The Big Picture: 2016 U.S. Cyclocross Nationals (John Kavouris)

The afterglow from the US Cyclocross National Championships continues to warm my soul, as temps here in Boston and elsewhere around the US continue to dip. For the past week, I’ve been trying to unpack exactly why, and I think I’ve come up with a succinct enough answer: Nats in Asheville was precisely the experience that top ‘crossers in the US deserve. The hype around the event is absolutely justified—the venue amenities were top notch, the whole parking/admission price ‘issues’ foreseen simply weren’t, and the course was phenomenal. At best, US cross racers will typically encounter a World Cup feature on their otherwise domestic course. No. Not here. Course designer Tim Hopkin crafted absolutely a World Cup-level course, packed with off-cambers, climbing, as well as sick descending. Even the weather cooperated perfectly – dumping just enough rain on course the night before, staying cold and dry all day, and developing into light flurries during the culminating Elite Men’s race. For a racer or fan in attendance, I don’t think one could have asked for better.

However, since returning home I’ve noticed that ‘cross fans outside of the immediate Nats echo-chamber (and maybe even you, reader) were perhaps let down by the viewing experience. It’s no secret that the live-feed of the event was, well, less than ideal, and may have left a slightly bitter taste in the mouths of some viewers. And that’s quite unfortunate, as the races themselves were simply awesome. To echo Bill’s sentiments from the latest Crosshairs Radio, and in my own opinion after a brief chat with the USA Cycling media coordinator, the live-feed production had to overcome a few setbacks and was absolutely the best available given the circumstances. As they say, “that’s bike racing.”

By now, I’ll assume that you know the general narrative of how each race played out, but I’ll add a little here and there so we’re all on the same page. So, if you were lucky enough to be there, let’s relive the magic one last time. If you were watching a live stream like many visitors here, let’s look at a side of the races that the panning and zooming of the live stream may have missed. Because the season really deserves to go out on a proper mic-drop, and not an audio dropout.

A huge thank you to Bill for the continued opportunity to contribute my work to the site, as well as to the rest of the CXHairs team for producing fantastic content all season. Enjoy, and see you next season!

THE COURSE: Lots of slick mud over most of the day. Lots of up. Lots of down. Lots and lots of off-camber.

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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
Here is the grueling Bonk Breaker Hill. See the base of the evergreen in the bottom left? That’s where riders begin climbing, zig-zagging their way up to the stepped off-camber on the right. But the fun doesn’t stop there…
Here is the grueling Bonk Breaker Hill. See the base of the evergreen in the bottom left? That’s where riders begin climbing, zig-zagging their way up to the stepped off-camber on the right. But the fun doesn’t stop there… © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
After that off camber, riders drop into the Cane Creek woods. There’s a high line and there’s a low line but only one entry drop-in to the woods, resulting in a lot of near misses – as seen here during the men’s U23 race.
After that off camber, riders drop into the Cane Creek woods. There’s a high line and there’s a low line but only one entry drop-in to the woods, resulting in a lot of near misses – as seen here during the men’s U23 race. © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
Immediately after the drop, riders chicane left, then a sweeping right, made even harder by the rain-slicked clay mud. Suffice to say, it didn’t end well for all riders.
Immediately after the drop, riders chicane left, then a sweeping right, made even harder by the rain-slicked clay mud. Suffice to say, it didn’t end well for all riders. © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
Elsewhere, the course featured three separate run/climb ups – one of which seen here during the women’s elite race. Each of them was a veritable wall of mud and grass.
© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
Elsewhere, the course featured three separate run/climb ups – one of which seen here during the women’s elite race. Each of them was a veritable wall of mud and grass.
Elsewhere, the course featured three separate run/climb ups – one of which seen here during the women’s elite race. Each of them was a veritable wall of mud and grass. © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
Here is the Ingles Heckle Hill during the women’s elite race.
Here is the Ingles Heckle Hill during the women’s elite race. © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
Crowds steadily grew deeper and deeper along the course barriers over the course of the day.
Crowds steadily grew deeper and deeper along the course barriers over the course of the day. © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

WOMEN’S U23: As one might expect, Ellen Noble (JAM Fund/NCC/Vittoria) came away with the win after riding a beautiful race. However, the expected duel between Noble and Emma White (Cannondale CyclocrossWorld Devo) never quite materialized, with the usually powerful White losing time on this technically heavy course and finishing in 3rd. Surprisingly, Sofia Gomez Villafane (Fort Lewis College) rode a very smooth race and was able to claim 2nd.

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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

MEN’s U23: Tobin Ortenblad (California Giant Cycling) bested the arguable race favorite Curtis White (Cannondale CyclocrossWorld) for first, with White settling for second after struggling on certain parts of the course. Grant Ellwood (Boulder Cycle Sport/YogaGlo) rounded out the podium for 3rd.

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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
White briefly led Ortenblad toward the Ingles Heckle Hill, and even had Ortenblad looking as though he was against the ropes.
White briefly led Ortenblad toward the Ingles Heckle Hill … © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
, and even had Ortenblad looking as though he was against the ropes.
… and even had Ortenblad looking as though he was against the ropes. © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
Up Heckle Hill, and White was still leading.
Up Heckle Hill, and White was still leading. © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
Coming back down, line choice proved to be a critical error for White, taking the slower low line down the off-camber while Ortenblad took the quicker high line, giving him a gap and a launchpad towards victory.
Coming back down, line choice proved to be a critical error for White, taking the slower low line down the off-camber while Ortenblad took the quicker high line, giving him a gap and a launchpad towards victory. © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
I hate to root against him but I secretly sort of enjoy seeing Curtis White not win stuff, as he tends to elicit some pretty raw emotion and disappointment. Cheer up, Curtis! You’ve got another year as a U23, and the rest of a bright race career ahead of you!
I hate to root against him but I secretly sort of enjoy seeing Curtis White not win stuff, as he tends to elicit some pretty raw emotion and disappointment. Cheer up, Curtis! You’ve got another year as a U23, and the rest of a bright race career ahead of you! © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

WOMEN’S ELITE: Katie Compton (Trek Factory Racing) took home an extraordinary 12th (twelfth!) national championship, ahead of Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) in 2nd and Katie Antonneau (Cannondale CyclocrossWorld) in 3rd. Compton and Gould zipped to an early and would trade time at the front, while Antonneau would time-trial alone. For the last lap, Compton simply rode away from Gould to secure the win and prove once again she is the most dominant ‘crosser on US soil.

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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
Amanda Naumann (SDG – Muscle Monster and CXHairs contributor) leans WAY back on the descent after Heckle Hill.
Amanda Naumann (SDG – Muscle Monster and CXHairs contributor) leans WAY back on the descent after Heckle Hill. © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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Gould on a great day with a well-deserved silver. © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

MEN’S ELITE: No surprise here – Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing) crushed the competition to claim a 4th national championship, ahead of Stephen Hyde (Cannondale CyclocrossWorld) in 2nd, and Logan Owen (California Giant Cycling, opting to race elites rather than U23) in 3rd. Powers advanced to the front quickly and stayed at or near the front for much of the race, before upping the pace and riding away over the last lap.

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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

 

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© 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

PODIUMS:

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U23 Women. © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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U23 Men. © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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Elite Women. © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com
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Elite Men. © 2016 John Kavouris www.johnkavouris.com

[Editor’s Note: Thanks for a great season, John! Everybody reading, make sure to check out www.johnkavouris.com. Especially during July and the Tour de France.]

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