippery, muddy in some places. I’m happy with my race.”
Trujillo was quite pleased with his bronze. “A podium was my goal. I’m peaking for Belgium camp, so that’s actually what I’m going for, I was glad that I did so well here.”
Wallace who had fallen back after his early flat fought his way back up through the riders. “I just rode as hard as I could until the end.” said Wallace who pitted twice. “I was pretty frustrated, really frustrated, but oh well, what can you do?”
Wallace finished fourth, John Burton (Joyride Bikes/ek Ekcessories) was fifth.
Crunch time. Favorite going into the U23 race, Summerhill was feeling the pressure.
“Oh it was nerve racking, man I didn’t want to let anyone down, there were a lot of people saying that I was going to win.” said a still covered in mud Summerhill after the race. “I didn’t want to read anymore press, or anything about it because the more I read about it, I was like ‘oh man if I don’t win I’m going to let way more than just myself down so it’s nice to have accomplished what I did. My hat goes off to everyone else because these are just crazy conditions that we had to put up with. It was snow yesterday, now it’s mud today so it’s pretty interesting bicycle race.”
On his first season as a U23, silver medalist in last year’s 17-18 race Luke Keough (Champion Systems) got another fast start to make it first to the grass, a position he held for the first lap.
“I’ve holeshot it every race this year, pro, amateurs, I’ve done pretty well at those. I just seem to get to the pedals quicker than everyone else, I’m not going harder than everyone.” said Keough.
Keough went to the front followed by Summerhill and Chance Noble (CalGiant-Specialized), who had lined up on the third row. The trio quickly separated itself from the rest of the field.
“I knew Keough would do that. Everyone on line was saying he’s not riding too great but man I knew differently, the way he come out from the start, he made me nervous for sure. I thought it was going to be the three of us to the finish line and taking Keough to the finish line wouldn’t have been a fun day by any means.” said Summerhill.
On the second lap, disaster struck for Keough.
“I led the lap, I knew I was technically better than most guys and then when I started to feel my legs a little bit, my concentration was a little off, I crashed really hard in the back section, at the front pushing the pace pretty hard with Danny and Chance. I broke my bike, my bars were all crooked so that’s when I lost them.” said Keough who pitted and dropped back.
The other two quickly took advantage with Noble taking the lead to put some more time to the chasers. Summerhill and Noble continued on with Summerhill taking more of the pulls at the front.
“He was definitely leading more but to be honest I was just hanging on for a while. He tried to get me to pull through on the pavement but he was going faster than I wanted to go.” said Noble.
But mountain bike pro Noble did try to use his superior technical skills to drop his competitor. “I thought maybe that I had a slight advantage on the corner so I was attacking him through there, I think Danny had the horsepower today.”
With two laps to go, Summerhill used his power to pull away.
“I attacked right after the stairs on the off-camber section, got a second or two and just kept opening it up from there. I didn’t think I’d be able to open it up because Chance was riding great today. It worked in the end.” said Summerhill who quickly got 20 seconds on Noble.
Summerhill crossed the line solo to win the U23 National title making it a complete sweep for his Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin team, as they also win the U23 Road and U23 TT earlier in the year.
“I think I’m most stoked just to get another win for the team Nationals wise, so we have Alex for Road and Peter for Road and now we’re doing it for cyclocross.” said a beaming Summerhill.
After suffering with the H1N1 virus earlier this year, Noble was quite satisfied with his silver medal. “I’m really happy with this. I came into this race hoping just for a podium finish really, it became pretty clear pretty quick that I had in me to do more than that.”
Behind the duo the battle was on for the bronze medal. Keough who had dropped back after his crash was joined by a surging David Hackworthy (Plan C).
“I actually crashed two more times before David Hackworthy caught me, then I was just riding smooth.” said Keough.
USGP U23 overall winner Hackworthy did not have a great start and had to move up. “I was probably tenth wheel coming into the first corner and there’s not really an area where you can get around people. I got stuck behind guys that I didn’t want to get stuck behind, gaps opened, people were going down left and right, once again guys that I didn’t want to be behind.”
“But once I got passed them, I really got into my zone and rode my race, I made up a lot of time I think. I rode a good race, had a couple of slipups, went down hard and lost a couple of gaps to Luke behind me but he caught back up, it was a constant struggle.”
Hackworthy and Keough kept hitting each other until the final corner on the final lap when Keough opened it up.
“I knew he was pretty tired I could tell, on the road I just hit it, he wasn’t there,” said Keough, “hit the turn and hit it again.”
Keough grabbed the bronze and Hackworthy finished fourth.
“I’m pretty happy, I wasn’t really expecting for this weekend.” said Keough about his bronze. “I’m not peaking right now, I’m coming down of the rest of the season, it’s been a long season. I was just out here for some fun, and it turned up pretty good.”
“I feel like I’ve been pretty consistent since my first race, the first USGP in September all the way through December, it’s been a long season. I feel like it was definitely a long successful season, New Jersey didn’t go so hot but it helped me get prepared for Nationals. ” said Hackworthy who is still waiting to hear about the team selection for Worlds.
Jeremy Ferguson (CalGiant-Specialized) finished fifth.
Four master men’s titles were also awarded on the penultimate day of racing at the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships. In the day’s earlier action, Former pro mountain bikers Peter Webber and Don Myrah squared off in a re-match of the 1993 elite national title race in the 40-44 master men’s competition. Almost 20 years later the pair exchanged podium places with Webber grabbing the gold and Myrah settling for silver amongst the 150-rider field.
Kevin Hines (Corner Cycles) turned in a stellar performance in the early morning 50-54 race, winning the national title by nearly a minute. Bobby Langin (Platinum Performance) then held off Rich Cramer of nearby Beaverton, Ore. to grab the silver.
Grant Berry (Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory), Matt Pacocha (Hudz-Subaru) and Jake Wells (Mafia Racing) got out front quickly in the 30-34 contest. Wells was chased out of the lead group halfway through the race, leaving Pacocha and Berry to fight it out for the next few laps until Berry was able to open a 20 second gap.
“I was trying to race clean and see how it was going to play out,” explained Velonews’ Pacocha. “Things were cooling off so late in the day and the grass was really freezing up making it really slippery. I had a little crash and he was able to get away.”
The three early leaders were not the story however in the 35-39 age division as Jonathan Baker (Vitamin Cottage) surged from the fourth row to catch the leaders late in the race.
“After getting through the pack I was riding by myself most of the time,” said Baker. “I wasn’t sure if I would catch them, but I just wanted to keep racing hard. I was 20 seconds back at one point, but I think they started looking at each other a bit late in the race and I was able to close it.”
Baker passed Justin Robinson (CalGiant), Ali Goulet (Church of the Big Ring) and last year’s champion Brandon Dwight (Boulder Cycle Sport) on the final lap to move up to the top step of the podium.
Complete results here.
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Prints can be purchased here