Gonzalez in control on the stairs. © Mike Albright
As the sun was setting, temperatures continued to drop on Day 2 of racing at Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, Colorado. The Men’s 50-54 race was the final event of the day, and despite the temperatures, fans were still heard screaming all around the course for the 60-man field.
Craig Cozza (UPMC/Pro Bikes) took an early lead, and Todd Cassan was close behind heading into the first set of stairs on lap one. However, early on, Cozza began to experience shifting problems, and was forced to repeatedly pit. “It would work for five minutes and then stop,” he explained later, but added that his SRAM Red 22 hydraulic brakes (the ones that had been recalled) had worked just fine and his gamble to continue to use them had paid off.
Behind the two, fourth row starter Frank Gonzalez (Montana Velo) was working his way through the crowd and gunning for the top spot. Gonazalez later told us that he’d just come from a six-week build period and thought that “in the top two rows, I’d have a chance. When I saw I was fourth row, I stopped thinking that.”
Three-time National Champion James Alan Coats (Cal Giant) also was racing to overcome a poor starting position, and surged through the field on lap one in an attempt to contest for the title. After taking the whole season off last year due to ACL knee surgery, it was his comeback race and chance to take advantage of moving up an age group before rival and fellow NorCal racer Don Myrah. But his desire to quickly move to the front would cost him, telling Cyclocross Magazine, “I bit off too much on that first lap.”
Warmuth sitting in fourth position. © Mike Albright
Michael Hogan (Team Kappius) was also making moves to find his way to the front of the race, along with Gonzalez and CalGiant’s James Coates. The course began to change as the sun came out and faded, and as the temperatures rose and dropped depending on where the sun fell on the course.
With two to go, Cozza had built a sizable lead, but Gonzalez was chasing hard and would catch him that lap. “It was great. It was challenging with the mud over the ice. But much better than last year. And my shifting was going bad, I couldn’t stay in a gear. I switched bikes four times today. I don’t know what it was.” The two came together on the off-camber with about 1.5 laps remaining, and Hogan was chasing together with Cassan, Rolf Warmuth, and Coats.
And then, Gonzalez was gone, having separated from Cozza. At the same time, Hogan attacked his small group and made his way up to Cozza, who faded from Gonzalez, and the two began to battle in earnest to catch the leader, or at least, beat one another. “I don’t know what happened to those two guys, Mike [Hogan] and I are usually pretty close,” said a surprised Gonzales, suddenly in the lead.
So, Gonzalez’s fears of not being able to make up ground were unfounded, and he took the win with ease and plenty of time to celebrate. “It was really slick. Those guys did a great job, I can’t imagine a better course.”
Cozza ended up in second, while Coats managed to make his way past Hogan for fourth.
Gonzalez takes the win. © Mike Albright
“You had to know how to ride your bike, and you have to be one of the top five guys for fitness,” Gonzalez added. “I can’t believe I won. Maybe in five minutes…”
Results follow gallery.
Gonzalez Takes Masters 50-54 Win at the 2014 National Cyclocross Championships – Gallery by Mike Albright
2014 USA Cyclocross National Championships Men 50-54
For all the best Cyclocross Nationals 2014 coverage, including bike profiles, race reports, results and video interviews, check out our 2014 Cyclocross National Championship Page here.