Some nasty weather conditions for the Men Junior 17/18 showdown on Saturday morning with cold rain and colder mud on the course. Perfect conditions for Jeffrey Bahnson (Van Dessel), the mudder and favorite into the race. And he delivered, taking off solo with two laps to go to win his third National title, adding his first in the 17/18 category to his two victories in the 15/16 category.
“It feels good now, I was definitely nervous this morning.” Bahnson said. “It feels the 17/18 are a much more competitive field so it’s great to win.”
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Bahnson had a slow start pushing him down to around 15th as the field made its way into the mud on the first lap with Gunnar Bergey (C3 Athletes) setting the pace. But he quickly moved up to the front and a separation was made with six riders getting a gap. Under Bahnson’s tempo, the group dwindled and re-shuffled with Andrew Dillman (Red Zone Cycling) making his way to Bahnson at the front. Then Bjorn Fox (Clif Bar) appeared, seemingly out of nowhere to join the duo at the front.
Fox had been spooked by a crash on the pavement at the start and had falling back. But he recovered and started to pick his way, never faltering. Not only did he join the duo but he made his way to the front and applied pressure. Dillman was popped and dropped back. Suddenly what seemed a sure thing for Bahnson became harder as Fox kept on applying the pressure and the two took turns at the front. But Bahnson was confident and waited for the perfect moment to just go and take his victory.
Fox kept on pushing all the way to the finish line to take silver. A stoked Dillman held on to third, his first ever podium finish at a National Championship. Cypress Gorry took fourth ahead of Bergey.
Jeff Bahnson (Van Dessel). “I felt like I had a really shitty start off the line, I couldn’t clip in and kept getting sprayed on all the runups and the mud. I don’t even think I was in the top 15 through this first section. ”
About the course. “I had a lot of trouble in some of the muddy spots clipping in because my feet were basically numb, it was hard to tell where the pedal is but other than that, all the slick stuff, the muddy stuff was fun. Actually the grass was a like a sponge, it was really hard to go through, it really feels like you’re sawing through it.”
About Fox catching up. “It was me, Dillman and Zane. I don’t even know where Bjorn, he was killing it today, he caught up to me, he went through Zane and Andrew and up to me. ”
About his upcoming trip to Europe. “I’d love a top 10 in a World Cup. For Worlds it would be great to be in the top 15 for Worlds.”
Bjorn Fox (Clif Bar Dev. Squad). “In the first lap, I was pretty sketched because of the crash. A lot of people passed me on the first lap and then I kept a good pace and kept passing people. I was riding through and then ‘oh this is the group with Jeff and everybody else, oh that’s cool’.”
About the conditions. “I just kept it smooth and the course was great. I didn’t find it sketchy at all that way, I just kept on riding fast and it was just great.”
About his result. “I didn’t exactly get it but I was close.I’m very happy, it was lots of fun, it was a blast being up there.”
Andrew Dillman (Red Zone Cycling). “I’m just really psyched to be up there with those guys. I’ve never been on a podium before, I’m overwhelmed with relief and happiness, I’m just so excited to finally get on the podium at a national race and I’ve been working pretty hard all year. To be up there racing with those guys for even half the race was amazing.”
About the first three laps. “At the first lap there was a big group of five or six of us, it was just one after one that kept dropping off, finally it was just me and Zane. And then I went from Zane to Jeff and it was me and Jeff and then Bjorn came out of nowhere and was just up there. When Bjorn got up there, he jacked it and my stomach tightened up, they got a gap and it got bigger and bigger. And then I was just racing for third after that.”
About the final lap. “I did not want to crash at all. I was not going as fast at the other laps, I was trying to make sure I didn’t go down.”
Top 5 Junior Men 17-18
1. Jeff Bahnson (Newark, Del./Van Dessel) 0:42:32
2. Bjorn Fox (Incline Village, Nev./Clif Bar Dev. Squad) 0:43:01
3. Andrew Dillman (Fairdale, Ky./Red Zone Cycling) 0:43:50
4. Cypress Richard Gorry (Payson, Ariz.) 0:44:15
5. Gunnar Bergey (Lederach, Penn./C3-Athletes Serving Athletes) 0:44:25