In the most suspense-filled, dramatic race of the 2014 Cyclocross National Championships week, Russell Stevenson (Voler Custom CX) and Jake Wells (NoTubes) battled mano-y-mano, trading the lead, trading attacks, and entering the final finish straight ready to settle their 45-minute fight with a final dual.
Wells took the final corner in the lead, confident in his sprint.
Stevenson rounded the corner, glued to Wells’ wheel, confident in his sprint, but nervous about his bike and the win.
“My bike was just popcorning the whole way down the finishing straight,” Stevenson told Cyclocross Magazine, alluding to his badly skipping gears.
The two crossed the line side-by-side, but it was too close to call.
“I hope [I got it]…my eyes were closed!” Wells said right after his finish.
“I was making so many mistakes.” Stevenson said.
The announcers couldn’t call the race. It was a photo finish, and finish line video needed to be reviewed.
Both riders were confident and optimistic.
“It was back and forth, we traded positions six times,” said Wells. “We’ll see.”
“I think I got it!” shouted Stevenson.
But officials were still looking at the finishing film.
“I was on my back foot the entire race,” Stevenson, last year’s winner, told Cyclocross Magazine. “I felt strong, fit, I prepared well, but this was a course that demanded 100 percent of everything, not just cyclocross, not just pedaling. The wind was causing me headaches and I was making lots of mistakes.”
Wells went to the front early and often, pulling down the finishing straight, and then gapping Stevenson, and Andy Jacques-Maynes, a former Masters 30-34 National Champion making his return to National Championship Masters racing.
“I wasn’t trying to take control, but I wanted to ride at my own pace, and I was riding [the off-cambers] a little better,” Wells said. “It’s just trying to play to your strengths.”
While Stevenson eventually took the win in a photo finish, relegating Wells to second, it was Steven Stefko who took third, followed by Christopher Case and Andy Jacques-Maynes.
Video interviews and full results below the photo gallery.
Masters 35-39 – 2014 National Cyclocross Championships – Gallery by Matt Lasala