Coming through with two laps done, Page stretched his lead out to ten seconds over McDonald, with Trebon, Lindine, Driscoll and Johnson chasing and Summerhill fading thanks to some early mechanicals, including a flat. “I flatted in the first lap. Then I crashed and my rear wheel came out or something,” he explained. “It was insane. Absolutely insane. I knew people were going to make the same mistakes I was making, so I was trying to keep it smooth and steady. With the course and the weather, it was anyone’s race.”

Hitting the second major climb on the third lap, Lindine surged past Trebon, but behind, Jamey Driscoll accelerated past his teammate and Lindine. With three laps done, Page came through the finish line still with ten seconds in hand, banging his cleats to clear mud. Driscoll came through a further ten seconds back, with Lindine, Trebon and Johnson behind. Powers, well off the chase group, struggled to find his legs as he raced in seventh.

Behind the leading trio, the race was for fourth and for Worlds team consideration, with Johnson (already on the Worlds team) leading Summerhill, with Trebon further back. Lindine suffered a crash on the back stretch and quickly lost contact with the leaders. “My cleats iced up a little bit and I had a crash, and my chain came off, and it was one thing after another,” he told Cyclocross Magazine. “It’s hard when you’re doing that well, and start to go backwards, to keep your head in the game.”

Slowly, McDonald whittled down the gap to Page, taking seconds back on the descents and momentarily causing excitement with the spectators that they may see a two-up battle for the win. McDonald couldn’t match Page on the power sections, however, and as close as he got to the hard-charging leader, he never made contact and eventually faded back into a comfortable second. Driscoll kept the leading two in view, but slowly faded as well. And just like that, the leading three was set, as Trebon, Lindine and Johnson fell back.

Zach McDonald chased Page for the majority of the race, but couldn't close the gap © Focal Flame Photography

Zach McDonald chased Page for the majority of the race, but couldn’t close the gap © Focal Flame Photography

With a half lap to go, on the last run up, Page had extended his gap to 18 seconds, looking fully in control to take his fourth Elite National Title. “I felt steady. I didn’t have the best day of my life,” he said. “But it worked.”

Page stormed the last climb, stretching his final gap to 20 seconds and crossing the line, hands raised, to take his long-awaited victory and come storming back into American cyclocross.

McDonald followed in second, with Driscoll, Summerhill and Johnson completing the top five positions. Powers came across a few moments later, in sixth, and quickly rolled away before reporters could grab him for comment.The results represented a continuation of an impressive podium finishes at Nationals, but ended Trebon’s string of top five positions and Powers’ reign as National Champion.

The Old, The Neo, The Post-Race Praise

This victory was clearly extremely satisfying for Page, who only recently landed a title sponsor, ENGVT, the firm of long-time supporter Jerry Chabot, just for Nationals. He said, “Yeah, just like Bob Downs, I got a gorilla off my back here. It’s been a long time but I’m happy to keep the streak alive here.”

When recalling his race and talking about Worlds, Page explained, “Today I was able to that, keep my head about me, and I’ll try to do the same at the World Championships.”

The top two had nothing but kind words for each other in the clean but hard-fought race. McDonald had an impressive ride as a U23, and was satisfied with the result, saying, “I’m super happy…it would have been nice to win, but there was no way I was going to catch Page.” The two racers collided in the 2012 race, but had no issues in this year’s event.  McDonald continued to lay praise, saying, “Hats off to him. I had a super clean race, a couple mistakes, but nothing that prevented me from getting back to Page, he was just stronger today. Definitely nice to have this form going to Hoogerheide [World Cup] next weekend.”

Page, seeing a bit of McDonald in himself, praised his much-younger competition. “Yeah, he rides with complete guts,” Page said. “That’s a good bike rider, and I respect him, but the old man got him today.”

“It was an 11 on the scale of 10,” said Driscoll after the race. “It was cold, it was crazy. It was absolutely nuts. You’re getting tossed around in the ruts, the course changed within the race, started drying out. That muddiness starting to freeze up or dry out … Zach was within visual distance, which was good to gauge me. I lost a bit of time in a couple of sections though.”

“I had fits and starts,” Johnson said of his race. “I’d have good speed and lose it, good speed and lose it. Jonathan [Page] was just on the whole day.  It’s really cool to see him win.”

And as the man of the hour put it, “There’s nothing better than winning at Nationals.”

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