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

14Eric BRUNNERBlue Competition Cycles p/b Build1:08:307
23Curtis WHITECannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com1:09:077
31Gage HECHTAevolo1:09:107
42Kerry WERNERKona Maxxis Shimano CX Team1:11:517
59Caleb SWARTZGiant/Neff Cycle Service1:12:147
610Andrew DILLMANRigd-Leitner1:13:107
77Brannan FIXFix Racing1:13:487
85Lance HAIDETL39ION of Los Angeles1:14:317
98Stephen HYDESteve Tilford Foundation Racing1:15:027
1013Cody CUPPRiders Inc1:15:217
1112Tobin ORTENBLADSanta Cruz Bicycles1:15:347
126Scott MCGILLAevolo1:15:537
1315Ross ELLWOODAlpha Bicycle Co. - Groove Silverthorne1:15:547
1416Grant ELLWOOD1:16:277
1514Jonathan ANDERSONJ moneyz racing1:16:457
1722Brian MATTERLinear Sport Racing1:18:087
1833Cody KAISERLangeTwins / Specialized1:18:567
1911Ben FREDERICKORNOT/TheSmallMonstersProject/Ritchey56:19:005
2037Max JUDELSONVoler/Clif/HRS/Rock Lobster56:38:005
2135Terol PURSELLForever Endurance56:49:005
2232Keiran EAGENTeam Segment 2856:58:005
2343Mark MYLESBe Real Sports57:06:005
2421Kaler MARSHALLTeam Walla Walla45:56:004
2536Isaac NEFFNeff Cycle Service45:56:004
2640Joe SCHMALZSteve Tilford Foundation Racing45:56:004
2717Jacob LEBLANCCompetitive Edge Racing46:01:004
2818Andrew GINIATThe Pony Shop p/b KPMG46:31:004
2946Tayne ANDRADERio Grande Elite Cycling Team46:38:004
3045Andrew WULFKUHLEVoler/Clif/HRS/Rock Lobster46:42:004
3131Finnegan OCONNORComp Edge Racing46:50:004
3220Casey HILDEBRANDTDonkey Label - Broken Spoke Racing46:56:004
3339Rory JACKThe pony Shop p.b KPMG46:59:004
3441Matthew RILEYLinear Sport / Trek47:15:004
3544Jacob PETERSONMax Mortgage - C3 Bike Shop47:54:004
3653Bjorn SELANDERMNJRC48:05:004
3738Jack TANNERForever Endurance48:15:004
3834Kolby PREBLETeam Segment 2835:55:003
3942Nick LANDOCompetitive Edge Racing36:34:003
4051Josh BAUERAngry Catfish - Endura36:34:003
4148Frederick JUNGEBroom Wagon Works37:45:003
4249Adam SABANSaban Training Academy39:02:003
4350Thomas FULLERLindenwood University39:43:003
4447Kobi GYETVANFort Lewis College40:14:003
4554Mitch ROPELATOCannondale26:34:002
4652Phillip SMITHMomentum Racing27:28:002

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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.