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Baddick the hunted, Eckmann the chaser go 1 – 2 at Cyclo-X Westminster

November 28, 2013
Robin Eckmann checks on chase group two at Cyclo-X Westminster

Robin Eckmann checks on chase group two at Cyclo-X Westminster

[updated 11/29/2013]

To chase or be chased. Which is a better position in a cyclocross race, hunting down a quarry or glancing over your shoulder and feeling hunted?

A target ahead can act as a goal and provide focus. Others, like Danny Summerhill, prefer attacking an open track to avoid getting taking down in a crash by riders ahead and to choose the best lines.

On Saturday at Cyclo-X Westminster Chris Baddick (Gear Movement) was Robin Eckmann’s target. Listening to Baddick explain how he became the hunted one, he sounded like a reluctant leader.

“I felt like I happened to come to the front by accident. Everyone was slowing down on the pavement and I just ended up at the front of the group,” Baddick said, speaking about the early part of the race.

Chris Baddick wins Cyclo-X Westminster

Chris Baddick wins Cyclo-X Westminster

“And so I just decided to go for it and see what happened, see who would go with me because I wanted to get the group a bit smaller. But then no one came with me so again I just went for it. It was kind of a difficult way to win.”

Stay off the front alone consumes a rider’s resources. When it’s blustery – more often than not on the Front Range, it’s easier to sit in with a small group and keep your nose out of the wind.

Chasing singlehandedly takes a lot of energy too and not just physically. More tactics come into play, like deciding how long to keep working with other riders and whether to strike out solo.

When Baddick attained a gap out front half-way through the race a group of three chased him: Eckmann (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) and Evol Foods riders Ken Benesh and Spencer Powlison.

Initially Eckmann waited to see if Powlison and Benesh would work together as teammates to bridge up to Baddick.

But the gap to the leader widened over three laps. With just over two to go Eckmann chose to go alone after Baddick. He shaved some seconds off the Gear Movement rider’s advantage, inching closer in the bell lap, but didn’t make contact. Eckmann crossed the line second with enough points to maintain his lead in the Cyclo-X series.

What was it like chasing the “new ‘cross sheriff” Baddick?

“It was definitely hard. Cyclocross is more of a sport for me to get in shape for the road,” Eckmann said while waiting for the podium. “I think that was the perfect practice for that. It almost felt like a time trial a little bit, so it’s definitely good.”

Race action

The initial four of nine laps proceeded at an easy pace for the strongest in the field. Baddick came through with the holeshot. Two minutes later Eckmann sprang ahead of him on the double set of concrete stairs.

Robin Eckmann leading in lap 1 on one of several paved sections

Robin Eckmann leading in lap 1 on one of several paved sections

In the front group of about a dozen riders Benesh and Maxx Chance (Clif Bar Devo) swapped out the lead position with Baddick and Eckmann as the guys seemed to be waiting for something to happen.

“There was a pretty large group so everybody was like we’ll just wait until the time makes it harder, just by the length of the race,” Eckmann later said. “So lap by lap it got a little bit faster and then we started dropping guys left and right and then the race got kind of a structure.”

Evol Foods’ Powlison and Josh Whitney, Chris Case and Pete Webber of Boulder Cycle Sport, Gage Hecht (Specialized Racing Team), Ian McPherson and Garrett Gerchar of Clif Bar Devo, Bryan Alders (Marin Bikes Factory Team), Steven Stefko (First City), and Greg Krause (Groove Subaru/Excel Sports) rounded out the early front group.

Structure began to appear when Baddick took off in the fifth lap. Eckmann, Powlison, and Benesh formed a chase group that set off after the Gear Movement man. Chance shadowed them in fourth position with Stefko in fifth.

Maxx Chance makes it down the grassy descent upright

Maxx Chance makes it down the grassy descent upright

Sometime mid-race Hecht slid out on the long grassy downhill which claimed additional victims and would shake up the podium with one lap to go. Early in the race, Eckmann switched bikes for a rear tire with better grip on the slippery grass.

When Eckmann pulled away from the chase group about fifteen minutes remained for him to catch Baddick.

The Cal Giant rider collected seconds between himself and the chasing Evol riders and began to dissolve the ones that kept him from reaching the leader. Baddick knew his pursuer was making progress.

“I was dying towards the end. I know if the race was a lap longer then I wouldn’t have held on anymore,” Baddick said. What did it feel like to be chased? As he caught his breath after the win, Baddick replied, “I was definitely riding scared. I was making some mistakes in the last lap. I ran into course tape with about three corners to go.”

Benesh and Powlison ran into problems of their own. With about one lap to go both fell to the wet grass on the long descent. Chance took advantage and swept by them, taking third place at the finish.

Powlison followed six seconds later for fourth. Stefko claimed fifth ahead of Benesh who had been further delayed by a dropped chain after the sliding out on the grass.

Eckmann continues to lead the eight-race Cyclo-X points series which concludes on December 7 with double points on offer at the Boulder Reservoir venue.

For full results from Cyclo-X Westminster see the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado’s website.

Cyclo-X Westminster men's elite podium (l-r) Spencer Powlison 4th, Maxx Chance 3rd, Chris Baddick 1st, Robin Eckmann 2nd, Steven Stefko 5th

Cyclo-X Westminster men’s elite podium (l-r) Spencer Powlison 4th, Maxx Chance 3rd, Chris Baddick 1st, Robin Eckmann 2nd, Steven Stefko 5th

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