VERONA, WISCONSIN – Henry Kramer (Cal-Giant) took an early lead, riding off of the front – typically a risky move, but in course conditions as uncertain as these, a smart tactic. He was followed by Alan Blanchard (Century Road Club) and Paul Curley. The first lap saw the bulk of the field staying close together, with gaps of mere seconds between them. However, by the second lap, Kramer and Blanchard had established a gap, and a muddy scrum of racers followed behind.
Curley had some problems keeping his bike upright, and was relegated farther back in the field by halfway through the race. Blanchard also fell back, and Downs made his move into second spot while Kramer still held an impressive lead. Behind the two leaders, Randy Shields (Hearts Racing Club) chased, and behind him, a group including Curley and Blanchard, as well as John Thompson (Team Plan C), Norman Kreiss (Cal Giant), Brad Young (Woodstock Bike Club), Scott Paisley (MVC/Blue Wheel/Monticello Velo Club), Lennard Zinn (Boulder Cycle Sport) and Russell Thorstrom (Intermountain Cycling).
Three laps in, Kramer was still well away from the rest of the field, with the exception of Downs, who had narrowed the gap to mere seconds. Ten seconds back from the leader, Shields had pulled away from the rest of the pack. There was a large gap, and then Kreiss, Paisley, Thompson and Young struggled to catch Shields to steal away the last spot on the podium.
As the men sailed into their last lap, Downs had closed the gap to Kramer and the two were battling in earnest. Halfway through the lap, the men came into the barriers nearly side by side. Behind them, Shields, Kreiss and Paisley were together again, battling for third.
Tragedy struck for Kramer. A dropped chain in the turns before the pavement allowed Downs to pull away and come in for victory alone, looking very pleased with his success. However, he wasn’t afraid of a sprint on the pavement. He later told Cyclocross Magazine that his sprinting ability was developed during road nationals, and he was confident that he could have won a pavement sprint today. Behind them, a sprint for third took place, with Paisley just edging out Kreiss at the line.
“I live four miles from the course,” Downs confided. “I ride in the snow a lot, so I knew I could handle this well.” He also admitted to watching a lot of Euro races, and planning to play his race like Sven Nys often does: patiently, knowing just when to attack.
Stay tuned for results and photos!
Bob Downs, 2013 Masters 55-59 National Champion Interview: