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Tim Allen, the likely unlikely 2014 single speed cyclocross national champion

January 9, 2014
Tim Allen, 2014 single speed cyclocross national champion

Tim Allen, 2014 single speed cyclocross national champion

Before now Tim Allen (Feedback Sports) wasn’t the first name that came to mind for most when ticking off the country’s top single speed cyclocross riders. His results list includes just one single speed ‘cross race. It took place five days ago. He only procured a bike with one gear a few days prior to that, stripping the gears off one of his Foundry steeds to create it.

Tim Allen's single speed set-up

Tim Allen’s single speed set-up

So he snuck into the one gear national championship race on Wednesday under the radar, but not for those who have raced Allen at the elite level in Colorado or seen him race.

He’s got a fast ‘cross start, a mountain biking background that includes single speed competition, and fitness and bike handling skills that produced multiple local wins this season.

Why single speed ‘cross now? He wanted to preview the Valmont Bike Park course before the elite race on Sunday. “Also, since I have two Foundrys I decided one of them should become a ss!” he told ProVéloPassion. The guy likes to play with his bikes.

He arrived for the single speed championships hopeful, though without thinking he’d leave Valmont with a gold medal. But he did. “There was so much competition…I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said.

“I’m super excited, couldn’t be happier,” Allen said about his nationals victory. “Home course. The bike was awesome and the course was a perfect mountain biker’s course. It really catered to my riding style.”

Race action

The intensity of the start probably didn’t surprise Allen. One of the local favorites, Will Iaia (Groove Subaru Excel Sports), described the two hundred meters or so after the whistle at Valmont.

“The start’s always good here with that long stretch,” Iaia said. “You can definitely get those single speeds up the highest you can get ‘em…Brady Kappius got out how he always does – super super fast, and I was just trying to hold his wheel…I think that’s kind of where the race was decided. Whoever hit that [first] corner in the top 5 or 6, that was going to be your top 5 or 6.”

Corey Stelljes & Brady Kappius (l - r) on the steep off-camber section nicknamed "Pete's Plunge" after course designer Pete Webber

Corey Stelljes & Brady Kappius (l – r) on the steep off-camber section nicknamed “Pete’s Plunge” after course designer Pete Webber

Clif Bar’s Brady Kappius shot through the initial right-hander first. Iaia flew after him, followed by Allen, Craig Etheridge (Raleigh-Clement), Edwin Bull (Van Dessel Factory Team) and the rest of the field in single file with Colby Pearce (Trek Cyclocross Collective) ninth in line.

That right turn brought the field uphill to Valmont’s high point. The course design milked that ridge for all it’s worth, sending the riders down a steep descent, back up to a sandy section, down again, and then back to the top via the 5280 run-up. Riders next negotiated a wide off-camber section that dropped sharply down the hill.

Men's 2014 national championship single speed podium

Men’s 2014 national championship single speed podium

Then the pack swung into the lower section of the course where a shallow set of stairs, barriers, and the pit are located. Allen stole the lead there from Kappius about half-way into the opening lap. One circuit later, six seconds separated Allen from Kappius, then a large gap stretched to the next set of chasers – Iaia, Pearce, and Corey Stelljes (Racers Against Childhood Cancer).

These five riders would make up the podium. The remaining guys behind them aimed for their best races. Of the 107 registered, 88 started.

By lap three Allen had extended his lead to upwards of twenty seconds. The chase group raced aggressively, trying to catch Kappius and shake each other. Pearce made a go for it but couldn’t hold the effort and fell back. His push excited the race announcers, whom Allen heard.

“I was a little nervous because I kept hearing them say Colby was coming on really strong and I knew he was riding really well,” Allen said. “But I also knew it was a short race, only being 40 minutes. I’m used to racing 60 minutes. So I had that too. Once I got a gap I knew I had to stay smooth, ride smart and hope for the best.”

With Allen gone, and two laps to go, Stelljes, Kappius, and Iaia fought for position and second place. Stelljes, who is from Madison Wisconsin, said his RACC team which includes mountain bikers, cyclocrossers, and triathletes, is a charity based in the Milwaukee area.

The RACC rider raced for a bit in second position on course. Kappius squeaked by him coming past the steep off-camber descent.

Jesse Swift's post nationals bike

Jesse Swift’s post nationals bike

More mud accumulated on frames, pedals, and shoes as the race went on. “On the run-up you can usually ride really fast into it and carry momentum up,” Gates Carbon Drive’s Jesse Swift explained, “but it was all day long you were just dragging. You could feel the weight of the bikes on the run-ups.” Pearce later estimated he carried an extra eight pounds of frozen mud on his bike into the finish.

Stelljes experienced trouble clipping into his pedals.

“My mind just kept saying go, go go. I felt like I had a ton of energy, a ton of power out there, but I had to be clipped in to use it so it was kind of a surging race for me,” Stelljes said. “I think Brady got clipped in a couple of times a little quicker than me and he rode a really good tactical race, stayed in front of me coming into the finish and held me off.”

Brady Kappius holds onto second at the single speed national championship finish

Brady Kappius holds onto second at the single speed national championship finish

With first gone, it appeared the Clif Bar rider poured everything he had into claiming second. In the three-way sprint to the finish line, neither Iaia nor Stelljes could pry it away from him. All three received the same time. Stelljes placed third and Iaia fourth. Pearce arrived 19 seconds later for fifth.

Wednesday’s result was Kappius’ best in three years, but a win would have been better. “Tim was just too strong,” he said. Kappius is scheduled to race in the elite contest on Sunday, as will Allen and the other top five single speed finishers.

Allen is a first time single speed cross racer, but not a first time national champion. In 2005 he won a junior mountain bike championship.

Looking ahead, Wednesday’s national title may not be his last. “I’m definitely going to keep riding sscx!” he wrote after the championship race. “I really enjoy not thinking about shifting…”

sss

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