Tim Johnson and Katie Compton won the men's and women's USA Cycling Elite National Cyclo-cross races in Kansas City Sunday.
Johnson was one of seven winners crowned on the final day of competition. Joining him on the top step of the podium was Women's Elite Champion Compton (Spike Shooter), Collegiate Men's Champion Jamey Driscoll of the University of Vermont, and Collegiate Women's Champion Kacey Manderfield of Lees-McRae College.
In the three age group categories re-run Sunday, Lewis Rollins (Contender Bicycle) of Salt Lake City, Utah was crowned Masters 60-64 champion, Lee Willmore (Celo Pacific) of Seal Beach, California. earned the Masters 65-69 title, and Walt Axthelm (Durango Wheel Club) of Durango, Colorado earned the Masters 70+ title.
Men's Elite race
Johnson, the Cannondale-Leer-CyclocrossWorld.com rider rode fast - and skillfully - enough to emerge from a muddy, ice and snow-coated course at Kansas City's Wyandotte County Course as the national champion.
It was the second national title for the Middleton, Massachusetts, resident. His first came in 2000 - when the national championships were last in Kansas City.
"If you could stay upright and not get into trouble, that was considered flawless, even though your speed was up and down," Johnson said.
Jonathan Page (Sunweb-Pro Job), who has spent the entire cyclocross season racing in Europe, finished second. Todd Wells (GT Bicycles), the 2005 national champion, was third.
Defending champion knocked out
At the midway point of the Men's Elite race, it was clear the winner was going to emerge from a group of three: Page - the silver medalist at the 2007 World Cyclo-cross Championships - Wells and Johnson.
Defending national champion Ryan Trebon was gone, having been knocked out of the race with five-and-a-half laps to go when he collided with a rider who broke through the barrier tape on a portion of the course where it doubled back on itself.
"He hit me head-on and I landed on the ice on my back, shoulder and arm," Trebon said. "It hurt like hell."
Even local favorite and Masters 45-59 champion Steve Tilford of Topeka, Kansas, was out of contention, the victim of a pair of double flat tires.
Johnson said he switched bikes twice, though it might have only been once had he not had a slight mechanic mishap early on in the hour-long race.
"The first couple laps I went into one of the dips and my bars slipped down so they were pointing towards the ground and my hands kept slipping off the shifters," he said.
But Johnson looked to be in full control when he attacked Page on the second-to-last trip up the hill to the finish line. The gap he opened up was only a slight one, though, and it remained a handful of seconds until Page crashed near the pits, dropping his chain. He quickly grabbed another bike and was on his way. But the momentary bobble cost him valuable time and Page would never get any closer to Johnson again.
"I was in control except for one little bobble, and that was the bike race," Page said. "I just ran out of real estate. That's 'cross, I guess."
Women's Elite race
Compton finished off her North American cyclo-cross season by clinching her fourth consecutive national title. Since earning her first title in 2004, rivals have gotten fitter and faster, but Compton has upped her game to sustain her stunning dominance.
The Elite Women's race got off to a blistering start with Georgia Gould (LUNA) diving into the mud to snatch the holeshot. Gould's excellent start faded as Compton came took over the lead.
"I didn't get a great start - I didn't get my foot clipped in quickly enough so I think I was sitting fourth or fifth going up the hill," Compton said. "As soon as we hit the snow, I wanted to get to the front straightaway because I wanted to get a clear line.
"I just went to the front and rode," she added. "I could hear people cheering behind me so I kind of knew where the other riders were. Then I was hearing slight gaps, so I just kept on the gas."
Compton opened a 15-second gap between her and Gould by the end of the first lap with Maureen Bruno Roy (Independent Fabrication-Wheelworks) and Rachel Lloyd (Proman-Paradigm) in tow. In what would prove to be her best race of the season, Lloyd passed Bruno Roy and closed down a slight gap to reach Gould.
"Somehow, everyone came around me on the dirt and that is usually what I do to everyone else," Lloyd said. "So I was getting bumped around by people and Katie got away, so then I had to settle in there, get around people and start chasing. I think that was my main mistake."
Lloyd managed to get by Gould on lap two and then matched pace with Compton by the middle of the race. But by then, Compton had stretched her lead to 40 seconds and was out of reach. Gould arrived in third place; Kerry Barnholt (Tokyo Joe's-Van Dessel) slipped past Bruno Roy to take fourth place.
Driscoll and Manderfield each came back from runner-up finishes in Saturday's Under 23 races to claim victories in the collegiate races. For Driscoll, his slim loss to Bjorn Selander (Ridley) Saturday fueled his pursuit of the national title.
Joey Thompson (Fort Lewis) set off on a champion ride, trailed by Stefan Swecker (Lindsey Wilson College), Driscoll, and Taylor Lane (University of New Mexico). Thompson hauled that train around the course for two laps until Driscoll started moving forward. A crash by Thompson yielded the lead to Driscoll before things really started to fall apart. Double flats sent Thompson sprinting for the pits and allowed Driscoll to escape.
"Joey got the holeshot and, combined with good riding skills, he was able to get a sizeable gap," Driscoll said. "I was held back by the few people that I was behind and because it's so rutty, there was just this one line. So there were very few sections to pass as opposed to other cyclo-cross courses. I had to bide my time and wait until sections I could pass and get around to close the gap on Joey."
Driscoll, a sophomore at the University of Vermont, held the lead until the end to earn his second national collegiate cyclo-cross title in as many years while Thompson took second for the second straight year in his final collegiate cyclo-cross race.
Manderfield, a Michigan native at Lees-McRae College, has plenty of experience riding on snow and ice. But it was yesterday's race against Amy Dombroski (Velo Bella-Kona) that was her best lesson.
"I wanted to do something like what Amy did yesterday and I figured if I could get in front to begin with that I would just avoid any bad crashes in the pack," Manderfield said. "I started out nicely up the hill in the lead and managed to smash into the ground. I got back on - probably third or fourth wheel - and just had to make those places up."
But then yet another Velo Bella-Kona rider threatened Manderfield's hopeful victory. Stephanie White (University of New Hampshire) took over the lead for part of a lap until a mechanical sent her to the pits for a bike switch. White never rejoined and Manderfield succeeded in breaking free of Amanda Miller (Colorado State University) and Devon Haskell (University of Chicago) to win by a minute and 40 seconds.
Three age groups of Masters level racers got a second chance to race Sunday after USA Cycling officials heard from competitors who were unhappy that they were unable to complete more than one lap of their race on Saturday. The competitors had to be pulled from that race because they were about to be lapped.
Emerging from the two-lap race was Masters 65+ winner Willmore, who unseated defending champion Rob Lea. Willmore said he was happy to get the chance to tour the course again - especially given that Saturday's race was run in blowing snow and frigid temperatures.
"We saw dirt out there today, instead of ice and snow, so it was nice," Willmore said.
Rollins, the Masters 60-64 champion, said he crashed "about 10 times." He drew a hearty laugh from the crowd when he told race announcer Richard Fries, "Old guys don't want to win, they just want to keep going."
The Singlespeed race - the only non-championship event of the day - featured a star-studded field that included Travis Brown, the first-ever winner of the World Single Speed Championship (in 1999), and local favorite Cameron Chambers of Lenexa, Kansas, the reigning NORBA 24-Hour Solo national champion.
But at the end of the 45-minute race, it was Marko LaLonde of Madison, Wisc., who rode away from them all - turning some of the fastest lap times the course had seen the entire event up to that point. LaLonde finished 28 seconds ahead of Brown.
"The main thing was staying upright because it was so rutted," LaLonde said. "You had to stay really light on the handlebars and let the ruts take you. If you tried to fight it, you were going down."
LaLonde said he spent much of the last half of the race looking back, knowing that one mistake would open the door for someone else.
"I realized if I made a mistake, Travis (Brown) was going to catch me because he was pushing pretty hard. Toward the end, I was starting to play it safe and at least keep upright."
USA Cycling National Cyclo-cross Championships
December 16, 2007
Elite Men's Top Five:
1 Tim Johnson (Cannondale/Leer/Cyclocrossworld)
2 Jonathan Page (Sunweb Projob)
3 Todd Wells (Gt Bicycles)
4 Barry Wicks (Kona Les Gets)
5 Troy Wells (Team Clif Bar)
Elite Women's Top Five:
1 Katie Compton (Spike Shooter)
2 Rachel Lloyd (Proman/Paradigm)
3 Georgia Gould (Luna Women'S Mtb Team)
4 Kerry Barnholt (Tokyo Joes / Van Dessel)
5 Maureen Bruno Roy (If/Wheelworks/Sram P/B Gen)
© BikeRadar 2007