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Colorado juniors face joy and disappointment at 2013 cyclocross nationals

January 26, 2013

[updated 1/30/2013]

So if the women are strong in Colorado cyclocross, are the children above average? You bet they are. Like the adults, Colorado juniors filled the 2013 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championship podium steps 20% of the time.

They medaled in every age group except for 17-18. For those juniors especially, a medal next year in Boulder should feel even sweeter.

*  *  *

Whether it was disappointment, elation or pain, the effort to become a national champion showed perhaps most of all on the faces of the juniors. Boulder Junior Cycling’s Nevin Whittemore, a cat 3 race winner, contested the men’s junior 17-18 race. The nineteenth and last rider to finish without getting lapped, Whittemore leaned on the barriers after the finish for several minutes. He wasn’t out of breath. Leg cramps, he said, made it impossible to walk.

Whittemore holds on to finish the men's 17-18 race at 2013 'cross nationals

Whittemore holds on to finish the men’s junior 17-18 race at 2013 ‘cross nationals

*  *  *

In Garrett Gerchar’s case, the pain showed itself as the color red. The Boulder Junior Cycling rider was caught in a big crash just beyond the start line in the men’s junior 17-18 race. He righted himself and then “a kid tried to go around me and I got taken out again,” he said after the race. His words tumbled out, edgy.

Gerchar finished 12th in the men's 17-18 race after a tough start, one of the 19 out of 46 starters who finished without getting lapped

Gerchar finished 12th in the men’s junior 17-18 race after a tough start

*  *  *

The ambitious Ashley Zoerner (Groove Subaru-Alpha Bicycle Co.), the current Colorado State women’s junior 13-14 cyclocross champion, took fifth place in the all-women non-championship race on day 1 of nationals. She returned two days later for her 13-14 age category race. The officials shortened that race to one lap because, according to one official, lap times for the first and previous race of the day were running ten minutes or longer for most of the field. Zoerner came in third and also won the prize for best mud mustache.

Groove Subaru-Alpha Bicycle Co. teammates (l - r) Moorhead and Zoerner after their 2013 'cross nationals race

Groove Subaru-Alpha Bicycle Co. teammates (l – r) Moorhead and Zoerner after their 2013 ‘cross nationals race

*  *  *

He timed simulated sprints for himself and the other two riders warming-up in the Boulder Junior Cycling tent thirty-five minutes before the start of the men’s junior 13-14 race. At the start line, Denzel Stephenson lined up in the first row. He shed his black down jacket and turned to share a few words with teammate Cassidy Bailey just behind him. The whistle blew, the pack sped away, and Stephenson took the lead in the first lap and held it until the finish. Bailey rode well for fourth, missing third by just four seconds. After the finish they celebrated with the Colorado state flag draped from their adjoining shoulders like superman’s cape.

Stephenson and Bailey (l - r) celebrate after placing 1st and 4th in the juniors 13-14 'cross nationals race

Stephenson and Bailey (l – r) celebrate after placing 1st and 4th in the men’s junior 13-14 ‘cross nationals race

*  *  *

Gage Hecht (International Christian Cycling Club) rode to the start line of the men’s junior 15-16 race with three consecutive cyclocross national championships in his pocket. But the depth of the competition left him wondering if he’d increase that three to four. It wasn’t until mid-way into the last and third lap – even though he led nearly the entire race – that he felt he might take the win. Brannan Fix from Fort Collins just missed the podium with sixth place; earlier in the week he rode to third in the non-championship men’s 10-29 field ahead of twenty-seven other starters. In addition to Fix, Hecht rode in the company of seven other Colorado teens: Liam and Cormac Dunn of the Clif Bar Development Cyclocross Team placed eighth and thirteenth, Adin Baird (University Cycles) twelth, and Stuart McKnight, Jack Tanner, Cade Bickmore and Eric Brunner of Boulder Junior Cycling fifteenth, seventeenth, twenty-first and twenty-second respectively.

Gage Hecht wins the junior 15-16 race at the 2013 cyclocross national championships

Gage Hecht wins the men’s junior 15-16 race at the 2013 cyclocross national championships

*  *  *

Boulder Junior Cycling colors adorned both junior 10-12 male and female podiums. The officials shortened the laps for these young guns who rode for about twenty minutes, finding their way through the mist rising off the snow. In the men’s division Nolan Stephenson and Oliver Hart earned second and fifth. Tea Wright took home a fifth place medal for the young women.

Wright added another medal to the Boulder Junior Cycling pile by finishing 5th

Wright added another medal to the Boulder Junior Cycling pile by finishing 5th

Junior men 10-12 podium at 2013 cyclocross national championships, with Boulder Junior Cycling riders Stephenson and Hart

Men’s junior 10-12 podium at 2013 cyclocross national championships, with Boulder Junior Cycling riders Stephenson and Hart

*  *  *

Three Clif Bar Development Cyclocross Team members started the men’s junior 17-18 race: Maxx Chance, Ian McPherson, and Spencer Downing. All three raced in Belgium together with Gerchar in late December. Speaking after returning home about who could fare well against favorite Logan Owen, Chance picked Downing, who had remained in Europe to race at Rome in the World Cup series. Chance hoped for a top 5. But cyclocross’ cruel “anything can happen” rule stole their chances for podium finishes. Like Gerchar, Downing and McPherson got caught in the early crash. Downing had to run his bike out of the crash. McPherson got wedged between the fence and a rider but pulled out quickly. Chance suffered stomach pain and said he didn’t ride at full power. Chance landed seventh and McPherson eighth; Downing persevered and finished, lapped, in thirty-seventh place.

Keegan Sotebeer and Eli Hemming of Groove Subaru-Alpha Bicycle Co. also entered and finished.

Nolan Brady (57) would pass Ian McPherson (Clif Bar) going into the final lap; McPherson chased and finished ahead of him

Nolan Brady (57) would pass Ian McPherson (Clif Bar) going into the final lap; McPherson chased and finished ahead of him at 2013 ‘cross nationals in the men’s junior 17-18 contest.

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