Eckmann established an early lead and sailed to a solo win ahead of Andrew Dillman (Bob’s Red Mill) and Tobin Ortenblad (Cal Giant-Specialized) to take the national champion’s jersey. Joshua Johnson (Indianapolis Cycling Club) and Skyler Trujillo (Boo-Enve) rounded out the top five.
How it happened:
First year U23 racer Andrew Dillman took the holeshot and the early lead, stringing the pack out behind him with Eckmann close on his wheel. On the first long hill, Eckmann took over, with Skyler Trujillo slotting into second and Dillman falling into third as the three separated from the rest and made their way around and down the rolling descent into the barriers. About ten seconds later, Joshua Johnson, Tobin Ortenblad and Cody Kaiser (Cal Giant-Specialized) followed.
Eckmann, however, decided he didn’t want company, and used the back half of the course to shed his rivals and open up an impressive gap. By the end of the first lap, Eckmann had a twenty-five second lead over Trujillo, with Dillman another five seconds down, chasing in pursuit. Johnson and Ortenblad, having dropped Kaiser, followed a further five seconds back. The podium, already, was decided – all that was left was to determine the order.
Though first place was never again contested, the remaining slots remained an exciting back and forth for the rest of the race. Halfway through the second lap, Dillman caught Trujillo in the pits, just as Trujillo dropped his chain and was forced to dismount, opening up a wide gap for Dillman in second and allowing Johnson and Ortenblad to close in on third.
Dillman’s race wasn’t finished, however, as a tangle with the course tape saw him off his bike, yanking himself free. The misstep nearly brought the rest back into striking distance, but Dillman rallied, stayed smooth, and re-established his gap to cross the finish line comfortably in second.
Ortenblad, too, had to battle hard for third, as with just over a lap to go Johnson and Trujillo had left him off the back. Ortenblad dug deep, made contact on the hill, and managed to open up enough of a gap to secure third place. Trujillo continued to fade, and Johnson was able to sneak ahead for fourth.
Confusion over whether Eckmann, who plans to race the World Championships for Germany, qualifies for the title, continued after the race. Eckmann told Cyclocross Magazine in a video interview in Chicago one week prior to Nationals that he would be able to race but not win the title, but USA Cycling officials believed he could win the title. Stay tuned.