It was a knock down, drag out nail-biter of a race to close out the Greenware US Gran Prix of Cyclocross. Two riders, Jeremy Powers and Tim Johnson, friends and teammates on the Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com, were tied on points and whomever finished first would win the overall.
The two were locked in battle for lap after lap while the enthusiastic, noisy and beer-fueled crowd – revved up by the announcers yelling ‘Johnson attacks’ or ‘Powers is in the lead’ – was running around from section to section watching the battle unfold. A brutal battle where the outcome was unknown until the pair turned the final corner onto the finishing straight and Powers had a slight advantage. After a final look back, Powers raised his arm with sheer joy showing on his face to celebrate winning the race, sweeping the Stanley Portland Cup and claiming his first ever USGP title.
“This was a very special moment, to have my name on this list of people that have won the USGP, it feels really great, I’m super-psyched to be able to bring it back home.” Powers said after his win.
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Johnson who finished second overall, commented “It’s bittersweet for me because I’m not wearing the jersey but it’s a great thing because I couldn’t ask for someone better to be wearing it than Jeremy right now.”
The pace was high straight from the gun with Ryan Trebon (Kona) getting the holeshot and creating a separation by the end of the first lap. On his wheel were Todd Wells (Specialized), US National Cross Champion Johnson, USGP leader into the race Powers and Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain-Maxxis). The field behind them had exploded into multiple groups.
Trebon continued to set the pace until a twitchy Johnson attacked on the third lap to get a gap on Trebon and Powers while the other two were dropped. After taking a moment to gather his thoughts, Powers came around Trebon and went about chasing Johnson down. The final meters between the two were closed when Powers, once again bunny-hopped the barriers and the two were locked in mortal combat.
Trebon and Wells were also engaged in their own battle until Trebon was able to power away on the final lap to get third. Trebon was awarded SRAM Most Aggressive prize.
The U23 battle was a game of tactics between U23 US National Cross Champion Danny Summerhill (Felt-Holowesko Partners) and Zach McDonald (Rapha/Focus). The two stayed glued together until Summerhill put in an attack on the final lap and McDonald clawed his way back up for the final sprint won by Sumerhill. McDonald was second and Jeremy Ferguson (CalGiant) finished third.
After having clinched the U23 overall title on Saturday, an ailing Luke Keough (Champion System p/b Keough Cyclocross) finished one lap down. Ferguson was second overall with his teammate Cody Kaiser third.
Jeremy Powers (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com). “I felt that last year I had some good wins but Tim was always a little bit better. Last year I came into this weekend really good, Todd and Tim were also very good at this time also. I think I’ve been consistent, it’s just been a lot of really, really consistent people, that’s Tim, Ryan, Todd over the years it’s hard to get your name on that plaque with Tim, Ryan, Todd, all those guys and so to be able to do that this year with this title is really special for me.”
About his legs on the first lap. “Not that great actually. I was hurting a lot, I knew the second we got going I was like ‘oh man, this is not going to be good’ and then Tim hit it and I think I went through a moment of doubt. And then I just put it together in my head and I just had to drag him back. I got Tim back luckily. It was just a really hard race overall.”
About his tough National Championships in Portland in 2003. “That’s why all the Under 23s, all the Juniors, I open myself up to them because I’ve lost a lot of races that I’ve prepared really really hard for and that was one of the more dramatic ones where I wanted to stop racing because Jesse Anthony beat me. I’d been training my brains out, I’d been living in Europe and I came here that year and I felt that I was close to a shoe-in for the win. And then it ended up being a race where we ran 35 minutes of a 50-minute race and so I lost, I got second place and I’ll never forget what that feeling was like. I remember being in the elevator afterwards with Jesse Anthony, sitting there, staring at him with the jersey on. It was the most awkward moment of my career, sitting there, he has the jersey, it was terrible. I do remember that feeling but I’ve been lucky here in Portland, the last two years have been very good to me.”
Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com). “Today was all about trying to nail the laps as fast as smooth as possible. It’s really tough to be smooth when you’re going 110% and you’re trying to follow Jeremy through stuff. The last probably 20, 25 minutes today was just lightning fast, every thing we had to get around the course without crashing into trees and stakes, sliding out in the mud, it was pretty much full throttle the entire time.”
About Trebon putting the hurt on in firs lap. “He’s got a lot of power, he has a lot of talent, he’s got a skill that I definitely don’t have, he can stand up and drill it and all of a sudden you’re going 5 miles an hour faster than you thought you could. The question is whether or not you can do it on a course as twisty and turny as it was today. This may not have been suited to him but honestly that seems so long ago, the beginning of the race was a completely different day, by the time we got to the last corner of the race it was really tough to actually pick out anyone section or one lap that actually stuck out.”
About his attack. “I think if I were on a better day, an attack like that would set up another one where you can actually keep the gap and build on it. I gave everything I had today, I just couldn’t get passed Jeremy and every time I caught up to him he had at least the very same speed, if not a little bit faster. It just kept me at bay the whole time. It’s a tough thing to deal with but really that’s what you ask for, the two of us to finish 1-2 today and in the overall all season long, just passing the jersey back and forth. It’s bittersweet for me because I’m not wearing the jersey but it’s a great thing because I couldn’t ask for someone better to be wearing it than Jeremy right now.”
About the USGP importance to US cross. “This is huge, we’ve been looking for a series like this for a long time, we’ve been seeing it grow, seein it expand. To finish it up in Portland in front of a crowd like it was today. This is definitely more racing compared to some of the other racing that you guys have around here, the CrossCrusade races with 1500 people, that’s the bread and butter of cross, cross is made by people that love to do cross, this is the racing version, this is that part where you’re out for blood, you’re trying to just go through the mud as fast as you can but there’s a place for everything and I think as a big series, a premiere series in the States, the USGP is definitely number one.”
Ryan Trebon (Kona). “I’m really glad the USGP is over this year (laughs), it’s been tough. It’s frustrating when you know you’re off your best a little bit and those guys are riding well. I’m really looking forwards to Nationals and going to Europe and just doing different king of racing and different types of courses.”
About the first lap. “You get out there. I can’t start slow and wait for these guys, it’s better to start hard because those first sections we go through are pretty muddy, there was that bog and I wanted to be the first one through there so you pick your own line. Because if I don’t start hard Jeremy is going to start hard and I’m going to end up chasing somebody, might as well make them chase me.”
About Johnson & Powers. “They’ve been doing good, obviously they won 7 of the 8 which is pretty good. I’ve had a lackluster forgettable season for me I would say, I’ve been good but sometime you’re good, and other people are really good and you’re constantly battling and oh I want to be a little bit better but you just can’t.”
Todd Wells (Specialized). “I had a great mountain bike season, took a little break and came into the cross season. Every year I feel that the cross field gets a little bit deeper and these guys get faster and faster and so it’s a tough season but it is a lot of fun.”
About recovering from his crash in Colorado. “I had a pretty big in Fort Collins, and I ended up healing pretty quick and then just mentally going out back out there and not being afraid to lay it down.”
Any trepidation to bunny-hop the barriers. “A little bit in the back of my mind but I feel that I’ve been bunny hopping for so long, one crash in ten years isn’t too bad.”
What about Bend? “I haven’t won any races thus far this year so that would be a good one to start with.” (laughs)
Top 10 Elite Men
1. Jeremy Powers (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com)
2. Timothy Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com)
3. Ryan Trebon (Kona)
4. Todd Wells (Specialized)
5. Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain)
6. Christopher Jones (Rapha-Focus)
7. James Driscoll (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com)
8. Jesse Anthony (CalGiant)
9. Tristan Schouten (Cyclocrossracing.com-Blue)
10. Daniel Summerhill (Felt-Holowesko Partners)