In what was resoundingly the deepest Elite Men’s field in the history of the event, CrossVegas did not disappoint the plethora of fans lining the course tonight. Joining the pistons of US ’cross were a slew of Europeans coming stateside to see who was ringing all those damn cowbells so loud. Swiss national champion Christian Heule (who recently won his first race with Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) and Belgian Ben Berden both kicked off a full US season, and former World Champion Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea), teammate Rob Peeters, U23 World Champ Lars van der Haar (Rabobank-Giant), Danish Champ Joachim Parbo, Bart Aernouts (Rabobank-Giant), and Belgian Tim van Nuffel (Belgique) all lined up to try and nab those precious early season points away from the American battalion.
Indeed, it was Euro-power surging to the front on the gun, as Bart Aernouts took the holeshot ahead of 115 other Elite men. But the US men were not about to let the old country lead pole to pole, and Ryan Trebon (LTS-Felt) – showcasing his new black and yellow Felt Carbon F1X – stormed to the front with the racers strung out single file behind him. With barriers on the course only 30cm, bunny-hopping wasn’t nearly the risk it’s been in the past and the leaders flew over them with barely a pause.
With slightly dryer conditions than earlier in the evening, the wide, flat course took on the feeling of a crit, with riders closely bunched and trading short, bursting attacks that were quickly neutralized. At the sharp end, Peeters and Trebon were trading leads as Danny Summerhill – looking fierce after his time with Garmin – sat comfortably among some of the best in the sport.
A hard attack by Wellens, however, shot the race into another dimension, as the move immediately broke the front apart and made it, for the moment, nearly a full Euro affair. The lone American was Jeremy Powers, closeted by Aernouts, Christian Heule and Lars van der Haar in the chase. But Trebon, not content to let Powers solely defend the red white and blue, slowly clawed his way back on with Ben Berden.
With five to go it was the long legs of Trebon turning the screws, with Peeters and Wellens trading efforts. As the group of favorites again congealed with roughly ten riders, including Powers, Jamey Driscoll and Geoff Kabush, Tim Johnson collided with van der Haar, and Johnson came out on the losing end, with a broken spoke and a dropped chain. The former national champ didn’t give up however, and showed why he is among the best in the business, running to the pit and still chasing back onto the lead group.
But it was, once again, the ever-determined Jamey Driscoll who launched the most promising attack of the evening, going clear with four to go. In what is now an established pattern at CrossVegas after three straight years of attacks, Driscoll dug deep and, as the clock ticked down, continued to hold the Euro-American wave at bay. Last year, however, it was Francis Mourey who nipped him at the line. Would Driscoll’s effort, this year, be enough?
Once again, it was not to be, as Wellens proved he is one of the best in the world by bridging alone and then leaving Driscoll in his wake. Powers, Peeters, Aernouts, Heule and Trebon soon caught Driscoll, and the chase for the two-time world champion was on.
With only a lap to go, Wellens was holding his lead as Trebon brought the chase group within firing range, finally catching the Belgian in the TRP brake zone. It would be down to a shoot-out.
Aernouts and Peeters attacked out of the front, but were immediately countered by an aggressive acceleration by Jeremy Powers. Would the move would be enough to secure his first major win in his new Focus-Rapha colors?
With half a lap to go, however, the leaders were again together, riding three-abreast into the corners and hitting the run-up for the final time. At the sprint for the line, it was Telenet’s Rob Peeters leading the charge, but 20 year-old Lars van der Haar and Christian Heule coming around right at the last moment, with the patient van der Haar barely squeezing first across the line. Peeters rounded out a full Euro top three, with Powers and Trebon finishing up the podium.
There was a kerfluffle after Elite Men’s results were posted, Trebon had originally been ranked sixth but believed he crossed the line in fifth place. The race did not have a camera at the finish, and with the crowd dwindling, the Cyclocross Magazine crew wandered to results to get the scoop on what was happening. After hearing the dilemma, we were able to use our race footage (above) of the men’s finish to show that Trebon had indeed clearly crossed the line in fifth place. Trebon later tweeted to us, “Thanks for the help with the video footage, somebody has to do the job properly I guess.” Always happy to help!
What did the racers think?
We also wrangled an interview with Van Der Haar immediately after the race, which you can view below, and he told us, “I was waiting until the end, I know I have a really strong sprint … At the last turn, I started my sprint at sixth place and in the last 50 meters, everyone — how do you call it? — died and my sprint was strong enough.”
Rob Peeters, the other Euro on the podium, also chatted with Cyclocross Magazine post race. Since going into the sprint, it looked like he had the win, he had a lot to say. “I’m disappointed that I lost the victory but I’m also glad that I had the good shape, so … mixed feelings. I know my sprint is not so good and I’m going to work on it.”
Bart Wellens, who finished eighth, told us that his first race in America was “hard, very hard. We are in Las Vegas, and I gambled … It was a half lap too long! It’s nice to be here. It was one hour of suffering but I like it.”
Jamey Driscoll, who rounded out the top ten in ninth, said that, “The Euros, Bart came up to me, and after doing this race a few times and hearing about it, they know it’s a lot more tactical, like a road race. I tried, but I think it wasn’t so much a matter of fitness, it was more a matter of people racing it like they had in the past two years.” And about the climate? “It was a little more like a real cyclocross race.”
Driscoll mentioned Trebon and the work that he did in the chase group, saying, “Trebon would rather go down swinging then let the race go up the road.” One of our live coverage comments said something similar, calling Trebon the “lone wolf.”
Full coverage was brought to you by Robbie Carver, Josh Liberles, Joey Mullan, Molly Hurford and Andrew Yee.