After 61 minutes of racing, the Elite Men’s race at the 2018 Pan-American Championships came down to inches.
Or since the race took place in Canada, centimeters.
The group at the front of Sunday’s Elite Men’s race swelled to 10 riders in the second lap. As the laps ticked by on the shores of Little Lake Park, the group started to dwindle.
Five laps into the eight-lap race, the lead selection was down to Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld), Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano), Michael van den Ham (Garneau – Easton p/b Transitions LifeCare) and Curtis White (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld).
The first three of those riders were the favorites coming into the race. Perhaps a bit overlooked despite several podiums and wins this year, White was more than prepared to be part of the conversation in Midland.
The group went from 10 to 4 and then down to 2 at the bell when Van den Ham put in a big effort to join White at one to go. In what would prove to be the first of two Elite Canada v. United States battles, the duo had one capture the coveted jersey.
Van den Ham and White were inseparable during the last lap. Van den Ham led for most of it, and knowing that White has a powerful sprint, he kept the lead spot into the sand section at the end of the lap. White, however, kept his wheel, setting up a thrilling sprint down the finishing straight.
White and Van den Ham powered down the slightly uphill paved stretch wheel-to-wheel. In the closing meters, White found a few extra watts and pulled ahead of Van den Ham to take the win by the slimmest of margins.
“The last lap [Van den Ham] was kind of dictating the pace,” White said. “I was pretty confident in my sprint, and it was a close one. I was able to edge him out in the end.”
The Cream Rises to the Top
At the outset of Sunday’s Elite Men’s race, it looked like the afternoon’s affairs might get an early shake-up.
After Cody Kaiser (LangeTwins / Specialized) started strong, Werner took the lead, and then perhaps sensing that Hyde had a slow start and was down near 10th-place early on, he pushed the pace through the first few sections of the course.
Hyde recovered, and the field settled in.
After one lap, a group of six was at the front—Van den Ham, Werner, Hyde, White, Jack Kisseberth (Garneau – Easton p/b Transitions LifeCare) and Marc-Andre Fortier (Pivot Cycles – OTE). Several other riders chased close behind.
By the end of the second lap, the group grew to eight when Anthony Clark (Squid Squad) and Cody Kaiser (LangeTwins / Specialized) joined the party. At the first set of stairs in the third lap, it swelled to 10 when Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz / Donkey Label Racing) and Drew Dillman (SDG / Muscle Monster) also attached to the train.
Once the lead group got to 10, riders started dropping off the pace. The first to fall off were Ortenblad and Dillman. Then Clark, Kaiser and Fortier. At the end of four, it was down to five.
In yesterday’s race, Hyde showed that he his feeling better and better each day with his second-place finish. In Lap 5 of 8, Hyde started asserting himself in the group. He led the way through the technical section of ups and downs and continued to drive the pace for the next lap. The victim of Hyde’s work was Kisseberth.
With three to go, the selection was now four.
A Game of Inches
The second set of stairs on the Pan-Ams course was a series of two stone flights of stairs with the first dismount taking place on a paved surface.
In the sixth lap, Hyde slipped and crashed while running the second set of stairs. The crash was a rough one, essentially knocking him out of the race.
Van den Ham got caught up momentarily when Hyde went down. White used the opportunity to attack. He held a small gap on the other two chasers through the rest of the lap. With two to go, he was in the driver’s seat.
“Van den Ham was on his wheel and those two got tangled up, and I think Kerry was on the edge,” White said about the moment. “We were going full gas at that point, so it was just enough for me to get the gap and really stretch out the group. It was unfortunate for [Hyde], but I had to capitalize on it.”
Early in the penultimate lap, White expanded his lead to nearly 10 seconds by continuing to go all-in. However, as the lap progressed, Van den Ham dropped Werner and set about closing White’s lead. Van den Ham pulled closer and closer, and a big effort after the second sand section pulled him even heading into the bell lap.
“I have never felt more cheered on than I did today,” Van den Ham said. “Curtis had about a 10-second gap with two-to-go, and I shut it down. I credit a lot of that to the people cheering me on.”
The impressive contingent of Canadian fans let out a loud, yet friendly, roar as the two riders headed down the start/finish straight into the last lap.
Van den Ham and White were inseparable during the last lap. Van den Ham was the clear aggressor, but he was unable to get any separation from White.
On Saturday, Van den Ham was off the front with time trial powerhouse Gage Hecht. To earn the Pan-American Champion’s jersey, he would have to beat another strong U.S. road racer in White.
Van den Ham knew he needed every inch in the last sprint. The Canadian hit the last sand section first and tried to use his technical know-how to create some space on White. White, however, was right there on his wheel.
Van den Ham popped out onto the finishing straight first, but White was right behind him, trailing by only a few centimeters heading into the last sprint.
The two accelerated down the medium-length finishing straight wheel-t0-wheel. As the last few meters loomed, White edged ahead of Van den Ham by the slightest of margins to take the sprint and the victory.
“It was a long sprint with kind of a headwind, so the last 75 meters is where I wanted to rail it,” White said.
Those few centimeters were the culmination of a lot of preparation for White.
“Mike rode a beautiful race,” he said. “It was fun battling it out with him. This was a big goal and heading into the weekend, I knew I did everything I could to prepare, so I’m happy I executed it perfectly.”
Van den Ham took what was likely the narrowest second of his career in a race he wanted to win so, so badly.
“Curtis is a better sprinter than me, and I know that,” Van den Ham said. “I thought my only chance was to hit that sand section and come out of there first with maybe a little gap onto the concrete. I did all those things, but Curtis had a little more jump in his legs. He just came around me at the last second.”
Werner held on to take third. Kisseberth and Clark rounded out the wide-angle podium.
Interviews and race results are below.
2018 Pan Am Masters Cyclocross Championships Results: Elite Men
|1||5||WHITE, Curtis||CANNONDALE P/B CYCLOCROSSWORLD.COM||USA||1:01:13|
|2||4||VAN DEN HAM, Michael||GARNEAU - EASTON P/B TRANSITIONS LIFECARE||CAN||1:01:13||0:00|
|3||1||WERNER, Kerry||KONA MAXXIS SHIMANO||USA||1:01:49||0:36|
|4||7||KISSEBERTH, Jack||GARNEAU EASTON P/B TRANSITIONS LIFECARE||USA||1:02:09||0:56|
|5||9||CLARK, Anthony||SQUID SQUAD||USA||1:02:16||1:03|
|6||8||KAISER, Cody||LANGETWINS / SPECIALIZED||USA||1:02:34||1:21|
|7||13||FORTIER, Marc André||PIVOT CYCLES- OTE||CAN||1:02:42||1:29|
|8||15||DILLMAN, Andrew||SDG MUSCLE-MONSTER||USA||1:03:23||2:10|
|9||3||ORTENBLAD, Tobin||SANTA CRUZ / DONKEY LABEL RACING||USA||1:03:51||2:38|
|10||14||CHANCE, Maxx||FCX ELITE||USA||1:04:43||3:30|
|11||17||POSTIER, Dylan||GARNEAU-EASTON P/B TRANSITIONS LIFECARE||USA||1:05:00||3:47|
|12||18||DISERA, Peter||NORCO FACTORY TEAM||CAN||1:05:51||4:38|
|13||12||ST JOHN, Derrick||VAN DESSEL P/B HYPERTHREADS||CAN||1:06:14||5:01|
|14||11||O'DONNELL, Trevor||LAKESIDE STORAGE/BICYCLES PLUS||CAN||1:06:45||5:32|
|16||28||RICCI, Christian||LAKESIDE STORAGE/BICYCLES PLUS||CAN||1:00:26||-1 Lap|
|17||19||MITCHELL, Christopher||THUNDER BAY CYCLING CLUB||CAN||1:00:28||-1 Lap|
|18||20||GRIFFO, Gregg||PARK ARE BIKE P/B BORAH TEAMWEAR||USA||52:24:00||-2 Laps|
|19||25||MATHESON, Brendan||BARRIE CYCLING CLUB||CAN||52:26:00||-2 Laps|
|20||23||WALSH, Edward||TEAM NOVA SCOTIA||CAN||52:27:00||-2 Laps|
|21||31||FEDOSOV, James||SPEEDRIVER.COM||CAN||52:28:00||-2 Laps|
|22||34||MCKALL, Terry||NAKED FACTORY RACING||CAN||52:30:00||-2 Laps|
|23||21||MENEGUZZI, Robert||HAMILTON CYCLING CLUB||CAN||44:13:00||-3 Laps|
|24||22||LANCIA, Mark||AWI RACING P/B THE CRANK AND SPROCKET||CAN||45:10:00||-3 Laps|
|25||33||BARSON, Chris||COACHCHRIS.CA/GARNEAU||CAN||45:39:00||-3 Laps|
|26||27||ANDREW, Ben||EURO-SPORTS||CAN||45:41:00||-3 Laps|
|27||30||LEFEBVRE, Alex||PETERBOROUGH CYCLING CLUB||CAN||37:20:00||-4 Laps|
|28||32||MINICOLA, Justin||PETERBOROUGH CYCLING CLUB||CAN||37:22:00||-4 Laps|
|29||24||LAMBERT, Andrew||INDEPENDENT||CAN||30:18:00||-5 Laps|
|DNF||2||HYDE, Stephen||CANNONDALE P/B CYCLOCROSSWORLD.COM||USA||DNF||-3 Laps|
|DNF||26||GREGORY, Connor||BATEMAN'S BIKE CO P/B CLOUD9 AV||CAN||DNF||-6 Laps|
|DNS||10||POWERS, Jeremy||PACTIMO / FUJI / SRAM||USA||DNS|
|DNS||6||DRISCOLL, James||PIVOT-MAXXIS P/B STANS-DNA CYCLING||USA||DNS|