ASHEVILLE, N.C.—Saturday's Junior racing kicked off with the Junior Men's 15-16 event under overcast skies and a slight breeze. With no rain overnight, the course had firmed up and 85 riders lined the grid ready to race for the gold.
Before the first call up the name of Ben Gomez Villafañe (Cycle Sport-Specialzied p/b Muscle Milk) was on many spectators' lips. His sister Sofia won the day prior in the Women's Collegiate D1 race and word outside the tape was that he typically bests many if not all comers in the Men's Elite races in his local scene of NorCal.
Even his coach, Chris McGovern of Cycleution, was confident in Gomez Villafañe's chances. McGovern has coached a lot of kids, especially through the Rad Racing program, he shared with Cyclocross Magazine the day before the race that Gomez Villafañe is a special talent and predicted his client would win.
From the gun though it was Nolan Stephenson (Boulder Junior Cycling) leading the charge through the first turn as the tight pack saw elbows clash and three riders fall. Aside from the running trio, the eldest racers to take the course today, aside from the afternoon college relay, charged onwards.
Gomez Villafañe, with no USA Cycling points to speak of started in the seventh row. "The plan was to move up as soon as possible," said Gomez Villafañe after the race. And he set about to do just that.
But up ahead in the race's opening minutes, heading to the first off-camber section, it was Andrew Schmidt (True Veterinary Care Cycling p/b Gryphon) on the front with Gaelan Kilburn (Cyclocrossworld.com) and last year's winner Scott Funston (Rad Racing NW) on his wheel. Gomez Villafañe was nowhere to be seen, and was back in traffic outside the top twenty.
Kilburn, Schmidt and Funston traded the lead a few times and were separated by inches with a chase group of six containing pre-race favorite Gomez Villafañe just three seconds back as the race wore on. By the halfway point, Gomez Villafañe had made contact and taken to the front on the flat before the first off camber section where he opened a gap with Schmidt making the initial response.
As Gomez Villafañe delighted the crowd hoping the barriers, it was Kilburn who ultimately gave chase and put the leader into difficulty. Gomez Villafañe led at one to go, it was by just five seconds and Kilburn was coming on strong. Adding to the drama up front was Gomez Villafañe falling in a couple spots, relinquishing some, but not all, of his lead each time. "I've just got to get up and keep going," was what he thought each time he hit the deck.
On the final pass of Ingles Heckle Hill Kilburn caught Gomez Villafañe flat-footed. As Gomez Villafañe ran, Kilburn rode the climb passing Gomez Villafañe and briefly leading the race again heading towards the last half lap.
But on the technical descent it was Kilburn who was caught and distanced as Gomez Villafañe let it all hang out. "The descent was tricky," said Kilburn as he knew he had to answer the surge from Gomez Villafañe, Kilburn responded, and for a moment it looked like it might come down to the barriers before the final turn to the finishing straight. But it was not to be for the second year cyclocross racer.
Playing it safe, Gomez Villafañe ran the boards for the last time and held his slim lead to the line with Kilburn, at his first ever Cyclocross National Championships taking a fine silver medal. Last year's winner Funston was 19 seconds off of Kilburn in third with his teammate Calder Wood in fourth and Henry Jones rounding out the podium.
Gomez Villafañe's sister Sofia told Cyclocross Magazine after winning her Collegiate National Championship the day before that her brother Ben used to hate bikes just five years ago. But the constant pressure from the Sofia and sister Caro eventually got him riding and then racing. The winning followed soon enough, as he raced to Junior and then B Men podiums and victories in Northern California.
"Winning races at whatever level helps build confidence," Gomez Villafañe said afterwards when asked about his success in his local scene leading to his championship today. Surely a National title helps too.
Full results, interviews and photo gallery below.
2016 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships Junior Men 15-16 Full Results
|1||Benjamin GOMEZVILLAFANE||Cycle Sport - Specialized p/b M||31:41.|
|3||Scott FUNSTON||Rad Racing NW||32:09.|
|4||Calder WOOD||Rad Racing NW||32:11.|
|5||Henry JONES||Bend Endurance Academy||32:25.|
|6||Kendrick BOOTS||Alpha Bicycle Co.- Vista Subaru||32:40.|
|7||Dillon MCNEILL||Trek Cyclocross Collective||32:45.|
|8||Adam CROFT||Cheerbacks of Fat Frogs Racing||32:48.|
|9||Sam NOEL||Cannondale Cyclocrossworld||32:49.|
|10||Nolan STEPHENSON||Boulder Junior Cycling||32:57.|
|11||Alex MORTON||Cyclocross Network Racing||33:02.|
|12||Thomas FRANCISCO||Papa Johns Racing Team||33:08.|
|13||Gregory GUNSALUS||Bay Hill Capital p/b Corner Cy||33:21.|
|14||Michael MACE||Florida DEVO||33:31.|
|15||Layton MEYERS||Rad Racing NW||33:34.|
|16||Andrew SCHMIDT||True Veterinary Care Cycling p/||33:51.|
|17||Torin BICKMORE||Boulder Junior Cycling||33:54.|
|20||Ryan CULLEN||Giant Co-Factory Off-Road Team||34:18.|
|21||Lane MAHER||RACE CF||34:29.|
|23||Benjamin KING||Rad Racing NW||34:46.|
|24||Isaac BRYANT||Minnesota Junior Cycling Inc.||34:49.|
|25||Camden BROOKS||Bay Hill Capital p/b Corner Cy||35:06.|
|26||Liam HOLOWESKO||Hot Tubes Development Cycling T||35:11.|
|27||Harrison WHITE||Cannondale Cyclocrossworld||35:21.|
|29||Daniel VAUGHN||Cycle-Smart Inc.||35:30.|
|30||Dylan ROCKWOOD||Lionhearts Junior Racing||35:34.|
|31||Casey FULTON||Rogue Velo Racing||35:34.|
|33||Nick GORDON||Minnesota Junior Cycling Inc.||35:48.|
|34||Oliver HOWSON||Boulder Junior Cycling||35:48.|
|36||William BOBROW||Better Cycling of Louisville||35:48.|
|37||Benjamin HARRIS||Rock Creek Velo||35:57.|
|38||Alastair POUNDER||AYC Junior Development Race Tea||36:02.|
|39||Nolan BRUNNER||Boulder Junior Cycling||36:12.|
|41||Nathan PAWLAK||Melton Design Build Juniors Cyc||36:28.|
|42||Gentry JEFFERSON||Monticello Velo Club||36:37.|
|43||Alex CAMPBELL||TEAM CLIF BAR Cycling||36:45.|
|44||Calvin KEANE||Bend Endurance Academy||37:16.|
|45||Alex MCCORMACK||Hot Tubes Development Cycling T||37:21.|
|46||Jacob KRYNOCK||Lionhearts Junior Racing||37:25.|
|47||Brennan FOSTER||Red Zone Cycling||37:51.|
|49||Lewis GATCH||Lionhearts Junior Racing||38:02.|
|50||Ryan FARRIS||Evolution Jr. Devo Team||38:12.|
|51||Cameron ROBERTSON||Wolverine Sports Club||38:18.|
|52||Owen BUSCH||Lionhearts Junior Racing||38:29.|
|53||Evan GOLDBERG||Rock Creek Velo||38:37.|
|54||Maxwell PULONE||Baltimore Youth Cycling||38:42.|
|55||Solomon TREISTER||xXx Racing||38:42.|
|57||Anthony BAILEY||AYC Junior Development Race Tea||39:05.|
|58||Joseph LUKENS||PDX DEVO Junior Cycling Team||39:13.|
|59||Levi MARLAND||BAC Racing Team||39:25.|
|60||Evan WIEBE||Melton Design Build Juniors Cyc||39:25.|
|62||Calhan NORMAN||Team Extreme||39:59.|
|64||Campbell WATSON||Boulder Junior Cycling||40:29.|
|65||Jackson SUNDE||Central Junior Cycling Devo||40:31.|
|66||Luke SKOV||Central Junior Cycling Devo||40:36.|
|67||Connor BENSON||Upstate Junior Cycling/Calder B||40:42.|
|68||Samuel KRISTY||Endorphin Fitness Juniors||40:53.|
|70||Alexander ALFANO||Crosshairs Cycling||41:09.|
|71||William SEITZ||GS Montagna Rossa||41:52.|
|73||Daniel HOUSE||Florida DEVO||31:38.|
|74||Enzo ALLWEIN||Team Handmade||31:38.|
|75||Tyler LOVEJOY||Bend Endurance Academy||31:50.|
|76||Joseph WEISGERBER||Lionhearts Junior Racing||32:12.|
|77||Luuk MACKENZIE||Gallatin Alpine Sports/Intrinsi||33:07.|
|78||Zach BEREND||Veloworks Urban Cyclery||33:22.|
|79||Bo RIDER||Rock Creek Velo||33:33.|
|80||Maxx BOWMAN||Lionhearts Junior Racing||34:02.|
|81||Jacob EISNER||Constellation Cycling||37:46.|
|82||Seth RAMSEY||Midwest Devo||37:48.|