VERONA, WISCONSIN — Colder conditions than we’ve seen all week met racers this morning, as the course turned from the muddy, greasy mess riders saw on Friday to a veritable roadway of icy ruts that jammed up riders as they tried to navigate the course.
The five laps that the 45-49 year-old Masters undertook were chilly, with temperatures well below freezing but still balmy for Madison. Even the colder temperatures didn’t deter spectators though, and while the back stretch of the course still looked like no man’s land, the stretch near the finish was well-populated with screaming family, friends and fans.
While James Coats (Cal Giant) took the holeshot, just behind him riders started to pile up on the rutted, muddy field, quickly turning the long stretch into one long running section. Coats seized the opportunity to put distance on most of the field, but after a few turns, Olympian and seven-time national champion Don Myrah attacked just after Coats slid out himself before the pits.
The race quickly strung itself out as riders had to dismount or put their feet down to navigate sharp turns, and even a slight incline was cause for riders to dismount and run. Behind Myrah, Jon Cariveau (Moots) charged, only 10 seconds behind. He was followed by Sam Morse (Corner Cycle Cycling Club), John Mundelius (Cal Giant), Tim Butler, Coats and Greg Ferguson (Cape Atlantic Racing). The five worked together for a brief time but quickly began to separate.
As they came around for the end of lap one, announcer Richard Fries said, “They’ve got the cracks in the foundation now, and they’re going to try to break it up.” Break it up they did, and Myrah came by with 10 seconds on Coats and a growing gap of over 40 seconds to third place. Myrah continued pushing the pace to keep a hard-charging Cariveau at bay, and got his gap to 20 seconds. The top 10 were separated not by seconds, but minutes after just two laps.
By three laps in, ice was melting on course and riders were beginning to see some mud, but corners were still rutted and treacherous. With three to go, Myrah comfortably motored through, followed again by Cariveau, with Coats 50 seconds behind the two. Morse and Ferguson came through working together, followed by Doug Karet and Butler.
With one to go, disaster struck Cariveau, who had finally closed the gap down to a mere seven seconds after Myrah got caught in the course tape. Cariveau dropped his chain and had to dismount and spend 20 seconds putting it back on. As Myrah powered through for the last lap, Cariveau was 38 seconds back but chasing hard.
But the damage was done, and Cariveau never made it back up, leaving Myrah to take a definitive win and defend his 45-49 Cyclocross National Championship title. Cariveau crossed the line in second, still happy with his ride, with Coats in third.