The U23 men led off the afternoon with what became a two-man duel lasting into the final lap. It was a battle of horsepower versus technical prowess betweed efending champion Danny Summerhill (Garmin Transitions-Team Holowesko Partners) and Zach McDonald (Rapha Focus).
Each took turns trying to ride away from each other after opening up a large gap on the rest of the field. The outcome was only decided when Summerhill was finally able to get and keep a gap on the final lap. Seeing that he could not catch him McDonald sat up to give his rival time to enjoy his victory.
“That was a difficult race, for sure. We were battling the whole time,” said Summerhill.
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McDonald wasted no time coming to the front, he came around Manny Goguen (BikeReg.com) who took the holsehot to take over the lead and then shoot away from the field. Meanwhile behind him, Summerhill got taken down before the pit and watched McDonald zoom away in the distance with a gap of 15 seconds by the end of the first lap. It seemed that he had the victory within reach until he collided with a spectator that was on the course. At the same time, Summerhill was powering up and the two were back together by the end of the second lap.
The battle was on. Summerhill using his power on the straightaways and McDonald his skills on the muddy sections but neither could drop the other one, They stayed glued together until the final lap.
Meanwhile behind them, the battle for third was on between Jerome Townsend (BikeReg.com) and Eric Thompson Maplelag-Paramount Sports). Thompson had jumped on Summerhill’s wheel where he surged up in the first lap and made it to the original chase group. Here also, in a mirror image of the duel at the front, each rider used his skills in a tactical game. Thomspon in the mud, Townsend in the twisty up and down sections. Townsend won that game, staying on his opponent’s wheel on the final lap until he dug deep all the way to drop him and make it to the line first to take third.
Danny Summerhill (Garmin Transitions-Team Holowesko Partners). “Slick wasn’t really my issue, it was more the bogginess in some of the mud sections, there are so many deep holes from the thousand of racers and it’s all wet on top so you can’t tell if you’re going to go into a hole or not and a lot of times on the first couple of laps when I was so scared that I would get back to Zach or not, I was clocking every hole I could because I didn’t know they were there, I didn’t pre-ride the course this morning because of how cold and how rainy it was. So on top of crashing on the first lap and then having to chase back and not being able to really pay attention to the course, it was a hectic couple of first laps.”
About the battle. “Zach was killing me, left and right. I’ve been here for a week so I’ve got a week of nerves boiling up, on top of crashing of the first lap, it was really nerve racking the whole race. I didn’t really feel that my legs had anything. When Zack started to sit up a little bit to look around, I used that as my ticket to get up to him but the first couple of laps I didn’t think that I could get him at all because he was off and I could tell that he was kind of playing with me too because he had enough of a lead that he could watch me suffer and I was the one making all the mistakes because he was the one leading and I was the one trying to cut corners here and there when I can to close a second here and there. That kid’s technical ability is like none other.”
About being at the front on certain sections. “We were back and forth for that a lot, we were playing hockey out there, just bumping shoulders going into u-turns. It’s real easy to take it at your speed so the person behind you is going to suffer if you don’t go fast enough, they’re going to have to put a foot down and that happened to me a couple of times and that happened to me a couple of times. I really started to race him through that straightaway every time so I didn’t have to worry putting a foot down. He’s got so much technical ability that he can really just rail anything. I dabbled once when he was ahead of me and once again I thought it was done he put like five or ten seconds on me immediately, just put me back into the hurt box, just chased him back.”
Zach McDonald (Rapha/Focus). “It’s not nearly as technical as last year, it’s not really that slippery out there, it’s kind of surprising, you have these standing puddles out there, they drain them and it’s not muddy, underneath everything it’s pretty solid.”
Would have won if that spectator had not taken you down? “There’s no way to tell. No one can really answer that question, what happens happens. It wasn’t as bad as last year as far that I didn’t break anything. But it’s definitely a bummer, it’s a bummer to lose a gap when it’s not your fault, but he was riding strong and I don’t want to take anything away from him, he countered me at the right point and was able to ride away on the last lap.”
About the last lap. “I wasn’t going to catch him by the end so I just let him go, no one wants to be rushed on the straightaway when you’re winning. ”
Jerome Townsend (Bikereg.com). “Zach attacked on the first lap and I wasn’t ready to go with that and I was hoping that someone would bridge up a little bit slower, Danny did but unfortunately, he caught and passed me on one of the mud sections and was riding it much better than I was and I wasn’t really able to keep up with him going through there. I was trying to get ahead of him, trying to get a big enough gap on him so that if he did come pass me it would have been a section that I was better at and I could kind of sit on his wheel and rest and then stick with him until he caught Zach. I knew he would, it was inevitable. But it didn’t happen, he caught me on the end of the second lap and again, I knew I would have had to go into the red zone too soon to catch them. Yes I could have caught them but I wouldn’t have gotten third if I had. ”
About battle with Thompson. “He was better than me in the mud so I would kind of make him go first in the windy sections and then shoot around him before the mud sections so he’d have to pass me and use a little bit more energy doing that. I knew that I was riding those up and down, twisty sections much better than he was so that’s where I attacked on the last lap. Saved energy and stayed on his wheel for the entire time to there and put in my attack and got a pretty good gap on him.”
About deciding to go for third. “It wasn’t deciding to go for third, it was knowing my limit and knowing well if these guys are going to be riding that much faster, like hopefully one of them was going to make a mistake, I never settled for third until I crossed the line third ”
Happy with his result? “I’m happy with it, I’m not satisfied with it. I’m not satisfied unless I win. I always want more but it’s my best result at Nationals ever so I’m not going to sneeze at it but it’s a really really good motivation. I’m heading over to EuroCrossCamp so it’s really good motivation for that, I know my legs are good right now, looking forwards to that and looking forwards to the World Championship at the end of January.”
Top 5 U23 Men
1. Danny Summerhill (Centennial, Colo./Garmin Transitions-Team Holowesko Partners) 0:49:20
2. Zach McDonald (Bainbridge Island, Wash./Rapha Focus) 0:50:05
3. Jerome Townsend (Princeton, Mass./Bikereg.com) 0:50:28
4. Eric Thompson (Banner Elk, N.C./Maplelag-Paramount Sports) 0:50:48
5. Chris Hurst (Lake Geneva, Wisc./Baraboo Sharks) 0:51:11