Sunday’s Junior Men 17-18 race was arguably the one of the day’s five races without a clear favorite — although Christopher Blevins did prove otherwise in the U23 Men’s race. Ben Gomez Villafane (Top Club Cyclocross) and Lane Maher (Hot Tubes Devo) both led the way in the Junior racing at different points in the season, and other riders like Calder Wood (Rad Racing NW) and Scott Funston (Rad Racing NW) showed flashes of brilliance as well.
Not surprisingly, the Junior racing has been among the best in the country this year. Even with Alex Morton (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) missing the race due to a shoulder injury, a treat of a race was likely in store for the fans who headed to Rancho San Rafael Park early Sunday morning.
The future stars of U.S. cyclocross did not disappoint. An early crash by Maher shook things up and eventually a lead selection of Gomez Villafane, Funston and Henry Jones (Bend Endurance Academy) moved to the head of the class. After Jones was felled by a flat tire, it was a duel between Gomez Villafane and Funston into the last lap.
Gomez Villafane opened a gap at the Belgian stairs and rode it to the Junior Men 17-18 National Championship. The win marks an every-other-year occasion for Gomez Villafane, after he won in 2016 and had a rough year in 2017.
An Early Crash Shakes Things Up
The Junior Men kicked off the day’s racing while the sun was still starting to peek over the snow fencing in many areas of the course. The transition from melting frost to frozen frost made many of the corners treacherous, especially in the turns near the barriers.
Surprisingly, it was not these corners where a race-changing crash occurred. Shortly after the barriers, Maher went down on one of the dusty corners in the shadow of the announcer’s booth. Gomez Villafane escaped solo off the front, while Maher dropped back and the others scrambled to chase the leader down. After one lap, Funston took up the chase and a small group hovered behind him.
Shortly into the second lap, Funston made contact, and a two-man duel was on, at least for the time being. Funston pounced when Gomez Villafane bobbled at the aforementioned frosty corners near the barriers, but he recovered and reconnected. Behind them, Dillon McNeill (Trek Cyclocross Collective) and Jones gave chase. The Juniors know a thing or two about group racing from this season, so a group of four at the front would be keeping with how the season’s racing has gone.
Two to Three to Two
During our interview at Montana Cross Camp, Oregon’s Henry Jones said he was hoping to improve on his tenth at the 2017 Hartford Nationals. Jones went on to have a monster year in Oregon’s Cyclocross Crusade and entered the race as one of the riders to keep an eye on. Early in the third lap, he justified the attention by bridging to the lead duo.
Unfortunately for Jones, his great ride was derailed by a flat tire during the fourth of five laps. It was a foreshadowing of race-defining mechanicals to come.
Funston and Gomez Villafane were again alone at the front with McNeill about ten seconds back. They hit the line together for one more lap with the Stars-and-Stripes jersey on the line.
The first of two big moments of the last lap happened at the Belgian steps. Funston ran and Gomez Villafane rode. Apparently, riding was a step or two quicker and Gomez Villafane got a small lead. Then, Funston lost his wheel on the slick corner before the barriers, giving Gomez his chance to pounce.
“I thought the Belgian steps were basically the same to run and ride, but apparently they’re about a second fast to ride if you nail them, and that was just enough for him to go,” said Funston. “Then the barriers are kind of uphill, so you have to crank it to get enough speed, and my rear tire just slipped out and that was kind of the race right there.”
Funston grabbed a Limus-equipped pit bike to ride the steep climb, but the impressive feat was not enough to close the gap.
Gomez Villafane rolled across the line to keep his semi-annual National Championship tradition alive after also winning his age group in Asheville in 2016.
“It was go time the whole time man,” he said about the last half lap. “I was so pinned. Once I heard I had five seconds or so, it was like, okay, dig a little deeper and get a little closer to securing the win.”
For Funston, it was a chance to build on his success over the last month. “I feel like I was up there all year,” he said. “I had the eighth at the World Cup that was kind of missed in the preview things. I felt like I’ve been there all year. It’s been pack racing all season, and I haven’t had that extra oomph at the end, but this last month I felt like I have been getting up there. This course suited me well with all the technical stuff and the hill, which I tried to ride that last lap.”
Dillon McNeill took third and celebrated accordingly.
Maher ended up finishing sixth after his first-lap crash.
More photos and full results are below.
Junior Men 17-18: 2018 Reno Cyclocross Nationals
|1||201||GOMEZ VILLAFANE||Benjamin||Northern California/Nevada Cycl||40:01|
|3||212||MCNEILL||Dillon||Trek Cyclocross Collective||40:24||23|
|5||208||GUNSALUS||Gregory||AP Junior Development||40:51||50|
|6||202||MAHER||Lane||Hot Tubes Development Cycling||40:56||55|
|7||204||WOOD||Calder||Rad Racing NW||41:45||1:44|
|8||209||BICKMORE||Torin||Boulder Junior Cycling||42:02||2:01|
|9||205||JONES||Henry||Bend Endurance Academy||42:12||2:11|
|10||248||BROWN||Samuel||Alpha Bicycle Co.- Groove Subar||42:44||2:43|
|12||236||SPRINGER||Charles||Boulder Junior Cycling||43:02||3:01|
|13||210||KEANE||Calvin||Bend Endurance Academy||43:15||3:14|
|17||229||WATSON||Campbell||Boulder Junior Cycling||44:21||4:20|
|26||214||LUKENS||Joseph||Bend Endurance Academy||45:56||5:55|
|29||253||SEITZ||William||Mission Devo Cycling/NGCA p/b T||47:05||7:04|
|30||233||POLLARD||Dylan||Palouse Bicycle Racing||47:08||7:07|
|33||227||GOLDBERG||Evan||Rock Creek Velo||@1Lap|
|34||238||KRYNOCK||Jacob||Lionhearts Junior Racing||@1Lap|
|39||251||BERNSTEIN||Connor||NorthStar Development Cycling||@2Lap|
|41||239||SPAMPINATO||Lucian||Bend Endurance Academy||@3Lap|
|42||240||ZAKRAJSEK||Jack||Lake Geneva Youth Camp Cycling||@3Lap|
For more from Reno, see our continuing coverage of the 2018 Reno Cyclocross Nationals on our dedicated Nationals page.
Photos from the races and reports are available to license here, with more to be added throughout the next week.