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Chris Baddick, the new ‘cross sheriff in town, locks up Primalpalooza win

October 8, 2013
Chris Baddick wins ahead of Ken Benesh at the 2013 Primalpalooza

Chris Baddick wins ahead of Ken Benesh at the 2013 Primalpalooza

[updated 10/10/2013]

Did Chris Baddick (Gear Movement Pro Cycling Team) outmuscle or outwit the men’s open field to win as Colorado’s top cowboys on bikes galloped around the rodeo grounds at Primalpalooza?

Both aspects of the 25 year-old’s performance counted. He’s on top form as he readies for collegiate mountain bike nationals. When he’s not racing bikes he studies for a Ph.D. in neurophysiology.

His tactics in the thick of the hot moments on course reflect more experience than a rider typically accumulates in his first season focusing on ‘cross.

On Sunday at Primalpalooza at one point in the race “…then it was just a matter of trying to use my brain and work out where to get into the front,” he later said.

He chose the descent that led down to the front side of the course for his move. “I knew if anyone was going to go past me on the bottom section of the course,” he explained, “they’d have to burn a lot of energy to go around me.”

That worked. He outfoxed four strong riders that found the fastest away around the Jefferson County Fairgrounds course while avoiding significant mechanicals.

His tactical prowess, he said, is likely due to the sport he practiced from childhood until the age of 19 – running, especially the 800 meter event.

An 800 meter track race is “a lot about thinking, being in the right position. Because when you’re running on the track it’s all about being on the right person’s shoulder and accelerating at the right time,” he said. Planning where to be in a cyclocross race, he thought, “kind of comes naturally from that.”

Baddick and Robin Eckmann (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) traded the lead over eight laps. Eckmann raced hard from holeshot to finish, chased by Evol Foods riders Ken Benesh and Spencer Powlison, Boo Bicycle’s Skyler Trujillo, and Chris Case.

Race action

In the narrow chute next to rodeo arena fencing

In the narrow chute next to rodeo arena fencing

Eckmann led the 38-man herd into the first turn after a modest climb from the start grid. Boulder Cycle Sport’s Chris Case and Brandon Dwight shadowed him as they left pavement for the gravel-strewn dirt that characterized the circuit.

From there the riders hurtled double barriers and then funneled into turns that sorted them into single file before they entered a muddy narrow chute bordered by concrete and permanent corral fencing.

Robin Eckmann pushes the bike in a set of sharp turns

Robin Eckmann pushes the bike in a set of sharp turns

After a grid of tight turns that demanded running the riders paced through the rodeo arena stadium. Eckmann shot out of the ensuing track with a gap and continued uphill behind the stadium to the top of the course.

Case pursued followed by Powlison, Pete Webber and Dwight (Boulder Cycle Sport), Baddick, Michael Burleigh (Primal Wear-McDonald-Audi), Gear Movement’s Sam Morrison, and Benesh with Trujillo several riders back. Baddick said he began Primalpalooza feeling tired, in particular after racing hard in Frisco the day before where he led from start to finish. “I was just trying to keep my powder dry, really,” he said about Sunday, “not waste too much energy.”

The riders next descended to the bottom front side section where off-camber S-turns on the grassy hillside flowed into stairs that led up to the finishing straight and a paved return to the back side.

All that in seven minutes.

Sam Morrison's crankset post-race

Sam Morrison’s crankset post-race

By lap two Baddick had moved up to second, glued to Eckmann’s Zipp wheel. The lead group which now included Trujillo had dropped Burleigh and Morrison. The latter pushed on a few seconds behind and rode well until his crankset split into pieces.

The first half of the race continued with Baddick and Eckmann switching off at the helm and maintaining a slight gap over the other leaders.

That front posse lost Case with just over two laps to go when he pitted due to a broken front wheel and puncture. By that time the lead group had shed his teammates Webber and Dwight.

Robin Eckmann and Chris Baddick on the stairs with one to go

Robin Eckmann and Chris Baddick on the stairs with one to go

In the next to last lap Baddick grabbed the lead from Eckmann who fought to hold onto second, just one step below Baddick on the stairs. Then on the bell lap the British rider flew into a turn with a small gap as the group came off the back side.

Spectators enjoyed a thrilling contest for the top five places when Baddick popped out onto the finishing straight with Benesh on his tail followed by Eckmann, Trujillo, and then Powlison. While Benesh almost appeared to sit-up, Eckmann and Trujillo bent low to sprint to the line.

Baddick won with a second’s cushion over Benesh, handing the tall Evol rider his third second place in one week. A former teammate of Benesh later suggested Benesh was worn out from chasing down a late attack on the front side.

Eckmann studied his rear wheel after winning the sprint for third and said it had started deflating with three laps to go. “I thought of attacking earlier and then switching bikes,” he said, “but on this course it’s too fast.” Despite his strong showing, he rated the race below average in terms of how good he felt, saying he still couldn’t shake off a cold.

Trujillo got fourth. Powlison, who said his season “is starting slow,” claimed fifth ten seconds off the winning time in one of his best outings so far this fall. Case and Webber rolled across the line just over one minute later.

Next challenge

As the Colorado cowboys prepare to wrangle with the best on the national ‘cross circuit this coming weekend at the Colorado Cross Classic and Boulder Cup, two questions beg attention.

First, can Benesh settle the score with the new sheriff in town Baddick and best him, particularly on the flatter, sandy set-up along the Boulder reservoir at the Classic? Last year as a member of the Feedback Sports team he performed well at the reservoir venue.

Second, will Baddick patrol the front of a UCI cyclocross race?

“I’m confident,” he said after Primalpalooza. “I don’t have any expectations for results on the national scene….I’m confident with my bike handling skills. I feel comfortable on my bike and I think my fitness is there, so it’s just going to be an experience.”

{See the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website for full results.]

Ken Benesh remounts in the turn grid at Primalpalooza

Ken Benesh remounts in the turn grid at Primalpalooza

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