Yannick Eckmann sweeps Mercer and takes over USGP lead

We have a new leader in the very tight race in the Men’s Jr 17-18 series of the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross.  Young Yannick Eckmann (Clif Bar Development Team) discovered that he loves the mud at this weekend’s  Mercer Cup Races as the almost 16 year old swept the two races to take over the lead of the USGP series.  (Scroll down for photo galleries)

“This weekend is pretty big for me. Two wins in a row is hard work but eventually it paid off for me.” said Eckmann. I’m loving the mud, I don’t know why but I’m getting it.”

Leader going into the weekend, Cody Kaiser (CalGiant) finished third on Saturday and “wasn’t feeling it” on Sunday where he finished sixth. By my calculations, Eckmann now leads with 23 points with two races to go, but Kaiser is not giving up and will come out swinging in Portland.

Hammer time. Tropical Storm Ida made the course a mud fest for the Saturday race, with some drizzle in the air as the 17 juniors lined up for the start. Given that this race was the first UCI cross race for these riders who therefore have no UCI points, the starting position was chosen randomly.

Eckmann took the holeshot, went to the front and that was it. “Straight from the start and hammering the whole time. Two weekends ago, I had a mud race and I loved it so maybe mud is my thing. ” said Eckmann who professed not to like mud a few weeks.

Yannick Eckmann (Clif Bar Developement Team) gets holeshot

Eckmann had 10 seconds to the closest chaser by the end of the first lap of the 40-minute race.

Kaiser started slow but made his way up around other riders. “I came out of the start a little too slow, got a pretty bad position going into that first corner, and had to start making up room from there. Going the first hundred yards on the dirt, I was probably eighth or ninth, and then corner and corner, I started moving up. I started to ride with wider shoulders and pushing through.”

Jeffrey Bahnson (Thuke/Van Dessel) has moved up to second spot

Mudder Jeffrey Bahnson (Thule/Van Dessel) also had a bad start but he was in his element as he started to move up. “On the pavement, my start wasn’t that good, I was tenth or fifteenth. I made up a lot of spots on the first turn, I went on the outside and then I just spent the whole race trying to catch up to Yannick, it didn’t work out.”

After two laps, the stage was set. Eckmann was off the front with Bahnson in second spot and Kaiser in third. Kaiser is known for his power on the second-half of the race and was was starting to close the gap down.

“I wasn’t really concerned about it until the announcers started talking about it.” said Bahnson about Kaiser chasing him. “Richard Fries was saying that Cody was getting stronger and making up time.”

USGP leader Cody Kaiser (CalGiant) is in 3rd spot

“I could definitely see that he was slowing down, I let the gap grow too big and then couldn’t close it down fast enough.” said Kaiser.

The mud was sticking on the brakes, making the bikes heavier and heavier. “You have to ride on the very edge of the course and it’s perfect.” said Eckmann about his strategy.

“It was pretty thick, it wasn’t anything that was easy to ride through. A couple of sections were faster than others, I always like those sections that are more technical. The barriers and through the off camber stuff was definitely to my advantage.” said Kaiser.

Eckmann was switching bikes every half lap until “at the end, my dad almost gave me the wrong bike so I had to wait in the pit until he gets my bike,” he laughed, “then I had to wait to get my bike. I rode one lap with my race, and then I changed again for the final lap.”

Bahnson saw the fumble and elected to not change his bike on that lap hoping to close down the gap.

In the end, it was Eckmann, Bahnson, Kaiser with Skyler Trujillo (Niner) in fourth and Robin Eckmann (Clif Bar Development) in fifth.  Kaiser was still in the leader’s jersey with a 4 point lead going into Sunday’s race.

USGP Mercer Cup Jr podium: 1st Yannick Eckmann (Clif Bar Development), 2nd Jeffrey Bahnson (Thule Van Dessel), 3rd Cody Kaiser (CalGiant)

Sunny and fast on Sunday as the mud was drying out and getting thicker. No major changes were made to the course with some added buttonhole turns and a long running section removed.

17 riders in the Men Jr 17-18 field lined up for the start

“The mud wasn’t too bad, I only changed twice or three times because the mud didn’t stick to the bike like yesterday.” said Eckmann. “They changed the course a little bit, put more turns in, turns are good for me.”

This time, Kaiser went hard from the gun to get the holeshot, but “I went out a little too hard and kind of burned out.”

Yannick Eckmann (Clif Bar Development) has dropped Jeffrey Bahnson (Thule Van Dessel)

“I picked a bad number, number 20 so I was in the second row.” said Eckmann about his start. “I didn’t have the greatest of starts and when we got into the dirt, I was finding my way through. When people were putting elbows out to me, I’d put elbows back to make my space so I wouldn’t crash or anything.”

Mid-way into the first lap, after the first time through the pit Eckmann was off the front. Behind him were Chris Wallace (KCCX/Verge) at 7 seconds back, then Bahnson, Kaiser with Matthew Spinks (Team Plan C) and Robin Eckmann with Stuart Wright (Hot Tubes).

Starting last in the field of 17 riders, Wright moved up quickly.

“I was late getting here so I didn’t get my number until fifteen minutes before it started so I was dead last,” laughed Wright, “I caught up. I felt really strong and just moved up, I was probably sitting in fifth by the time we hit the mud so it was pretty good.”

Eckmann was powering at the front. “Just riding hard to the front and when I got to the front, I just kept hammering the whole time.”

Chris Wallace (KCCX/Verge) goes down

Wallace was having a good race until he tangled up with a post and the tape. By the time, he was tape-free and back up, at least 6 riders had gone by. Bahnson was now in second with Robin Eckmann and Wright battling for third.

Stuart Wright (Hot Tubes) finished 2nd

For a short moment, Bahnson did catch up to Eckmann but soon the gap was re-established, and the order set for the two top steps of the podium.

The third spot was decided on the last lap.

“I attacked him going through the pit on the last lap, I got a gap. He was trying to close it, it was really hard to stay away but luckily I did. ” said Wright who is doing cross for fun this year as his focus is the road. “I was pretty happy to be where I was. Yesterday I didn’t have a very good day at all so to be up there today felt really good. ”

Eckmann sweeps Mercer Cup races

Kaiser was just not having a good day as he was fading back and ended up sixth overall.

“I can’t let too many people get ahead of me, but really the only one that counts is Yannick so can’t let too many people get away but,” said Kaiser about his thoughts during the race, “something happened.”

Wallace did catch up to many riders to finish fifth on the day.

What’s next? The final two USGP races, the Stanley Portland Cup in Oregon on December 6 & 7.

“My goal is to hang on to the jersey because I can’t do Nationals so I want to try to win the jersey overall,” said German-National and US resident Eckmann, “that’s my goal for this year.” Due to his status, Eckmann is unable to race in either US or German Cross National Championships. (Stay tuned for more with Yannick and his older brother Robin).

“I’ll got home, probably race a few local races see how things go out there. With my luck, I’ll probably be feeling great out there but not here. ” said Kaiser.

Let’s reconvene in a few weeks for the finale of this exciting series.

Mercer Cup 1 – Men’s JR 17-18 Results
1.Yannick Eckmann (Clif Bar Development Cross Team)
2.Jeffrey Bahnson (Thule / Van Dessel)
3.Cody Kaiser (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized)
4.Skyler Trujillo (Niner)
5.Robin Eckmann (Clif Bar Development Cross Team)
6.Matthew Spinks (Team Metra / Wendy’S P/B Cycles 54)
7.Jesse Keough (Clnoonan/Kam/Coast To Coast)
8.Gunnar Bergey (C3- Athletes Seving Athletes)
9.Joshua Lehmann (Sunapee/S&W/Continental Paving Racing Team)
10.Andrew Bennett (Team Redline)
11.David Kessler (Clif Bar Development Team)
12.Jeremiah Dyer (Hudz-Subaru Jr-Development Cx)
13.Jacob Arnold (Pioneer Racing)
14.Chris Wallace (Kccx/Navigators Insurance/Verge)
15.Stuart Wight (Hot Tubes Development Cycling Team)
16.Kolben Preble (Hammer Velo)
17.Cam Mancuso (Death Row Velo)

Mercer Cup 2 – Men’s JR 17-18 Results
1.Yannick Eckmann (Clif Bar Development Cross Team)
2.Jeffrey Bahnson (Thule / Van Dessel)
3.Stuart Wight (Hot Tubes Development Cycling Team)
4.Robin Eckmann (Clif Bar Development Cross Team)
5.Chris Wallace (KCCX/Navigators Insurance/Verge)
6.Cody Kaiser (California Giant Strawberries/Specialize)
7.Skyler Trujillo (NINER)
8.Matthew Spinks (Team Metra / Wendy’s p/b Cycles 54)
9.Jesse Keough (CLNoonan/KAM/Coast to Coast)
10.Andrew Bennett (Team Redline)
11.Joshua Lehmann (Sunapee/S&W/Continental Paving Racing Team)
12.Kolben Preble (hammer velo)
13.Gunnar Bergey (C3- Athletes Seving Athletes)
14.Jeremiah Dyer (HUDZ-Subaru Jr-Development CX)
15.Benjamin Wolfe (Mystic Velo Juniors)
16.Paul Lynch (CL Noonan/Coast to Coast/KAM)

Leave a Comment