VERONA, WISCONSIN – “The question today is, ‘Can anyone beat Zach McDonald?’”
While Cody Kaiser (Cal Giant) took the holeshot, right on his wheel was Rapha-Focus’s youngest member, Zach McDonald. The two were tailed immediately by Jeff Bahnson (Van Dessel Factory Team) and the rest of the 36-deep hard-charging pack.
Halfway through the first lap, McDonald had already created a gap, with Kaiser and Bahnson chasing but to no avail. As they came to the close of the first lap, McDonald pulled in the fastest lap time on course so far this week, with 8:40 showing on the clock as he sailed by with a steadily-growing gap. Twelve seconds after, Kaiser rolled through with Bahnson seconds behind. Fourth through the finish was Joseph Welsch (Raleigh Allstars Cycling Club), followed by Jesse Keough (Keough Cyclocross), Gunnar Bergey and Skyler Trujillo.
Keough attacked Welsch on the climb, and the two began the long duel for the fourth place spot. Welsch had a bobble that sent him into the course tape, and Keough capitalized on it.
With four to go, McDonald’s lead had increased to 45 seconds. Further back, Welsch began struggling on the climbs and Andrew Templeton (Team Cross) was having trouble, getting caught in a crash and fumbling a bike change in the pit. The lap ended with the top three staying steady and Keough, Welsch and Trujillo coming together.
With three to go, McDonald extended his gap to over a minute, and Keough had again created a gap on Welsh and Trujillo, and the gap would stick for the duration of the race. After the top six, minutes remained before the next group came by, including Patrick Bradley (Philadelphia Cyclocross School), Bergey, Zachary Semian (Van Dessel) and Daniel Gerow (Wolverine Sports Club). In the last laps, the group would come together and separate.
A happy McDonald did a wheelie over the finish line, and was followed by Kaiser, Bahnson, Keough and Welsh, though between McDonald’s finish and the fifth place, nearly seven minutes had gone by. “Feels great. It was nice to finally have a clean race,” McDonald said at the of his race after several years of frustration including being taken out by a pedestrian. “I wanted to have a little room for error, I got the gap and settled in.”