At sixteen points down in the Greenware US Gran Prix of Cyclocross Standings, Jeremy Powers (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) knew what he had to do at day 1 of the Portland Stanley Cup and that is win. Much simpler said than done but Powers pulled it out, taking advantage of a mechanical that befelled his last competitor to solo to the win and back into the leader’s jersey with one race to go in the series. And what a race it’s going to be. Once again, Powers is tied in points with his teammate Tim Johnson who was leading the series coming into the race, the showdown is Sunday.
“It’s definitely significant.” Powers said about the battle with Johnson. “It’s unique but we’re going to do the exact same thing we’ve been doing all season, battling it out and tomorrow the best guy wins.”
The elite men’s race went out with bang on a course that had dried to tacky mud after days of rain in Portland with still some tricky, slippery spots and some bogs. Kona’s Ryan Trebon took over the front after U23 leader Luke Keough (Champion System p/b Keough Cyclocross) took the holeshot. Trebon pushed the pace and by the end of the first lap, gaps had formed with Trebon, U23 US National Champion Danny Summerhill (Felt-Holowesko Partners) and Powers at the front. But Summerhill went down on the corner before the barriers, a tricky spot that Powers examined closely during the pre-ride, testing his line after going down twice.
After the first set of barriers, Trebon and Powers were off to duke it out at the front. After coming to the front and setting a fast, to the point of having the fastest lap time of 7:11 on the second lap, Chris Jones (Rapha/Focus) was dropped and became engaged in his own battle for the podium.
At the front, it was once again the Powers vs Trebon show, in a battle that Powers called “brutal”, the riders threw everything at each other. One rider, Trebon looking for his first USGP win of the season and the other, Powers, for his first USGP Series overall win. The pair looked equally matched, taking turns at the front until Trebon broke his derailleur at the barriers with two laps to go. That was enough for Trebon to call it day while Powers pushed ahead, bunny hopping the barriers like he had every lap, to go for the win.
Meanwhile behind them, Jones had been caught by the chase group of Johnson and Jesse Anthony (CalGiant). Jones used the other two to recover before laying on an attack to solo to second and his first USGP podium in front of the Rapha owner.
“The three of us were going back and forth for awhile. I was waiting for a couple laps to go and then I knew I had to go.” Jones said. “It was fun.” For his resurgence and fighting spirit, Jones was awarded the SRAM Most Aggressive prize.
Fighting bad legs, Johnson had fallen back on the first lap but was able to first hang onto and then eliminate some of the riders in the chase group. “A few different things went in my favor, Ryan crashing, Jesse and Chris having both good rides to keep pushing.” Johnson explained. He finished third, eighteen seconds ahead of Anthony.
Zach McDonald (Rapha/Focus) finished 6th to take his third U23 win in the series. Summerhill was second and Jeremy Ferguson (CalGiant) 3rd in the U23 race. With 52 points on his closest competitors, Keough clinched the U23 overall.
The USGP concludes with the final and second of the Portland Stanley Cup on Sunday. Rain was predicted earlier on but now seems doubtful. One thing is certain is that it’s going to be a throwdown. A throwdown between Powers and Johnson for the overall. A throwdown between Todd Wells (Specialized) and Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) for the third spot on the podium as the two are separated by only point. And a throwdown from a frustrated Trebon.
Jeremy Powers (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com). “We were going as hard as we could and we were definitely knocking each other and dragging it out, throwing down at each other but it was hard, he [Ryan Trebon] was going good and he was going good. It wasn’t a lot of risks, the only place that was only risky was probably in the back section around the corner where it was really slimy and then over the barriers. That was definitely risky but for the most part it was just cruise control for the last laps.”
About the first lap. “I was going as hard as I could go and then Chris Jones came by as if I was standing still, I couldn’t believe it. It was a race that was all over the place, I didn’t feel like I has control, I was kind of at my limit and then once Chris Jones came by and then Ryan, I was like ‘oh no’. ”
About predictions of rain. “That will definitely benefit Tim but I think I can hold my on and I’m looking forwards to it.”
Tim Johnson (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com). “Yeah, I don’t really have an explanation for it [bad legs]. I had a fear [during the pre-ride], I was fearful that it was going to be a day like that.”
Strategy with bad legs. “The best way to counteract a race like that is to just stick it out and hope that it changes. I got dropped by that group and I really didn’t know if I was going to get caught from behind. A few different things went in my favor, Ryan crashing, Jesse and Chris having both good rides to keep pushing. So yeah I just tried to stay in it, I actually dropped Jones and Jesse with a lap and a half to go and I had a gap on them, and I was hoping was going to hold, and then one of these sections because I wasn’t really on my game I just rode right into one of the softest spot and just stopped and Jesse hit me from behind five seconds later. That was it.”
About predictions of rain. “I don’t think it will be bad, I think it will be nice. If it were more wet, the course would be easier. It was dry and it was sticky, if it were to get moist it would probably be easier to ride. I’ll take it either way.”
Chris Jones (Rapha/Focus). “I stayed off the ground today, which contributed to being second. Tim crashed, Ryan had a mechanical, and I kept telling myself to keep it upright.”
About his race. “I saw Tim was off the back a bit and I thought I would get to the front and stretch it out. I tried to eliminate as many guys as possible. I had a bit of a gap for awhile. I wasn’t really thinking about the gap. I just wanted to keep my own pace. If other people could keep up then they would keep up. When Johnson caught up, I was struggling a bit. That’s when Jeremy attacked and Ryan crashed. I ran into him. It created a gap and could not catch him. I knew once Tim and Jesse rode with me it gave me a break from the wind, which allowed me to recover better. It worked out well. The three of us were going back and forth for awhile. I was waiting for a couple laps to go and then I knew I had to go. It was fun. It was a great crowd. Rapha is based in Portland. It’s always good to race in front of your sponsors. The owner of Rapha flew in last night from London. I had to put on a show for him. Plus Zach MacDonald won the U23 race. It was a very good day for us.”
Top 10 Elite Men
1. Jeremy Powers (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld)
2. Chris Jones (Rapha / FOCUS)
3. Tim Johnson (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld)
4. Jesse Anthony (Cal Giant Berries / Specialized)
5. Todd Wells (Specialized)
6. Zach McDonald (Rapha Focus)
7. Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld)
8. Geoff Kabush (Maxxis / Rocky Mount)
9. Barry Wicks (KONA)
10. Adam Craig (GIANT)