[updated January 29, 2016]
With course preview by Pete Webber
One year ago the juniors racing for cyclocross world championship stripes faced an icy, slick course. Either those conditions or the pressure of starting as overall favorite appeared to rattle then junior World Cup leader Eli Iserbyt from Belgian. He started fast, catching the hole shot, then lost ground as Denmark’s Simon Andreassen took off at the end of lap one and stayed away for the win. A Belgian photographer later said Iserbyt was upset about his tire choice and the Belgian team hadn’t stocked the pits with wheels sporting the tires he wanted. The photographer added that Andreassen had started on the same tires as Iserbyt.
The Americans had arrived with a strong team. As Iserbyt struggled Gage Hecht – who enjoys an icy challenge – took over second place on course. For two laps the threesome of Hecht, Iserbyt, and Max Gulickx from the Netherlands were locked in a nail-biting contest for the silver and bronze medals. As the racing reached the final lap Iserbyt attacked and gained second position. Just behind him Hecht and Gulickx approached the last turn together, a little over 100 meters from the finishing truss. The American’s gears skipped as he sought one for the sprint. It cost three seconds and possibly the bronze prize.
Team USA still came away with one of its best overall results ever: three riders in the top 15 and third best in the nation’s ranking – ahead of the Belgians.
At this year’s contest tomorrow a frosty track seems unlikely. Tonight’s temperature is predicted to hover around 47 degrees Fahrenheit with a high of 49 and a chance of showers on Saturday. Course designer, cyclocross masters national champion and Boulder Junior Cycling coach Pete Webber, now at the championship venue in Heusden-Zolder, shared his assessment of Belgian track. At 3.2 km it’s one of longest riders will ever tackle.
“The soil is a sandy loamy mix that gives great traction and drains well so it won’t get extremely muddy even if it is raining,” Webber wrote by email. “A few sections will get moderately muddy in the rain, but it won’t get heavy and there won’t be any tractor pull sections. A lot of sections won’t be muddy even if it rains all day because the dirt is so sandy. Some loose sand sections will actually get faster with rain.”
That’s good news for one of Webber’s Boulder Junior Cycling protégés, Eric Brunner, one of the six young men representing the U.S. Cross fans outside of Colorado will know Hecht better than Brunner and his BJC and worlds teammate Denzel Stephenson. All three live in the Rocky Mountain State.
“Eric excels on any type of course except very heavy courses. He is a smaller lighter rider and he does best on fast courses,” Webber noted. “He also has really good technical skills. Zolder is a great course for him because it won’t ever get really heavy and is usually a fast track.” Brunner is a second year junior rider who has raced ‘cross in Europe this year alongside Hecht.
Webber also detailed Stephenson’s strengths. “Denzel is an all-rounder who has really good technical skills and can ride anything on any course. He’s also aggressive and strong and doesn’t get pushed around. Most importantly he’s the only rider on the team who is race age 17 and will still be a junior next season so he’s gaining experience and learning the tricks of racing at this level.”
In the recent Heusden-Zolder World Cup, the two Boulder juniors finished 26th and 38th. Tomorrow at their first worlds rodeo they could better those results.
Hecht returns to ‘cross worlds competition after fourth place at last week’s muddy Hoogerheide World Cup and fifth at the Namur World Cup in late December.
“Zolder is a great course,” Hecht wrote to ProVéloPassion. “I have raced here twice already. Both of these races have been some of my best results of the year. I think this will be a good race.” He placed fifth at both the 2015 and 2016 Heusden-Zolder World Cup events .
“It’s super exciting to be able to race [worlds] a second time as a junior,” he added. “Of course there is a little bit of pressure to try to top last year’s fourth place, but I still look forward to racing hard.”
Hecht should be able to rely on the peace of mind that carries him through any conditions and intense competition, the likes of which can be expected tomorrow from Dutchman Jens Dekker and Jappe Jaspers of Belgium. Dekker leads the UCI standings. Jaspers is second and Hecht third.
American Spencer Petrov, who is the Pan American cyclocross champion and ranked sixth by the UCI, takes on worlds as a second year junior. He’s fared fabulously this season in Europe, with fourth at Namur, third at the Diegem Superprestige, and second at Azencross.
Cameron Beard and Michael Owens complete the American junior team. Beard competed in ‘cross worlds last year.
This year’s course, according to Webber, “is an all-rounder type of track that doesn’t favor one particular type of rider. It is very physical and hard. On a range of technical vs. fitness, it is definitely a fitness course due to the hard climbs.”
Webber described the circuit, which consists basically of two connected loops.
“The first loop is fun and flowy and lots of twists and turns with short hills. From Pit 2 to the finish is much harder, and includes two mega hard climbs that will be the crux of the race. The first climb begins up the iconic sidehill with the upper and lower split lines, and then continues to climb up pavement and then kicks up over a new flyover that is a serious sting in the tail of that climb. It makes it significantly harder than at the World Cup [at the same venue].
“Then the track descends all the way down to the race track before it hits the super steep sandy run up topped by a short flat stretch just long enough to clip in before a brutal steep climb straight thru up the hillside that requires strong legs and an out of the saddle whole-body contortions to make it up. For sure the hardest feature on the course,” Webber wrote.
“…A good bike handler will be able to go faster and will save energy, but you don’t need to be a super skilled handler to still ride the whole course well. There is only one dismount per lap during practice, and that section won’t really affect the race because it’s just a super steep wall that everyone can do more or less the same. A couple steep climbs may become runs in the rain however.”
See the UCI’s website for a link to live coverage of the junior race which begins at 3 a.m. MST tomorrow. Don’t go to sleep tonight (some of us will be tweeting in anticipation), or set the timers on your alarm clock and coffee maker for a very early giddy-up.
— Dan Seaton (@dbseaton) January 28, 2016
Twas the weekend of States
and down in the Rock,
a snowstorm was brewing,
and the temperature it dropped.
[updated December 23, 2015]
The race announcer called the elite men to staging and then it hit – a persistent, charging wall of white-gray north wind carrying icy bits of snow. Hands would go numb, off-camber slopes turn glacial, and Yannick Eckmann (Maxxis Shimano Cyclocross Team) would ride away in a league of his own to win his third Colorado elite cyclocross championship.
Tim Allen (Feedback Sports) established his hold on second place in the opening minutes of the first lap. Mitch Hoke (Pro’s Closet), Brady Kappius (CLIF Bar), Maxx Chance (Pro’s Closet), and Brannan Fix (Alpha Bicycle Company – Vista Subaru) factored among the leaders early on. Evol Racing’s Ken Benesh enjoyed his best state championship race ever, leapfrogging riders into third on course. Benesh finished third, Chance fourth, and Hoke fifth.
Eckmann captured his first state ‘cross title in 2012 at the same venue. “It’s good to be back racing here in Castle Rock,” he said.
The new champ indicated the win boosts his confidence for the upcoming elite national championships in Asheville, North Carolina.
“I definitely see my form getting better and better and this kind of proves it a little bit. I’m really shooting for nationals – having another good block of training and then really hitting nationals good.”
Not an hour before the men’s start the pre-storm mud and chill crooked their mean fingers at several women elite athletes. CrossVegas open race winner Caitlyn Vestal (Feedback Sports) fought cranky shifting. Katie Clouse (Alpha Bicycle Company – Vista Subaru), the junior phenom local cat 1,2’s view as a colleague and a rival, would crash on a descent and then claw her way through the field only to have to run to the pit for a new bike after a mechanical.
Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team), however, drew the long straw. She tamed every challenge and went home with Colorado elite cyclocross title number two – but not before a frosty podium re-do that ensured all top five women a moment to celebrate.
Gould said the Rhyolite Park venue is one of her favorite cyclocross courses and she enjoys the strong local competition. “Of course it’s always an honor to win state champs,” she said. “Lots of these women are strong so it’s fun to come out and have a good smooth ride, with no problems or anything. You never know who will have a break-out ride on any given day. Caitlyn [Vestal] has been riding really strong this year, and Melissa [Barker].”
Ashley Zoerner (Alpha Bicycle Company – Vista Subaru) blasted off the start line to take the hole shot a few bike lengths ahead of the field. Clouse, Barker, Vestal, and Gould followed Zoerner downhill and then up into turns on the hillside, where Gould moved into first position.
Gould and Clouse gained a handful of seconds on Vestal early in lap one. Then Clouse’s downhill mishap helped Vestal slot into second on course, which she defended to the finish. While Clouse ran for a new bike, Sofia Gomez Villafane (Fort Lewis College) advanced and eventually placed third. Clouse finished fourth and Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport / YogaGlo) fifth.
(updated December 20, 2015)
Tim Allen (Feedback Sports) reaffirmed his mastery in the art of single speed cyclocross on Saturday.
A smooth operator in muddy conditions, the former national champion took his first Colorado one-geared cyclocross title on the undulating Castle Rock course that has hosted the state championships for several years running.
Allen won by 50 seconds over Brady Kappius (CLIF Bar). After passing First City rider Dan Porter who snagged the hole shot, the pair raced together briefly with Kappius at the front. While Allen pulled away in the next lap Kappius held on to second place ahead of last year’s champion, J.J. Clark (ProCycling), who finished third. Will Iaia (Groove Subaru Excel Sports) came in fourth.
The current leader in the Colorado Cross Cup competition, Jesse Swift (Gates Carbon Drive), suffered from brake problems and finished fifth.
Gallery Day 1 single speed, collegiate and junior fields
A few notable riders were absent at Saturday’s local cyclocross race in Louisville, Colorado: juniors Eric Brunner (Boulder Junior Cycling) and Gage Hecht and Evan Clouse on Alpha Bicycle Company – Vista Subaru, and U23 rider Grant Ellwood (Boulder Cycle Sport/YogaGlo).
They had all traveled to Europe several days prior as part of USA Cycling’s development program to race the World Cup event in Koksijde, Belgium on Sunday.
It was Brunner’s first trip to Europe with USAC and Clouse’s first jaunt to Europe for cyclocross. I was excited for both of them, thinking about how they would feel after riding and running through the long stretches of axle-deep sand that define Koksijde’s course.
I mentioned that to Pete Webber, head cyclocross coach of Boulder Junior Cycling, who was at the local event and preparing to race (and win) in the men’s 40+ category.
“It might not happen,” he said, about the Belgian World Cup.
“Oh,” I replied. Right. Belgium is reeling in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Paris. Brussels had just been effectively locked down with citizens advised to stay home and avoid places with large crowds. Like sporting events. European ‘cross races can gather 30,000 spectators.
Hecht’s father said Koksijde is about an hour outside of Belgium. “We’re freaking out a bit,” he said while leaning on a fence near the Louisville finish line, adding that the USA Cycling vans have ‘USA’ stamped all over them. As a precaution, the boys hadn’t previewed the course that morning.
What are the chances of terrorists targeting a cyclocross race on the coast of Belgium, we wondered? The risk couldn’t be ignored and international cycling officials were taking it seriously.
With the Louisville elite women’s race was about to start, I hustled over to the hill after the first turn and set up to photograph the field.
It would be a bummer if the young men would not race, especially for Brunner I thought, after what had to be an emotional build up to testing himself in a famed venue against the world’s best junior competition.
The whistle blew and the women’s field rapidly reached the turn. Disc brakes squealed as riders including Meredith Miller (Noosa Professional Cyclocross Team) dismounted to run up the hill.
Just like these women, I turned my attention to this little square of earth 4,800 miles from Koksijde.
Miller would win handily and enjoy the most mud she’d plowed through thus far this season.
Boulder Junior Cycling’s Denzel Stephenson would outdistance the elite men on that initial hill and could have won if not for a rolled tire near the end of the final lap which helped Yannick Eckmann (Maxxis-Shimano) to slip by and win.
Riders would queue up to hose off their bikes, dislodging clumps of caked up mud from frames and shoes with sticks as they waited their turn.
Later while waiting for the elite men’s podium presentation, I considered how the realities faced by our friends who might or might not race the next day in Belgium highlighted all the reasons why our little community had gathered around the Louisville venue – the good stuff we take mostly for granted. To spend time outside doing something we love. To hang out with like-minded people always ready with a hug of joy or consolation. To savor salty freshly grilled bacon and buy a coffee from a team raising money to support the Movember Foundation. To honor the generosity of the sponsors who believe in athletes.
Just before the men stepped onto the podium blocks Webber shared some news. After careful deliberations, the Koksijde show would go on with extra security and precautions. With that welcome news, we hoped and prayed our friends would be safe doing what they loved to do.
Cyclo-X Louisville women’s elite race action
The first turn followed by a muddy hill quickly separated the riders. Melissa Barker (Evol Racing) took control over the front of the race. Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport/YogaGlo) tailed her and Miller found her early place in third wheel. After a couple of passes in and out of the bowl at the center of the course the track took riders out of view to the west and into turns and dips.
On the return to the bowl in lap one Miller moved up to the lead. She quickly established a gap that she padded over four laps. Barker finished second and Weber third.
Snow had fallen the night before, turning much of the course into varieties of mud that ranged from soupy to sticky.
Miller said it was the most mud she’s raced to date this season. She and Noosa Professional Cyclocross teammate Allen Krughoff are currently home in Boulder on a three week break from UCI racing.
“It’s been a good break, nice for both the head and the legs,” Miller commented. However training continues on break and the local race fit the bill for a hard effort. Miller seemed clearly at ease, happy for the mud practice and a relaxed time with friends that contrasts with the stress of the traveling UCI scene.
“It’s one thing to race one day,” she said. “It’s another when you are on the road plus racing two days; it takes a lot more out of you. Here you can just drive home, pull yourself out of your car and shower, and you’re already in your own bed.”
Cyclo-X Louisville men’s elite race action
The men’s elite race saw a closer battle for top step honors that only materialized in the last lap. Stephenson seemed untouchable in the muddy conditions as Krughoff chased but lost steam midway into the race. Later Krughoff said Friday’s climbing training had left little in his legs for Saturday’s race.
Meanwhile, Eckmann, who got off to a slow start, gained intensity as the race entered the second half. He surged in the fourth lap with the fastest lap time out of the field and passed Krughoff.
Stephenson fought on and held off Eckmann until about a quarter of a lap remained. When they came together Eckmann bobbled. But Stephenson couldn’t take advantage; almost immediately he rolled a tire and had to dismount. He worked the tire temporarily into place but too many seconds had been lost. Eckmann won with Stephenson second and Krughoff third.
“Denzel was technically a little better than me, but then I gained time in the power sections,” Eckmann said. “He was amazing. I was expecting a real battle to the finish. Maybe if I hadn’t bobbled he might not have rolled the tire.”
Eckmann smiled broadly when talking about the win; it felt good after a trying road season on a European continental team. His ‘cross season began with the Boulder day 2 UCI race and he’s aiming for a good performance in the elite field at nationals in January.
Stephenson is a former junior 13 to 14 national champion. Now in his first year in the 17 to 18 junior age category, he’s been achieving great results in junior UCI races, including third in Boulder and Louisville, Kentucky. Even so, he said he hadn’t expected his stunning ride off the front.
How did it feel to outrun Krughoff and nearly beat Eckmann? “It was pretty cool,” Stephenson said.
Rolled tire and all he seemed content with the day’s effort. “It’s all pretty good. I rode smooth other than that [rolled tire] and I felt good. So I’m pretty happy with it.” Stephenson indicated he might receive an invite to attend the USAC December camp in Europe.
For complete results from Cyclo-X Louisville, see the Without Limits Productions website.
Tim Allen found his secret weapon on Sunday’s Feedback Cup cyclocross course. The new steep run-up was short, but a downhill into a corner dropped the riders at the bottom, making it difficult to carry speed and scale the run-up in the saddle.
Allen was one of the few who took the run-up on the bike. A single-speeder, Nic Handy (Alpha Bicycle Company – Vista Subaru), rode it as well.
“That’s why they call him the ‘Manimal,’” Allen said, about Handy.
The new course design, slightly modified from last year’s version, wore out riders with longer straightaways, a gradual drag uphill from the lower field into the grass plaza where the finish line was located, and deeper sand.
Allen and his Feedback Sports teammate Caitlyn Vestal, however, thrived in their elite races under an unusually warm autumn sun. Both earned solo wins.
Vestal, winner of this year’s open race at CrossVegas, quickly reached Kristin Weber’s (Boulder Cycle Sport) wheel after the latter took the hole shot in the women’s elite race.
By the start of lap two the Feedback Sports rider had made a pass in a corner and led with a small gap to Katie Clouse (Alpha Bicycle Company – Vista Subaru). A larger gap stretched to third on course Melissa Barker (Evol Racing). When Scott-3 Rox’s Erin Huck (now on a cyclocross bike) looked up she saw a sizeable gap to Barker. These top four riders maintained their places and finished with gaps between them. Weber came in fifth.
With Sunday’s victory Vestal has won at all three editions of the Feedback Cup.
“We work all year on this course making what’s here even better and I think this year the course was probably the best yet,” she said. “The guys put in tons of work – we brought in more sand for the sand pit and they made a gnarly run-up on the back side of the course. It’s been fun riding it and seeing the courses progress over the years.”
Feedback Sports, Allen’s employer, puts on the race. While he didn’t have a hand in the design, Allen invested a lot of time in carrying off the event. In addition to earlier efforts, he worked on course set-up all day Saturday, and said he had arrived at 5 a.m. on race day to pound in stakes and string course tape.
Like Vestal in the women’s race, Allen established a margin by the end of lap one.
Brady Kappius (CLIF Bar) claimed the hole shot with single speeder Jesse Swift (Gates Carbon Drive) and Allen on his tail. After churning through the sand pit curve the men descended into the lower field’s s-turns, regained elevation on the gradual climb, and negotiated a familiar run-up. The track then led into a long straightaway and doubled back on itself. After handling double barriers the riders flowed into the western fields. That area housed many corners, including the one that pitched onto the new run-up which Allen used to launch from the pack after he’d opened a tiny gap.
“Today was all about the run-up. It was a new feature that Lee Waldman and John Shearer designed and implemented last week. So it was brand new to me last Thursday,” Allen explained. “At first I was really skeptical, thinking, ‘Oh man, this is going to throw my game off completely.’ I don’t like to run [the bike].”
To manage his concern Allen practiced lines into the new run-up during one lunchtime ride, he said.
“I decided I was going to master it. I rode it probably 25 times in a row. And I got it. So I was like, ‘OK, this is it, I’m going to ride it, and that’s going to be where I break away.’”
His persistence paid off as the set of strong riders behind – Kappius, Bryan Alder (Training Peaks), Ken Benesh (Evol Racing), Swift, and First City’s Steven Stefko – failed to catch him. Alder set a strong pace for second; that left Benesh and Stefko in a tussle for third which fell to the Evol Racing rider. Benesh said the climb and long straight sections played to his advantage.
“That where I got stronger as things went on because I’m not as good in the tighter stuff,” Benesh said, “so I would have to really work hard through those sections to bridge back up or to get gaps.”
Benesh spoke from a track-side post-race spot on the grass alongside his wife and daughter. The family-friendly cyclocross atmosphere – for blood families and the greater cycling family alike – has become a trademark of the Feedback Cup. It’s also a driving force for Allen and others involved in organizing the one-day race.
Excited about tasting a victory at the event for the second time, Allen said, “The best part to me is having family, friends, and industry partners all in the same venue. The vibe is so good.”
Partners present in the grassy plaza on the course were Primal Wear, Alchemy Bicycle Company, Oskar Blues Brewery – new sponsor for the Noosa Pro Cyclocross Team, Golden bike maker Spot, and area bike shops including C3 Bike Shop, Pedal Pushers Cyclery, Alpha Bicycle Company, Golden Bike Shop, and Jinji Cycles. Kask supplied helmets for every winner in each category on the day.
Allen was quick to mention the local brewery who supported the event as well, Barrels and Bottles, where he enjoyed a burger and IPA during a break from setting up the course on Saturday.
“The community is so incredible,” Allen said, “and being able to put together a great race in front of that makes it really special.”
For full results, see the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado’s website.
The folks who run Cross of the North have outdone themselves this year. They’ve moved to the site of the former USGP series race in Fort Collins, CO. It was easy to imagine the USGP had come back to life: riders scaled a World Cup quality flyover, the team tent village hummed along with the light generators, and plenty of spectators took advantage of bonuses like an elevated viewing lounge.
In the women’s open race Nicole Duke (SRAM Factory) and Katie Clouse (Alpha Bicycle Company – Vista Subaru) quickly left the field behind. Park City, Utah resident Clouse frequently travels with her brother Evan Clouse to Colorado competitions, and the 14 year-old has become accustomed to the fast company of veterans like Duke, Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team), and Meredith Miller (Noosa Pro Cyclocross Team).
Duke and Clouse paced each other, swapping places and finding lines through the numerous corners and turns on the compact night-course design.
“Usually I’ll sit behind someone and I’ll get pretty frustrated,” Duke later said about the battle with Clouse. “She challenged me on all the corners. There was maybe one where I thought she should go to the outside and I passed her on that corner a couple of times. But all the rest of it, she was flawless.”
In the final lap Clouse stretched Duke’s limits by putting in multiple maximum efforts. She pulled away and won alone under the spotlights.
In the final meters Duke watched the junior fly and decided she not only deserved the win but would get it in any case based on her power. “I just let her go and sat up and didn’t even want to contest her,” Duke said. “She had so much power at the end that I knew even if I got out onto the finishing straight she would still probably beat me. So I was like, ‘I’m done. I tried.’
“I thought she’d do maybe four efforts [in the last lap] and get tired and then kind of go steady, but she didn’t. She just kept doing it. She’s incredibly strong. She’s really good technically and she’s got the power. And she pushes a bigger gear than me, so it’s impressive.”
After the race Clouse shared her thoughts about contesting the win with Duke. “She’s so fast. We’ve know each other for a couple of years and I love racing with her because we are supportive of each other when we race. So we can work together and it’s just fun racing with her and racing with a stronger girl than me.
“She pushes me, so it’s awesome.”
Evol Racing’s Melissa Barker pushed the rest of the field and finished third.
Men’s open won by Riveros
Similarly the men’s open race saw a solo winner, Fernando Riveros (Raleigh Clement). Riveros, a mountain biker who likes to dabble in cyclocross, started near the back of the large field. By the second lap he reached the front of the race which was then driven by Spencer Powlison (Evol Racing), Brady Kappius (CLIF Bar), Gage Hecht and Brannan Fix of Alpha Bicycle Company – Vista Subaru, Ben Berden and Chris Baddick (Boulder Cycle Sport).
Riveros passed them and never looked back for nearly 40 minutes. Tim Allen’s (Feedback Sports) efforts earned him separation from the leaders and second place nine seconds after Riveros’ arrival.
“I caught the leaders and just decided to go for it,” Riveros said, “and didn’t care if I blew up.” It was the Colombian’s second ‘cross win this season.
For complete results see the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado’s website.
Morning drizzle created the slickest conditions of the week in Richmond for the junior men’s road world championship race. Crashes over the 130 kilometers tore holes in kits and bloodied knees in the field of 166 starters.
Colombia’s Julian Cardona and American Jack Maddux peeled off the front early on. Like other attacks in the first half of the race, it didn’t stick.
In the second half of the eight lap competition Adrien Costa (USA), a favorite for a podium result, got away with a large group. Once again, what was left of the field – about one third of the starters didn’t finish – pulled them back.
“I was trying to attack early to break things up,” Costa told VeloNews. “I wasn’t feeling super good all race: I think with the time trial I still wasn’t able to recover super well. I don’t know, I guess we had lots of bad luck with my teammates, I’m not sure what happened. I know Ethan [Reynolds] went down and there were mechanicals and stuff.”
Despite feeling less than stellar Costa attacked again with about two laps remaining and drew others into the break attempt. In the final circuit the effort was squashed
“I was kind of isolated so I decided to see what I could do at the end and not waste energy early. A lot of teams had three or four guys still in the front group so it was hard for me to do much,” Costa said. “I led up Libby Hill in the last lap with a group up the road and then up 23rd Street I kind of fell back, I don’t know. I just didn’t have the legs.”
Austrian Felix Gall narrowly beat a disappointed Clement Betouigt-Suire of France who needed just a few additional meters to out-power the exhausted Gall. Rasmus Pedersen (Denmark) placed third. Costa came in 18th, the best of the Americans.
Every enduring venue, race promoter Brook Watts once said, has a jewel in the crown, its centerpiece.
Libby Hill Park, a.k.a. simply Libby Hill, ably filled that role for the 2015 UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia.
The Park’s winding, cobbled path energized the racing and added a classics flavor to the international atmosphere. Its location on a hillside shaped like a terraced bowl provided plenty of bird’s eye viewpoints for spectators. Strangers lended each other a hand for negotiating the steep slopes with slippery grass underfoot.
Between laps when the spectators waited for the riders to return, the Norwegian contingent belted out songs about Edvald Boasson Hagen. Adventurous Americans posed for photos with the red and blue clad gang. Belgians painted faces with thick red, gold, and black stripes replicating the national flag.
Traditional-style homes bordering the top of the park went all out for the festivities, hanging large and small flags from porches. One home displayed two life-sized riders on a roof; the bent over figure of one mimicking a moment of suffering.
And on a quiet side of Libby Hill, visitors posed with the ubiquitous Virginia “LOVE” emblem. In love with each other. In love with competitive cycling.
She didn’t plan to attack. Chloe Dygert was simply stronger than any of the junior women in the seventy-plus world championship road race field sweeping around downtown Richmond, Virginia.
So she pulled away from the lead group of four containing America’s Emma White, Poland’s Agnieszka Skalniak, and Juliette Labous from France.
While Dygert sped away White reigned in the other leaders. Behind them by about 50 seconds, USA teammates Skylar Schneider and Ashlyn Woods monitored the pack.
“I think we really worked together as a team,” said White. “I couldn’t be more grateful for [Skylar and Ashlyn]. I’m just really proud.”
Dygert also took little credit for herself aside from owning up to targeting rainbow jerseys in both the time trial and the road race. She scored both of them.
“Emma did an amazing job. At the beginning of the race there were attacks and she was up front, always on everything. I’m amazed and I’m so glad she’s on my team,” she said post-race.
On the finish line Dygert decided not to raise her arms in a victory salute. “I don’t think there should be anything more than celebrating your team. I was just honored to be on Team USA and get a win for Team USA.
“I have a great support system and I couldn’t have done it without their help and I’m just so grateful. Everybody’s just been there the whole way,” Dygert continued.
“I thought it was great to go 1-2 again, shows how hard the US has worked, how awesome our staff is, and our directors.”
White perhaps felt a bit to prove from a patriotic perspective. “I’m proud to be an American and I think today’s performance helped prove ourselves – not only to ourselves but to the team and to cycling across the world,” White said. “I think I am speechless.”
Third place finisher Skalniak had something to prove too. The European time trial champion in her age group, she felt ill ahead of the Richmond time trial and didn’t perform as well as she had hoped.
In 2014 Skalniak took the bronze medal in the junior women’s road race. It was important to repeat the feat, she said through an interpreter, to prove that last year’s result did not come by accident, that she is on the rise in her sport. Her medal was also an important signal for Polish women’s cycling.
In 2016 the Tour of Poland will include a woman’s edition. It will offer the same prize money for women. The same TV time. “The idea is to make one big Tour de Pologne,´ said the interpreter, “equal for men and women.”
He pops in from time to time and when he does the field takes notice.
Fernando Riveros (full name Hector Fernando Riveros Paez) races mountain bikes for the Raleigh Clement Professional Cycling Team. In the off-season – living as he does in Colorado Springs and not far from some super-competitive local and UCI cyclocross races – he likes to try his hand at them. Even if he starts in the last row or falls behind due to a mechanical, he fights like nobody’s business to move up in position.
On Sunday he took a solo win in the men’s elite Rhyolite Park Cross race. He succeeded despite crashing off the bike twice and dropping a chain once. Upon hearing that story a fellow competitor replied, “Don’t tell me that.”
Riveros appeared collected on the bike, but it wasn’t easy. “I was suffering because I haven’t trained at all so I was breathing hard,” he said.
Like the women’s field the strongest men emerged early on. Riveros took the hole shot. Alongside him the first lap were: Spencer Powlison (Evol Racing), Tim Allen (Feedback Sports), Brady Kappius (CLIF Bar) and Jason Donald (Skratch Labs). Ken Benesh (Evol Racing) took part in the group then dropped off in the second circuit.
In the opening lap Riveros misjudged a corner and kissed the paved pedestrian path.
“I just recovered and let the group pull me back,” he late explained. “I waited and waited to see when to attack. I saw I was really strong on the run-up and that’s where I attacked.”
For the second half of the race he churned through sand, breathed in the dry track’s dust, and sailed over the triple barriers alone off the front. Kappius, Allen, and Donald chased but couldn’t close the gap. Donald faded near the end.
Allen came in 12 seconds behind Riveros. Kappius and Donald followed in third and fourth. A retired pro roadie, Donald has taken to ‘cross and plans to compete more.
He and the rest of the men’s elite field can try to take their revenge this coming weekend in Boulder’s Valmont Bike Park at the Cyclo X series’ first engagement of the season. Riveros, who is not on the Raleigh-Clement cyclocross roster, is looking forward to it.
“I’m really stoked,” he said about the Rhyolite result. “I’ve been off the bike, not training at all. I’m just riding for fun because my [mountain bike] season is over. If I get last or I get first it’s the same for me because it’s just for fun.”
For full results, see the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado’s website.