We’re continuing our look at some of the more memorable moments from the 2016 Cyclocross National Championships. These racers and races struck us as having the biggest impact on the event. You can see all of our memorable moments here. Today, we’re looking at the Women’s and Mens’ Elite races. Sure, they were won by the favorites, which makes it easy to take the performances for granted, but with 10 days to reflect, we think they’re perhaps the champions’ most impressive victories yet.
The Women’s Elite Race
It was assumed, but it wasn’t guaranteed until she crossed the line. Katie Compton made it 12 National Championship titles in a row with her win in Asheville. That fact alone warrants the Women’s Elite race as a memorable moment for the 2016 National Championships.
When you are on a winning streak, each additional victory gets harder, and the pressure is higher. For the first time since her streak started back in 2004, Compton was pushed late into the race, heading into the last lap. She didn’t storm to the front midway through the first lap, alone and on autopilot. She had to work for it.
And while she did end up distancing second place Georgia Gould, after the race Compton told us that no, she wasn’t surprised that Gould was there late in the race, and that she’s never surprised when Gould is there and that this was the hardest of all her titles to date.
General in-house concensous was that the supposed next generation would be taking the race to Compton’s doorstep, and this was the best chance of any year for a former protoge in the form of Kaitie Anntoneau or some other young upstart to take Compton’s place as the boss of Women’s ‘cross in the US. But that wasn’t going to happen. Not this year anyway.
Of course Compton won. Aboard a bike that now has outdated graphics related to her holding 11 national titles. That fact, and the win itself aren’t what’s important. It’s that she did win by beating a veteran adversary, that for another season she held off the next generation, and that for the next year at least she’ll still be Katie F’n Compton, National Champion. Twelve in a row. Think about that. Let’s not take it for granted.
The Elite Men’s Race
It’s easy to point at the Elite Men’s race and say “Powers, three in a row.” And anyone would be right to a large extent in doing so in naming the Elite Men’s race as a memorable moment.
Winning three consecutive titles is no easy feat, and Powers did it from the front of the race, dictating affairs and distancing his rivals with a late surge and precision riding that never let his challengers get as close in the end as we may have thought they were based on the excitement of the announcers, the crowd and the day itself.
No, it wasn’t just the third win, it was that he took the title against a training partner in the form of Stephen Hyde, who on US soil had slugged it out with Powers for much of the season. And he did it against youngster Logan Owen who could have likely taken another title in the U23 race and kept his own impressive win streak alive, but wanted the challenge presented by the Elite Men’s field and came up just ever so short in his first try at the Elite title.
This race had it all, the defending champion, the lesser known challenger and the young upstart eager to prove his mettle, racing over a technical course that required power as well as finesse in weather conditions that got colder as the race wore on.
When it was all said and done, Hyde couldn’t pull off the upset, although he was with the returning National Champion until late in the race. And Owen’s race, perhaps undermined by early attacks that were the result of youthful exuberance, was just a little short of the full 60 minute affair.
But they both brought color to Powers’ fourth win in five years.