Sunday, January 6, 2013

S4: E2: #CCCNYR Pro race review

Chicago Cross Cup New Years Resolution, aka #CCCNYR, is seen by many as a tune up for the National Championship race a week from today in Madison, WI. If the racing seen the past two days is any indication we will have quite a race to watch on Sunday.

Saturday and Sunday were similar and different all at the same time. On Saturday snow fell literally right before the elite race, with the women racing through almost blinding snow at times. The racing was very, very fast with a strong group at the front trading punches. Sunday was without snow and with the sun during the day have become almost tacky. Again the racing was super fast with a large group trading punches. 

J-Pow sighting - somewhat rare in recent weeks.
The field Saturday featured Jeremy Powers, Tim Johnson, Troy Wells, Yannick Eckmann, Brian Matter, Tristan Schouten - and even our own Ryan Knapp. With the course lacking a lot of technical features, tire selection and grip in the corners was key today. Jeremy Powers seemed to struggle with tire pressure as he was in and out of the pits frequently and even admitted on Twitter to have taken a non-standard line a couple times to prevent the tire from bottoming out.

That action was fast all race long with each of the stars in the front six trading punches trying to split others off the back. Eventually J-Pow punched late and went on to victory with Driscoll close by in 2nd place. Eckmann and Johnson battled for third with Eckmann taking the final podium spot. Our own Ryan Knapp fought to 7th place after an initial separation during a dual 180 off camber twist.

First bottleneck proved costly for some - this wreck gave Johnson, Powers, Matter, 

Eckmann and the leaders through the sand.

Tripods were very common.

Former teammates converging in the sand.
Sunday the lineup was similarly star studded, but without snow. This lead to an even larger front group and extremely fast action. I believe the racers did 10 laps of the course which is a blistering pace to keep. Similar to Saturday a large group of stars formed at the front with Page, Johnson, Driscoll, Matter, Eckmann, Wells, Werner, and Marion. Marion? Yeah, Robert Marion - a relative unknown - was hanging in this crowd.

As the race progressed road race tactics started to play out on the course. Without a lot of technical features it was attack/counter-attack lap after lap with no one getting away. All the attack/counter-attack action had Robert Marion (Carpediem Racing) on the ropes about halfway through the race. But, the lead group of seven checked up through the start-finish and started trading quiche recipes, giving Marion a chance to catch on.

He thought catching on meant counter-attack (classic road strategy) and almost as soon as he caught the sleepy group of riders he punched it. Cannondale had two riders in the group and road strategy played with Johnson letting Driscoll attack and chase Marion. Page was following Johnson everywhere and given that Johnson stayed in the larger group Page was content to hang out. This left Wells, Eckmann, Werner, and Matter to do the chase making with Johnson disrupting when given the chance. In short order Driscoll had caught and passed Marion and had built a 10 second gap on Marion with another 12 seconds to the group.

Having seized the day Marion was now in no-mans land riding his guts out, snot frozen to his scraggly beard, laying everything out trying to nail a podium spot in the race. With a lap and a half to go the gap remained the same, but the tension was mounting. The CCCNYR was cheering Marion at every turn, knowing at some point Page and Johnson were going to try to nail him back.

With a lap to go Marion still have 12 seconds, but then Johnson started to drill it. Everyone watched the suspense as Johnson reeled Marion down to 5 seconds, then finally passed through the sand section with only a four turns left to the race. Now the attention turned to Page and his chase of both Marion and Johnson. Relief spread through the crowd as Marion was able to hold off Page to score a podium position with Driscoll and Johnson.

If the racing of the last two days is any indication of the horsepower that will be in Madison, then Sunday this week will be a special treat - don't leave Madison can be late to work on Monday, just tell them The Best Bike Blog Ever said it was OK.

Great elite field with Page making a rare US appearance.

Page leading the initial line through the sand.

Drisoll getting some air out of the sand dunes.

Drisoll leading Marion after splitting the group.

All eyes on Page as the chase continues.

Robert Marion - clearly the man of the day.

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