What a finale in Bend for the US Cyclocross National Championships. Perfection and heartbreak in the same race. Perfection for Todd Wells (Specialized) who claimed his third Stars-and-Stripes jersey. He previously won in 2001 and 2005. And for 2010, Wells adds cyclocross to his national titles in cross country and short track mountain biking.
“It’s pretty big for me. I’d never won the cross country title before, so I got it this year, the short track, and now the cyclocross. It’s the perfect season.” Wells said.
See Photo Gallery
It didn’t take long for two men to pull away from the field and an amazing duel was on. Fast starter Jeremy Powers (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) did it again and got away on the first lap while Wells caught up to him on the second lap, in which he set the fastest lap time of 7:25.
The two went at it around the course with its water-logged pit, muddy, sloggy, boggy sections on the field with deep, spongy mud that killed legs. And the crowd was loving it, a large, boisterous, beer-fueled crowd that made it impossible to hear anything.
On his best season ever, with two national cross series titles Powers was on a quest to win his first ever National title. Wells, also on a fabulous year, was actually looking for his first cross win of the year and to complete the trifecta of National titles.
Then disaster for Powers. He slipped out on a muddy corner and bikes got tangled up. Wells was able to easily get back up and moving but had to put his foot down on Powers’ bike while doing so. Powers was also quick to get back up and get his bike but then he noticed that his wheel moving. He tried and then raised his fist in the air in pure raw emotion to see the title disappear from his grasp, again. It happened last year, on an icy course in Bend, when he slid out while in the lead. This time though, he stayed calm and started running to the top of the flyover where he finally fix the brake so he could keep on going.
“Damn it.” Powers replied when asked what went through his mind at that moment. “You can’t see it but again I’m just super dejected, upset.”
Actually, the emotion could still be felt thirty minutes after the race, it was obvious that the high-energy Powers was dejected. He continued, “No matter what I do, no matter how good I am, I figured this year maybe I could crash and still win, I don’t know. I can’t do anymore than I already did, I rode the race of my life, I think I rode the fastest I could have ridden. I was never in the red, when I was with Todd I felt pretty confident. We could speculate for a year but….” Powers then walked over to the next trailer to congratulate his friend Wells.
Back to the race. Powers had lost too much time and Wells was off. And so was Ryan Trebon (Kona), the tall rider from Bend was on the hunt.
After getting the holeshot, Trebon slid out on the turn after the flyover and had to mount a chase. It took three laps of digging deep to have the leaders in his sight and then he was able to come around Powers at the crash. Then the chase was on, at the front Wells behind him Trebon. The gap was coming down to the delight of the crowd, which was even noisier if possible. But Wells kept on riding smoothly, maybe the only rider not to go down during the race.
Trebon saw the writing on the wall on the final half-lap and sat up and finished second, again. “There was a lot of people having a good time and yelling really loud. It feels good, I’d like to win, it’s like my fifth second at Nationals. I couldn’t have gone any harder, I was at my limit.”
Powers got a new bike and never gave up. His face spoke volume as he held on for third.
Behind them, Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) had a strong four laps, moving up but then the hard conditions sapped his energy but he held on to take fourth. Defending champion Tim Johnson (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com), who had been battling illness in the days leading up to the race had faded after a fast start and took fifth.
Todd Wells (Specialized). “In the beginning I was maybe around 10th place. There were some crashes I avoided and made it up to maybe the top five. Then Trebon crashed and that left Powers and I off the front together. And then he crashed a few laps later and I was by myself for the last four or five laps, able to hold off Trebon. One lap he took like five seconds out of me, but luckily I was able to get it together and just hold the gap.”
About Powers. “He worked us over. I knew just because he had won every race previous it doesn’t mean that you’re going to win this one. That’s the cool thing with National Championship, a one-day championship, every body lines up with the same shot at winning.”
About taking risks. “These guys are all so good that the starts just get faster and faster, I didn’t have the best start but it wasn’t the worst, there were a lot of crashes going out on there and I just managed to avoid the crashes and stay upright. I was taking risks in the corners that I felt I could take fast, the corner where Jeremy went down, I didn’t know it was that slippery until I saw him go down. There are some off camber wet sections that are tough.”
About the final laps. “I didn’t want to go too deep because I knew at that point it was mine to lose. For me, I was taking some risks in the corners and just trying to make it through the power sections without losing too much time.”
Ryan Trebon (Kona). “It’s about par for the course, for some reason I’ve been on the podium at Nationals since 2003, third is the worst that I’ve ever done, except in 07 when I got knocked out of the race. It’s frustrating, it would be nice to win but Todd had an unbelievable year. I kind of hate him now, I had the record man of mountain biking and cross and now he’s ‘oh I’m going to one up you’ so I don’t know what I’m going to do now. (laughs) It was good, I’m happy with today, I wish I had a little bit more but you can’t complain.”
About his first lap crash. “There’s a turn off the fly over, the course stake was leaning over and it just took my bars and it spun me pretty hard off the bike. I took Chris Jones down unfortunately too, I didn’t see it there, I came around the turn and it was just in the course, it happens.
About his thoughts after his crash. “I was pretty far back and I’m like shit, it’s going to be a hard day. I tried to not let it get to me, it was long, it was the first lap, like seven more laps to go, I just wanted to pace myself back into it. I think I did a good job, I just kind of burned all my matches with about two to go.”
About chasing. “Those guys were going hard and I caught Powers but I just couldn’t get Todd, he was going good. I was pretty spent with about three laps to go and I was just digging as hard as I could. My hat is off to Todd, he was riding a great race, he pulled a little back in in this boggy section but he was pulling away from me on the back side, the middle area. It was a good race, the crowd was awesome.”
Jeremy Powers (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com). “Damn it. You can’t see it but again I’m just super dejected, upset. No matter what I do, no matter how good I am, I figured this year maybe I could crash and still win, I don’t know. I can’t do anymore than I already did, I rode the race of my life, I think I rode the fastest I could have ridden. I was never in the red, when I was with Todd I felt pretty confident. We could speculate for a year but….”
What happened? “I don’t know. There was no reason. I was coming in really fast, I just lost my front wheel and just went down, it wasn’t even a big crash, I popped right back up. Todd landed on top of me so his foot hit my brake and it put it into my wheel and I couldn’t get the wheel moving, I looked at it as much as I could, I thought I had broken the wheel in half so I had to keep going. Got to the top of the flyover and I took another assessment of it, pulled the brake caliper out, rode it and then I missed the pit because I was going too fast trying to catch back up. I lost some good time, I got some time back but can’t give someone a 30-second lead like that.”
Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com). “I was just passing people when I could, it’s not a classic Euro mud bog course which is completely wide open and you can pass people wherever you want. There’s definitely turns, like single lines some places, some places I had an opportunity to pass, not in abundance so I had to take advantage of them. I felt good and I was just going as hard as I could to get up, I noticed I was pretty well, I felt good, I noticed I was catching some of the top 5 and then I kind of plateaued and didn’t have as much gas as I did earlier so just settled in.”
About Powers. “I think Nationals are his Achilles heel. I don’t know why, we were actually joking about it today, we’ve been here since Monday, all that is going through our brain is just Nationals, Nationals, Nationals. I’m saying that we could just fly in the evening before and just treat it like a normal race or something like that. You’ve got to do something differently because the same thing happened last year, he was leading the race just killing it, and then crashed, it got to his head and couldn’t bounce back. I don’t know what that guy has to do differently, he can win every other race but this one. ”
About his result. “All things considered I was pretty satisfied, getting back on the podium so quickly was pretty awesome. It would have been sweet to keep moving up like I was all race but I guess you can’t ask for too much.”
Top 5 Elite Men
1. Todd Wells (Durango, Colo./Specialized Factory Racing) 1:00:49
2. Ryan Trebon (Bend, Ore./Kona) 1:01:14
3. Jeremy Powers (East Hampton, Mass./Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) 1:02:16
4. Jamey Driscoll (Winooski, Vt./Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) 1:02:52
5. Tim Johnson (Beverly, Mass./Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) 1:02:52