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Spencer Powlison wins first elite cyclocross race as Robin Eckmann claims Cyclo-X series overall

December 11, 2013
Spencer Powlison after 50 minutes at 7 degrees F

Spencer Powlison after 50 minutes at 7 degrees F

[updated 12/13/2013]

Snow is the perfect ground cover for the final race of the Cyclo-X series. It honors the memory of a man whose sacrifice has become a symbol for others’ achievement for the past three years of the series.

The overall winner of the Cyclo-X eight-race series in the men’s elite/open category receives the Chesaux Cup – a silver bowl dedicated to the memory of Matthieu Chesaux who passed away in a backcountry skiing accident five years ago. His fiancé at the time, Loni Sullivan, was present Saturday at Boulder Reservoir where Robin Eckmann, now the cup’s third guardian, embraced it with a kiss following the final 2013 Cyclo-X race.

Chesaux Cup

According to Sullivan the memorial for Chesaux had to be a moveable one so it would mirror the lifestyle of the cyclist, skier, and outdoorsman it’s named after. Eckmann (California Giant Berry Farms / Specialized) will hold the cup until the next series winner claims it, as long as the memorial remains part of the Cyclo-X event.

On Saturday it seemed like Eckmann would ride away not only with the overall series and the cup but the day’s race as well. Then everything changed in an instant when he crashed with about three laps to go. Luckily for Eckmann, he returned to the bike on the snowy course and finished high enough to wrap up the series in first place overall.

Robin Eckmann

Robin Eckmann

With Eckmann’s bad luck his good fortune, Spencer Powlison (Evol Foods) sped from second on course into the lead. He fought hard to keep it. Boulder Cycle Sport’s Chris Case rode just inches behind him and momentarily stole first on course in the final lap as the temperature dipped near zero degrees Fahrenheit.

“It’s very stressful to try and battle with Chris [Case] on the last lap because he’s just so fast, he’s so strong,” Powlison said before the podium ceremony. “Whenever I’m up against him it’s got to be 100%.”

When Powlison raised his hands toward the still hidden stars he celebrated his first elite cyclocross victory. The cup was Eckmann’s but in that moment Powlison shared something with Chesaux – the fullness of pleasure and emptiness of pain from testing his physical limits outdoors.

Race action

From the start it appeared the men’s elite field wasn’t taking many risks. Case, Powlison, and others tripoded around the first turn as well as the off-camber corner where many crashes occurred earlier in the day.

The announcer awarded the holeshot to Powlison. Right behind him were Case, Ken Benesh (Evol Foods), Eckmann, Brady Kappius (Clif Bar), Steve Stefko (First City), Pete Webber (Boulder Cycle Sport), and Joe Clemenzi (Sports Garage Cycling).

First turn in the men's elite race at Cyclo-X Boulder Reservoir

First turn in the men’s elite race at Cyclo-X Boulder Reservoir

Eckmann attached himself to Powlison’s wheel by lap two then got around the Evol rider and held first on course for about four laps. It looked like Eckmann could take the race; whenever Powlison narrowed the gap between them the Cal Giant rider would widen it again.

A handful of seconds behind them Case chased alone, just a few seconds in front of Kappius. Webber and Stefko stalked the leaders next as a pair.

With almost three laps remaining Powlison emerged at the head of the race. Eckmann, who was reported to have crashed, lost nearly ten seconds but held onto second briefly ahead of Case. Webber pulled into fourth on course and Stefko advanced to fifth.

Then Case delivered one of the fastest times in the next to last lap. He snuck up on Powlison and it became a neck-and-neck contest for first place between the two as Eckmann slid to fifth.

“I was really worried going into the last lap because Chris [Case] had come right back up with me,” Powlison said later. “I had a pretty major bobble over by the lifeguard house. He was right on my wheel. We were fighting…”

In the final lap Case swung around the Evol rider on wide pavement covered in packed, icy snow, but didn’t hold the lead for long. According to Powlison, Case’s wide line opened a chance to reclaim first and he took it, slipping past him on the inside. “…then I was just sprinting out of every corner to keep him from coming around me.”

Powlison crossed the finish line for his first elite win with a second to spare over Case. Frozen droplets formed a wreath around his open mouth.

Webber arrived six seconds later for third. Stefko came in fourth and Eckmann got fifth, high enough to win the series overall and fill his arms with the Chesaux Cup. Sixth place went to Kappius. Among other notable rides, Colby Pearce (Trek Cyclocross Collective) started slowly and then found his way through the field to finish ninth.  

2013 Cyclo-X / Chesaux Cup final standings (l - r) Ken Benesh 4th, Spencer Powlison 2nd, Robin Eckmann 1st, Chris Case 3rd, Pete Webber 5th

2013 Cyclo-X / Chesaux Cup final standings (l – r) Ken Benesh 4th, Spencer Powlison 2nd, Robin Eckmann 1st, Chris Case 3rd, Pete Webber 5th

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

Find the series overall standings at Without Limits Productions.

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