With a $1500 pay day at stake, it is understandable the stakes were high, and each rider wanted to take home the big prize. But with confusion of the rules, and the racers and organization hoping to end the day’s great racing and event on a positive note, a compromise was reached. Decker and Page would split the total prize money for first and second place, both going home with a handsome $1000, even though Decker stood atop the podium and got to hold the giant check. It was as happy of an ending you could expect for two very competitive athletes and a cyclocross-loving promoter group and sponsor.
Stars Come to Shine in Deer Valley
You could be forgiven for thinking this was a UCI race looking at the call-ups. On the line were a former World Cup winner in Berden, a former World Championship silver medalist and current National Champion in Page, a former National Champion in Jamey Driscoll (Jamis), multiple UCI race winner in Justin Lindine (Redline), plus a number of fast racers gunning for the Raleigh prize package of bikes and travel money for the first non-contract racer.
Page and Berden certainly treated it as a high-profile cyclocross race from the start, battling for the holeshot, with Berden leading the group into the first section of off-camber climbs and descents. “I’m a good starter,” Berden explained, and revealed that he wanted to be in front for those first technical sections to avoid being caught in traffic and getting gapped.
Page was right on Berden’s wheel, and coming down the first descent, had taken to the front, with Berden and his teammate, Allen Krugoff, following. Behind this trio was a surprising Jared Nieters (SEAVS/Haymarket), who was eyeing the Raleigh contract going into the race. Alex Grant (Sho-air/Cannondale), Lindine, Jake Sitler (SEAVS/Haymarket) and Decker gave chase. Notably absent from contention was Jamey Driscoll, who reportedly rode to the race, and would eventually flat and fall to ninth place.
Decker went into the pits to swap bikes and fell further behind. Page, Berden and Krugoff hopped the barriers in front of the Raleigh VIP tent, much to the crowd’s delight, but Krugoff was gapped by the smoother-hopping veterans in front of him, and soon it appeared to be down to a two-man race between Page and Berden, with Page riding in the lead for much of the race.
Decker Seizes His Advantage
Behind, the other racers faltered, crashed, or had mechanicals, as early favorite Lindine pulled a wire on his Di2 shifter and had to pit, and other racers fell victim to the sharp rocks scattered on the course. Avoiding all the mayhem was Decker, who was surging through the field, flying down the hills, airing transitions and floating up the stairs. The difference in speed between Decker and everyone else was obvious, and if Page or Berden had glanced back when navigating the many switchbacks on the course, they would have known a freight train was headed for them.
Sensing the catch, Page attacked Berden, and soon Decker caught and passed the Belgian cyclocrosser. “I don’t know what a mountain bike is,” joked Berden after the race. “I was born on a ’cross bike and I’m sticking with that.”
With two to go, it was Page, Decker and then Berden, and Pages’ five second gap on Decker looked fragile. Two flights of stairs later, it was gone, and Page found himself on edge trying to stay on the dual-suspended rider’s wheel, impressing fans by staying close on 33mm Challenge tubulars.