The Elite Men took to a muddy but harder, faster Cantigny Park course for the sixth and final UCI race at Sunday’s 2021 USA Cyclocross National Championships.
In just two hours, the course changed dramatically. While the Elite Women completed 4 laps, with 12-minute lap times for the winner Clara Honsinger, the men enjoyed faster conditions to 9-minute lap times on the drier course for a long, 7-lap race.
2021 USA Cyclocross National Championships Elite Men
2021 Pan Ams champ Eric Brunner lined up for the final race of the 2021 Nationals as the crossresults favorite, but by just three-hundredths of a point separating him from Curtis White.
While the computers gave him a slim chance of victory over White, his recent results showed he came into DuPage County with unrivaled momentum, with six wins in his last seven starts. Brunner not only won Pan Ams, but both days of the Really Rad Festival of Cyclocross and Day 1 on Cincy.
Brunner might have been inspired by his U23 title-winning teammate Scott Funston. Brunner nearly followed an identical script, staying patient until the sandpit.
Scott McGill took the holeshot, and then Tobin Ortenblad was first to plow through the sand, but Brunner quickly moved to the front for clear sailing on the most technical sections of the course.
“I was a little bit nervous, with the amount of mud, tight corners, wet conditions,” Brunner recalled. “I knew it would be really important to start fast, and be in good position and not be behind anyone who would make a mistake.”
Brunner followed his plan exactly.
Behind Brunner, defending champ Gage Hecht and 2019 silver medalist Curtis White looked to keep it a close race and keep their title hopes alive.
Brunner, like Funston earlier in the day, stretched out his lead lap-by-lap, and soon 20 seconds became 30, and then 40. Hecht and White were losing ground.
Chasing the leading three was Kerry Werner, Caleb Swartz and Andrew Dillman.
No Shoe-in for Silver
Defending Champ Hecht set off on lap two to keep his jersey, slowly stretching the gap over White, while other racers faded out of medal hopes.
Hecht, with a growing lead over White, looked like a shoo-in for silver, but on the final lap, he had a shoe mechanical, and repeatedly reached down to adjust his shoe and hopes he’d kick the issue and keep the silver medal.
White saw his chance. He kept on the gas, and flew by Hecht.
Hecht valiantly stayed in contact with White, but didn’t quite have the footing to sprint him for silver.
Werner finished fourth, the same position as in 2019, with Swartz in fifth, making it two first-year U23 racers on the wide-angle podium.
A Flat Tire Scare
None of the chasers realized Brunner was nursing a flat tire late in the race.
Early on, the leader pitted once a lap, but then started pitting every half lap, partly because of the conditions but also because of a late-race puncture he rode for a quarter of a lap.
Brunner did a good job of managing it and hiding it, and retained most of his commanding lead for the Elite Men’s Cyclocross Nationals title in his first attempt.
A Dream Season Doesn’t Include Europe
“It’s been a dream the last month,” Brunner said. “I don’t even know what to say. Pan Ams, I was pretty confident going into it, but this had different conditions, a bit more unpredictable. I’m at a loss.”
While fans might expect Brunner to try to continue his success over in Europe, he’s staying domestic during the holidays. He’ll take one week off the bike and then ramp back up for Worlds after a long road and cyclocross season.
With Brunner’s win, the three Blue Competition Cycles racers all came home with titles. Gilbert took the singlespeed title on Saturday, Funston won U23 Men earlier on Sunday, and Brunner took the Elite race.
See Brunner’s winning Norcross here:
Pro Bike Profile: Eric Brunner’s All-New Race-Winning Blue Norcross
Full results below. Stay tuned for more coverage.
Featured image: 2019 Nationals, D. Mable
2021 USA Cyclocross National Championships Results: Elite Men
|1||4||Eric BRUNNER||Blue Competition Cycles p/b Build||1:08:30||7|
|2||3||Curtis WHITE||Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com||1:09:07||7|
|4||2||Kerry WERNER||Kona Maxxis Shimano CX Team||1:11:51||7|
|5||9||Caleb SWARTZ||Giant/Neff Cycle Service||1:12:14||7|
|7||7||Brannan FIX||Fix Racing||1:13:48||7|
|8||5||Lance HAIDET||L39ION of Los Angeles||1:14:31||7|
|9||8||Stephen HYDE||Steve Tilford Foundation Racing||1:15:02||7|
|10||13||Cody CUPP||Riders Inc||1:15:21||7|
|11||12||Tobin ORTENBLAD||Santa Cruz Bicycles||1:15:34||7|
|13||15||Ross ELLWOOD||Alpha Bicycle Co. - Groove Silverthorne||1:15:54||7|
|15||14||Jonathan ANDERSON||J moneyz racing||1:16:45||7|
|17||22||Brian MATTER||Linear Sport Racing||1:18:08||7|
|18||33||Cody KAISER||LangeTwins / Specialized||1:18:56||7|
|20||37||Max JUDELSON||Voler/Clif/HRS/Rock Lobster||56:38:00||5|
|21||35||Terol PURSELL||Forever Endurance||56:49:00||5|
|22||32||Keiran EAGEN||Team Segment 28||56:58:00||5|
|23||43||Mark MYLES||Be Real Sports||57:06:00||5|
|24||21||Kaler MARSHALL||Team Walla Walla||45:56:00||4|
|25||36||Isaac NEFF||Neff Cycle Service||45:56:00||4|
|26||40||Joe SCHMALZ||Steve Tilford Foundation Racing||45:56:00||4|
|27||17||Jacob LEBLANC||Competitive Edge Racing||46:01:00||4|
|28||18||Andrew GINIAT||The Pony Shop p/b KPMG||46:31:00||4|
|29||46||Tayne ANDRADE||Rio Grande Elite Cycling Team||46:38:00||4|
|30||45||Andrew WULFKUHLE||Voler/Clif/HRS/Rock Lobster||46:42:00||4|
|31||31||Finnegan OCONNOR||Comp Edge Racing||46:50:00||4|
|32||20||Casey HILDEBRANDT||Donkey Label - Broken Spoke Racing||46:56:00||4|
|33||39||Rory JACK||The pony Shop p.b KPMG||46:59:00||4|
|34||41||Matthew RILEY||Linear Sport / Trek||47:15:00||4|
|35||44||Jacob PETERSON||Max Mortgage - C3 Bike Shop||47:54:00||4|
|37||38||Jack TANNER||Forever Endurance||48:15:00||4|
|38||34||Kolby PREBLE||Team Segment 28||35:55:00||3|
|39||42||Nick LANDO||Competitive Edge Racing||36:34:00||3|
|40||51||Josh BAUER||Angry Catfish - Endura||36:34:00||3|
|41||48||Frederick JUNGE||Broom Wagon Works||37:45:00||3|
|42||49||Adam SABAN||Saban Training Academy||39:02:00||3|
|43||50||Thomas FULLER||Lindenwood University||39:43:00||3|
|44||47||Kobi GYETVAN||Fort Lewis College||40:14:00||3|
|46||52||Phillip SMITH||Momentum Racing||27:28:00||2|
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See the course preview videos from Cantigny Park, DuPage County, Illinois here.
Visit our dedicated 2021 USA Cycling Cyclocross Nationals page for all of our 2021 National Championships coverage.