Cross Vegas is always a party
Words by Jen See with Images by Daniel Dunn
Drawn by the promise of bike racing and beer tents, the crowds come out. There is cowbell and dollar hand-ups. On Wednesday night, the pro men and women of cyclocross served up some exciting racing.
Jeremy Powers of Rapha-Focus won the men’s race. Powers, the current U.S. national champion, crossed the line solo after an intense duel in the final lap with Tim Johnson of Cyclocrossworld-Cannondale. Ben Berden of Raleigh-Clément finished third.
In the women’s race, Rabobank’s Sanne van Paassen took the victory ahead of Lea Davison of Cal Giant-Specialized. The Dutch rider chased down a flying Davison, who led for much of the final lap. Alison Powers of NOW-Novartis finished third.
It was fast from the start in the women’s race, and Alison Powers was among the early aggressors. With two laps to go, Olympic bronze medalist Georgia Gould of LunaChix attacked, but her rivals were not about to give her any room to play. Before the race, Gould joked about her very brief off-season between mountain bike world championships and the start of cross season. “It’s been three whole days since I last raced!”
Just outside a lap-and-a-half to go, Davison attacked. Davison scored a top ten finish at the London Olympics on the mountain bike, and she brought some form to the party in Vegas. With one lap to go, Davison still held eleven seconds over the chase group, which included Amy Dombroski of Fidea, Gabrielle Day of Rapha-Focus, Kelli Emmett of Giant, van Paassen, Gould, and Powers.
Late in the final lap, van Paassen attacked from the chase group and rode over the top of Davison. Davison held on to finish second, while Alison Powers finished third. Day and Emmett rounded out the top five.
The attacks started straightaway in the opening laps of the men’s race. After the first lap, it was still a big group at the front, but that did not last. Johnson soon went to the front in the hope of setting up his new Cyclocrossworld-Cannondale teammate Ryan Trebon. Johnson said after the race that Cross Vegas is a good course for Trebon, so he was hoping to set up the long-legged Trebon for a good finish. The group soon whittled down to around fifteen riders.
A big move soon came from Ben Berden of Raleigh-Clément, and Jamey Driscoll threw down for his teammates Johnson and Trebon. Driscoll’s effort brought back the dangerous move from Berden.
With the break nearly caught, Johnson attacked bringing Powers and Jonathan Page with him. A group of five, including Berden and Geoff Kabush of Team Scott, put up a furious chase behind the leading three. With two laps to go, Powers and Johnson rode away from Page.
The final two laps unfolded as a tense battle between Powers and Johnson. With a lap-and-half to go, Powers attacked through the barriers, but Johnson battled back.
Powers finally succeeded in shaking Johnson loose in the final lap. Powers held 15 seconds over Johnson as they approached the finish. A solid gap divided the leading two riders from third-placed Berden. At the line, Powers won ahead of Johnson. Powers flew into Vegas the morning of the race after his flight was cancelled. “I felt horrible at the beginning,” he said. “Tim was riding super strong. I got a gap, and I just went as hard as I could.”
Johnson suffered through a difficult season last year and was happy to have good legs on Wednesday. “I was just happy to put together at good hour of racing,” he said, and he credited Driscoll with playing a key role in his success by chasing back the attack from Berden.
The aggressive Berden finished third. Lars van der Haar of Giant was fourth and Kabush rounded out the top five.