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Single speed medals and mayhem at cyclocross nationals

January 7, 2014

Single speed Gates Carbon Drive setup

[updated 1/8/2014]

Between the absence of Adam Craig, the presence of mountain biking legend Travis Brown, and conditions which should be muddy but with Colorado weather can change quickly, the men’s single speed cyclocross national championship race on Wednesday will be one of the highlights of five days of racing for stars and stripes at Valmont Bike Park.

Craig (Giant Factory Off-Road Team) is effectively boycotting 2014 nationals to make a statement; he believes December is a better month for the event. Last year he easily rode away from the single speed field and won in street-style fashion riding with cut-off jeans over his skinsuit. The loss of Craig puts a gold medal within reach for many talented riders in the huge field of 106 (in 2013 the field numbered 58).

They’ll confront a course that locals are calling the hardest ever design for the venue; it includes a steep off-camber downhill right after the 5280 run-up stairs which in muddy conditions could turn into a crash-fest for less experienced bike handlers.

Brady Kappius

Brady Kappius

After pre-riding the course Tuesday, Clif Bar’s Brady Kappius wrote, “Going to be a hard one. The course is great and the conditions will just add to it. The strongest rider will win for sure.”

Kappius hopes to put an end to two years of bad luck. In 2013 his chain tensioner broke and he didn’t finish. In 2012 he finished fifth after course tape delayed him. This year he’ll ride a single speed frame, which should reduce the chance of mechanical problems.

Last year’s muddy conditions resemble the type of track that may face tomorrow’s contestants. “Looks like it’s going to be pretty muddy out there and I’m happy with that,” Kappius wrote earlier today. “The dirt at Valmont sheds pretty well so I’m not too worried about bike exchanges especially with a single speed.”

Colby Pearce likes to race single speed and elite races in one day

Colby Pearce likes to race single speed and elite races in one day

About fifty percent of the registered field are listed as Colorado residents. The state’s single speed ‘cross champion Colby Pearce (Trek Cyclocross Collective) is among them. When asked about the conditions and how that might affect the racing, Pearce wrote early on Tuesday, “It will be very challenging to ride SS tomorrow in these conditions.” Racers, he thought, would be unrecognizable by the time they cross the finish line in their mud-splattered kits.

Later, Pearce added, “There was often only one rideable line in many places today. Hopefully as more riders race and do laps this will improve but we won’t know for sure until tomorrow.

“One thing we do know is this won’t be a pretty boy So Cal style race – we will be grimey! It could have easily been bone dry…but we got some authentic ‘cross weather instead.”

Coloradoans Tim Allen (Feedback Sports), Will Iaia (Groove Subaru Excel Sports), and Gates Carbon Drive riders such as Jesse Swift and Mitch Westall should be counted among the favorites as well. Alpha Bicycle Co’s Nic Handy could pull off a great ride too.

Tim Allen wins Altitude Adjustment Cross single speed race

Tim Allen wins Altitude Adjustment Cross single speed race

Allen rode and won his first single speed ‘cross race last weekend at Altitude Adjustment Cross, but he’s no stranger to racing on a single gear. He’s laid down tracks at mountain bike single speed world championships. Iaia dominated the early season local races; he placed sixth in 2013.

Last year’s podium after Craig in first included Aaron Bradford (Bicycle Bluebook), Isaac Neff (Trek Cyclocross Collective), Jared Neiters (SEAVS/Haymarket), and Adam Myerson (Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis) in fifth. Neiters and Myerson are registered to race in Boulder.

Together with Raleigh-Clement’s Craig Etheridge, who has pocketed a nice collection of UCI wins this season, and Durango’s former mountain bike single speed world champion Brown, spectators can expect a scintillating battle up and down the hill and across the undulating flats of Valmont.

Will Iaia in Colorado state championship sand, Nic Handy (right) and Jesse Swift (left)

Will Iaia in Colorado state championship sand, Nic Handy (right) and Jesse Swift (left)

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