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LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (VN) — The home team arrived to Louisville ready to hit home runs in the first UCI Elite Cyclocross World Championships held outside of Europe. After a tough day in the snow and mud, the Americans will leave Eva Bandman Park with a single medal, some disappointment, and a lot of pride in the growth of U.S. ’cross.
What became of some of the key Americans in Louisville?
Junior men 17-18
Logan Owen (4th): Owen arrived to Louisville with immense pressure. Cyclocross Magazine featured him on a recent cover with the line, “the next Nys?” and he was a legitimate medal contender, having finished third in the World Cup overall standings even after skipping the final round in Hoogerheide, Netherlands. But Owen ran up against an untouchable Mathieu Van der Poel and a series of miscues that left him scrambling.
Owen appeared to start on the final red light displayed on the UCI starting board (the light flashed a countdown of single red lights before a full row of red lights and, finally, green). He put his foot back on the ground just as the other riders were clipping in, forcing him on the back foot. An early crash sent him tumbling through the pack, but Owen forged a hard chase, at one point riding into bronze-medal position. He faded, however, after drivetrain troubles led to multiple chain-drops in the final two laps. He was bitterly disappointed with fourth.
“It sucks because I know I was easily the second strongest guy there. I know if I had had a good start I could have battled with [Martijn] Budding for second,” Owen told VeloNews. “It’s really disappointing because I know I’m so much better than that… It’s just so disappointing when I had so much expectation of myself. I wish I had a do-over.”
Zach McDonald (11th): McDonald came flying into the worlds off a silver-medal ride (in the elite race) at the national championships and without much pressure. He lacked his usual quick start, coming through the first lap 15th, but came on strong late for 11th. For McDonald, his lack of expectations saved him from what may have been disappointment after proving himself capable of a top 10 on the most technical European tracks.
“I technically progressed, I think I did one better than last year,” he told Cyclocross Magazine at his team tent after riding straight through the finish without stopping. “I don’t know what happened in the front, but it sure was exciting.”
Katie Compton (2nd): Compton was the first woman to be called to the grid — the top-ranked woman in the world — and was the top pre-race contender to Dutch defending champ Marianne Vos.
Compton started slowly and lost big time when she dropped her chain in the first lap. From there, she had to fight back, almost a minute down on what she deemed an unstoppable Vos. But Compton kept coming, riding away from Katerina Nash after the U.S.-based Czech crashed on the final corner before the finish straight and then Dutchwoman Sanne Van Paassen, distancing her quickly on a technical descent before the bell lap.
The Compton versus Vos showdown many expected was over before the first time through the pits, but the American was satisfied with silver in the end.
“I had to focus really hard. The crowd was so loud and so crazy, constantly cheering, so I just had to try and turn it off and focus on the line and the braking and the gearing, and just be smooth and ride as fast as I could,” said Compton. “I’m not disappointed at all. I’m actually really happy. I mean, getting second to Marianne, I’m getting used to that. She’s fast and she’s so good at this, so if I’m going to get second to anyone, Marianne is a good person to get second to.”
Kaitlin Antonneau (10th): No one does positive finish-line reaction like Antonneau and she didn’t disappoint on Saturday. The 21-year-old Marian University student fought for a top-five spot over the first 20 minutes of racing and settled into 10th. She said she hit her limit on the technical hillside section on the final lap and finished off her last race of the season by maintaining her best-ever result at worlds (she was 26th in 2011 and 30th in 2012). It was her best ride since a World Cup-opening ninth at Tabor, Czech Republic, in October, and she was overcome at the finish.
“Oh, God yeah,” she told VeloNews when asked if she was satisfied with her result. “I hit my wall and couldn’t go any faster. I settled into my own race and fought and fought and fought… I’m so happy!”
Amy Dombroski (11th): Dombroski has knocked and knocked at the door of the top 10 this season, twice finishing 11th in World Cups when one spot better would have auto-qualified her for the worlds. She did so again on Saturday, scoring the third-best U.S. result for the elite women.
Dombroski, who based herself in Belgium all season, was in contention for eighth when she chose a new line on the final corner and crashed. She took a chance and it didn’t pay.
“It’s the season of 11th places. It’s almost their season,” she told VeloNews. “I’m happy. I think I rode a great race. I tried to take a different line on that final corner; sometimes the chance works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Tim Johnson (19th): Johnson was the top American and celebrated at the finish by dismounting and raising his hands over his head in front of swollen crowd. Johnson, who played a key role in developing the Eva Bandman course, rode steadily through the hour-long tilt and his 19th was better than any World Cup result he’d logged this season.
“I really just tried to keep moving forward,” he said. “I had an ok start and really started to feel like I was moving toward the end… I just want to keep riding around [the course, because of fan support].”
Like his season, Johnson’s ride was consistent and finished stronger than it began.
Jonathan Page (22nd): The U.S. champion rode a streak of hot form into the worlds. He’d never ridden the Eva Bandman course before Friday morning, when he took his new Fuji Altamira CX 1.0 bikes for a spin. Page started well and got better, moving through the field, as one journalist said, “like he has a rocket in his bibs,” but two mechanicals and a crash waylaid his charge up the results sheet.
Page was riding inside the top 10 when a shift dropped his chain into his spokes, locking up his drivetrain. (The same issue killed Belgian Kevin Pauwels’ podium chances.) Page stopped to dislodge and replace his chain, but lost a number of positions. He flatted shortly after and then crashed trying to make up time. He said at the finish he was just happy to fly the flag of national champion at the first-ever home ’cross worlds for the U.S.
“I’m a little disappointed, yeah, but I wasn’t superman today,” he told VeloNews. “I still could have had a good race. I still wanted to see how far I could go, everybody was just cheering so hard for me out there.”
Jeremy Powers (25th): Powers put much of his season on a strong showing at worlds, but a full travel schedule and an early peak had him coasting into worlds on vapors. Starting in the second row, Powers slide out and lost a position on the grid, but left the pavement near the top-15 position he knew he needed. From there, the heavy mud took its toll and the 2012 U.S. champion rode steadily toward 25th.
“I didn’t crash. I rode a steady race, and the last half was better than the first in my opinion,” he told VeloNews. “It was really hard out there today… I took on a lot [this season] and I’d say now that it’s February 3, I’m happy the season is over.”
Ryan Trebon (DNF): Trebon was an unknown quantity coming into the race, opting to skip Europe this season and spend a good deal of time training in Southern California. He said he felt good, but started a little slow and was picking riders off one-by-one after two laps.
Trebon looked comfortable and was approaching the top 10 when he crashed heavily on a tricky descent just before the climb to the finish. He endoed after his front wheel went sideways in a small drop, and slid downhill along the barriers, hitting his right arm, back, and head. Trebon said he tried to continue, but the pain in his arm was too much.
“It would have been nice to have finished; somewhere around 10th would have possible,” he said. “I might have hit my head pretty good and I have a pretty good headache right now, but no breaks, I think.”