Simply put, the big picture at the US Open in Boulder this week should make all fans of US cyclocross absolutely giddy. One needn’t look any further than the average racing age of the podium in both the men’s and women’s races to see that US ‘cross is starting show serious promise from seeds sown years ago, enthusiastically nurtured by an ever-growing and increasingly healthy junior cycling community.
While I am personally stoked to see Sunny Gilbert crashing the party with a really hot start this season, she was the podium outlier in this youth movement on the women’s side, sharing the other steps with Clara Honsinger (22, winner both days), Sofia Gomez-Villafane (25), and Katie Clouse (18). The men’s side was a clean sweep by U23’s. On day one it was Gage Hecht (21), Lance Haidet (22), and Eric Brunner (21). Day two: Brannan Fix (22), Brunner, and Haidet.
A look a little further off of the top three shows depth as well. Emma Swartz (22) and Hannah Finchamp (24) put in top-six performances each day. The men’s side showed similar depth with Caleb Swartz (20), Maxx Chance (23), and Ellwood brothers Ross (20) and Grant (23) all finishing in the points once over the weekend.
These names and others give us all something to be excited about as American cyclocross fans, and should serve as encouragement to all those who have supported and continue to support junior cycling in general.
RIDE OF THE WEEKEND POSTSCRIPT
I think it’s noteworthy to mention Gage Hecht’s ride on Sunday – it’s hard to overstate how huge that seventh place finish was. After a dominating performance on day one, I think everyone expected more of the same on day two. Somewhere after passing the second pit entrance on the first lap at the front of the race, he suffered a mechanical issue and was forced to run.
Not only did he have to run a really, really long way, but he was also on the side of the course with the vast majority of the elevation changes, and also included the longest set of stairs. Essentially, he spotted the entire field half a lap, used a massive amount of energy running, and still gritted his way back to finish in the points – an absolutely epic ride and show of heart.