CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – On a cold, snowy Chicago day, National Champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) made a late-race escape from Yannick Eckmann (Cal Giant-Specialized) and Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld teammates Timothy Johnson and Jamey Driscoll to take the first round of the New Year’s Resolution weekend. Though Johnson slid off the pace in the final lap, Driscoll managed to hold Eckmann off for second. In the women’s field, Elle Anderson (LadiesFirst) took the win ahead of Amanda Carey (VolkswagenBoise) and Mackenzie Woodring (Einstein).
Just a few minutes prior to the women’s race, snow seemingly dumped from the sky and coated the course, rendering the pre-riding that the women had done earlier in the day almost completely irrelevant. At the start, women were swapping wheels, letting out air pressure, adding layers, and debating whether or not sunglasses would be a good call for the race. For the record: no.
Elle Anderson, who’s been making a name for herself this season on both coasts (Anderson is a New England native but lives in San Francisco), took to the start line hoping for the win, but not sure of the outcome. The Ladies First racer hasn’t faced snowy conditions all year, and the course had gone from being a power rider’s dream come true to a battle of handling skills. Lining up with her, a determined Arley Kemmerer, who’d spent the entire day prior driving from Pennsylvania out to Chicago, was hoping for the win as well, along with Amanda Carey.
Kemmerer started the race strong, developing a solid lead along with Anderson, however, a bobble on the slick course by Anderson took the two racers down. Kemmerer later joked with Cyclocross Magazine saying that Anderson rode the course apologizing for the slip-up “at least six times.”
“It was only one. Or maybe two,” a blushing Anderson insisted.
However, a later slip-up took Kemmerer out of the lead group, and left Anderson alone to take another UCI win – just what she was hoping for, since she’ll miss tomorrow’s race. Second place Amanda Carey was thrilled with her finish, especially since, as she told us, “I haven’t been on a bike for three weeks.” She explained, though, that she had been on her skis for most of her “winter break,” so the frigid conditions and snowy course worked to her advantage. “It was only 40 minutes! I’m used to five or six hours of this,” she enthused before pulling off her jacket because she was “too hot” in their heated tent.
Arley Kemmer and Elle Anderson chat about their races:
Amanda Carey talks about her second place spot:
The elite men’s field was stacked with more familiar faces than the women’s field, though similar to the women’s field, it was smaller and more sedate than usual. With the big names like Powers, Tim Johnson and Driscoll on the start line, spectators were more than willing to stick around despite worsening weather. Driscoll was feeling confident, since snow races are his specialty. His second place spot gives him hope for Nationals: “I’d like to win,” he smiled, “But there’s this really fast guy named Jeremy who’s been doing really well.”
Johnson snagged the holeshot, and almost immediately created a separation from the rest of the field with Driscoll, Eckmann and Powers. With Powers electing to pit first and most frequently, announcer Richard Fries was left wondering what problem the Rapha-Focus rider could be having. Powers later revealed that he had recently swapped seatposts, so he needed to make minor adjustments throughout the race.
The four racers stayed together for the entirety of the race, only joined for a brief few moments by the second group, led by Troy Wells. The crowd, however, was most impressed by Powers’, who, mid-way through the race, bunny-hopped the extremely high barriers that led into a swooping off-camber that nearly all of the elite field was forced to run due to the slick conditions.
A late race move by Powers heading into the last lap put pressure on the other three racers to use every match in the book to stay with him, and a move by Eckmann shed Johnson during the lap. Powers developed a small gap and held it, smoothly powering through the turns and winding his way around the golf course. Despite his earlier moments where he seemed to nearly be falling off the lead group, he demonstrated his leading abilities in any condition and came in to the finishing straightaway with enough time (but just barely) to put his arm up as he took the win. Driscoll sprinted hard to close the gap but just missed by a second, taking second place with Eckmann coming in for fourth, and a defeated but smiling Johnson in fourth.
“I’m incredibly happy,” a grinning Eckmann told us during his post-race cool-down. “This was a huge confidence boost, which I really needed going into Nationals.”
Jeremy Powers talks tire pressure, this year versus last season, and Nationals:
Jamey Driscoll talks Nationals goals, time off, and disc brakes:
Yannick Eckmann talks Worlds and Nationals, and keeping up with the big boys: