Yannick Eckmann (Hot Tubes) made it four for four at the Greenware US Gran Prix of Cyclcoross Derby City Cup presented by Papa John’s Pizza this weekend but he had to fight for it with more Men Jr 17/18 showing up to challenge him.
After dropping his chain on Saturday, Eckmann had to chase his main rival Jeffrey Bahnson (Van Dessel Factory Team) for three laps only to catch him the final time through the pit. When Eckmann crossed the line for the win on Saturday, he let out a scream of joy.
“I was so excited because he had such a big gap in front of me, no way I can close it then I got him and I was like holy crap that’s pretty good.” Eckmann said. He called it his best win so far.
Saturday. In his first USGP race this season, Bahnson threw the gauntlet down. Eckmann, Bahnson and Louisville-native Andrew Dillman (Red Zone Cycling) made their way through the Masters 45+ and 55+ fields that started before them, to battle at the front.
“That was interesting.” Bahnson about the start. “Trying stay in Yannick’s wheel between all the traffic, it got a little tricky on the runups and stuff getting stuck behind people but then, Yannick would get stuck behind someone and I’d be able to catch back up to him and then I’d get stuck and he’s get a gap. It would be 10 bike lengths and then we’d be right next to each other.”
Dillman was sitting on. “I was just staying behind them, lettting them do the work because I know they’re really strong, I was just hanging with them letting them do the work, just sitting on their wheel. They sort of left me back there in the dusty section, I was on their wheel so I couldn’t really see exactly what was going on in front of me and my front wheel went into a little divet in the ground and it slid me out. I kind of rolled, they took off and I was playing catch up after that.”
Once Dillman crashed and dropped back, Eckmann and Bahnson matched each other over the sandpit, up and down the course until dropped his chain. Bahnson took off like a rocket and the chase was on.
“I dropped my chain somewhere at the downhill before the runup, and my chain got stuck and I couldn’t get it down so I was ripping on the chain and everything and Jeff Bahnson was already on the straight and I was like ‘oh my race is over’ but I just kept cool and just tried to bring him back.” Eckmann said.
For the next three laps, Eckmann went into the red to reel him back which he did on the final lap.” I had a pretty gap on Yannick but before then I was just riding on his wheel in the red zone, trying to stay there. In the end I really wasn’t able to hold the gap in the sprint.” Bahnson commented.
The two made their way to the finish line where Eckmann crossed the finish line first for the win with Bahnson on his wheel.
“I just went as hard as I could, I think I went over my limit the last 3 or 4 laps. I caught him last lap, the second time through the pit, I caught him and stayed on him at the runup and right before the finish line, there’s a steep runup that you can ride up, I just hammered up there and got in front of him with a little gap which I kept the finish line and got the win, the best win I got so far.” Eckmann smiled after the race.
Once dropped, Dillman concentrated on keeping his third place. “ I was trying to stay steady and keep it clean until the end, I didn’t want to lose the podium.”
Sunday. Eckmann took no chances the following day when after a slow start, he hit the gas and was gone, once again making his way through the other categories to be solo at the front.
“I didn’t have such a good start.” Eckmann explained. “I came into the off-camber section right after the finish, I just hammered it, ride right into the field, the back of the field and just got a line through the whole field basically.”
Behind him Bahnson was chasing solo, with a few masters on his wheel as they were also chasing a lone rider off the front. “It’s kind of fun going through the traffic every now and then. It makes it more interesting. Yannick had me in the first grass section, I couldn’t get up to him the entire race.”
By the third lap, Dillman had also passed almost all the masters and was chasing solo in third. “I didn’t crash which is good. There was a lot of traffic at the beginning, going around those people kind of separated Yannick from Bahnson and me from Bahnson. After we got through there, I could see Bahnson in front of me and the entire race he just stayed the same exact distance and I just couldn’t get up to him and I was trying so hard but.” he shrugged.
The gaps stayed the same until the end of the 40-minute race where Eckmann claimed his fourth consecutive USGP win this year, solidifying his lead. Bahnson claimed second and Dillman third.
Eye-opener for Dillman. In his first year as a junior 17/18, Dillman did not expect to be battling for podium spots. “I remember last year they were in the 17/18 and I was 15/16 and I looked up to them and wow I’m going to be racing against those guys next year and I couldn’t imagine that I’d be up there with them. That’s just a big eye opener for me this year.”
Like many others the 16-year old, racing age of 17, started mountain biking when he was 10 and turned into a roadie when he joined the Red Zone Cycling Team but admits that cross is his favorite discipline.
His goal this season is simple, to get invited to EuroCrossCamp. “I already knew Geoff Proctor from last year because I went to a road camp in Europe for three weeks so he knew who I was so I emailed him and asked him which race to do and he said this one and Colorado, and the one up in Delaware last weekend.” And of course, the US Cross National Championships in December.
After his performance in Louisville, Dillman is hopeful. “This year I never expected to be up there with Yannick and them so I think I have more of a chance than I thought I would to get into the Europe camp.”
And Dillman has started thinking about the World Championships. “I wasn’t even thinking about the Worlds.” he explained. “That would be really really cool to get invited to go to the Worlds for the US team, I never even thought about that until a couple of weeks ago when I heard about it.”
He wants to make it as a pro. ”Yeah for sure. I can’t wait to race with all the pros. I look up to all those guys”
Quiet Bahnson also wants to make it. Not a big talker, the 17-year old (racing age of 18) lets his legs do most of the talking. So far this year, he has swept the Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester and Charm City Cross races.
“To win Nationals that would be nice.” he replied after a pause when asked his goal for the season. He also is looking to go back to Europe during the Christmas season at EuroCrossCamp.
Bahnson’s schedule is still uncertain as far as the New Belgium Cup in Fort Collins but he is on for the finale, the Stanley Portland Cup prior to Nationals.
Known as a mudder, Bahnson is hopping that sloppy conditions come back for the next races.
Models. Who do these up and comers look up to as far as pros?
“I like Jeremy Powers because he hops the barriers, nobody else does that so he’s really cool for that. I really like Barry Wicks because he has the best attitude, he’s always talking to us.” Dillman said. “Georgia Gould was at our tent yesterday for 30 minutes, talking to all the little girls on our team. I want to be one of those pros that helps out with all the juniors because I know how much it means to all the juniors, being one.”
“For cross, the Belgian guys,” Eckmann replied and then nodded yes when Sven Nys and Niels Albert were mentioned. “I’ve seen them at the World Cups a few times and watched them. I’d like to be like them but a little better.” he smiled. “When they attack, they’re gone basically, they hold their power, ride smooth.”
Then Eckmann went to add Andy Schleck on the road and added with a laugh “Time to time, I’m actually good at climbing.” (read more about Eckmann here)
The three will keep on racing and chasing their dreams.