One of the themes of Nationals week in Hartford has been overcoming adversity and dealing with the ups and downs of cyclocross. In Sunday’s Men’s 17-18 race, Denzel Stephenson (Boulder Junior Cycling) had to overcome a mechanical and a tough battle against Lane Maher (Hands on Cycling) to take home the Stars-and-Stripes jersey.
Temperatures Sunday morning were in the teens and the grounds crew hit the course early in the morning to clear most of the 4” of snow that fell on Saturday. Corners were slick and icy, and bike handling and focus were at a premium. The conditions also made the start important because the conditions made it difficult to push the pace through corners and the technical sections to work back to the front.
Stephenson and Maher solved the problem of falling behind by jumping out to a fast start. They were able to ride the narrow plateau along the embankment high line to jump out to an early lead.
— Cyclocross Magazine (@cyclocross) January 8, 2017
An early chase of Caleb Swartz (Trek Cyclocross Collective), Sam Noel (Cannondale Cyclocrossworld), and Evan Clouse (Hot Tubes Development Cycling) formed behind the lead duo.
Stephenson and Maher engaged in a battle at the front of the race for two laps before Stephenson was able to break off the front. The gap proved to be fortunate because his crank arm fell off.
“At the top of the hill, my crank fell off,” said Stephenson. “That kind of bummed me out because I thought that was the race gone right there. I made it around to Pit 2 and pitted for my other bike, and then I just tried to ride as smooth as I could from there. I was able to catch Lane again and just get past him and then just lead the rest of the way from there.”
When Maher passed Stephenson during his run to the pit, the Boulder native said keeping a level head was important, “I just stayed calm. I was still in second, which was still good. I tried not to panic and just rode my race from there.”
Once Stephenson was able to regain the lead he established a healthy lead back to win his third career Junior Stars-and-Stripes jersey.
He said living in Colorado helped prepare him for Sunday’s snow, “I was pretty comfortable in these. I live in Colorado, so it snows a lot and gets icy. I’m experienced with this stuff. I got out here early this morning and rode the course, and I felt pretty comfortable on it.”
Maher said he had his own share of mechanicals to overcome, “Denzel got a mechanical half-way through the lap, and I passed him and got a little gap. But then I went down and my shoe came off. I got it back on but it kept unbuckling.” The shoe issue was yet another equipment issue to befall a rider on the Hartford course, “I’m a little frustrated, but everyone had their fair share of mechanicals.”
While Stephenson and Maher were off the front, an exciting battle broke out for third. Swartz and Noel went wheel-to-wheel for two laps before another Boulder man Ross Ellwood came tumbling to the chase group.
Swartz and Ellwood went into the last lap together and engaged in an epic two-up race for third for the entire last lap. The two engaged in a cyclocross battle sport traditionalists would tip their cap to.
At the gazebo off-camber, Swartz went to his feet on the outside to try to run past Ellwood to take the lead, but Ellwood was able to beat Swartz out of the section after some close racing.
Both riders likely knew getting to the pro-only section shortly before the start/finish first was going to be the key to winning. Ellwood hit the section first, and despite a small bobble at the top of the run-up, Swartz was not able to get around and Ellwood was first off the hill and first across the finish line to take third.
“On the last lap I had maybe five seconds on Caleb and then he caught up to me and we were both together. We were both duking it out. Even on the run-up, I was running and he tried to pass me. Luckily I was in front of him and I was able to dictate it, and I wouldn’t let him pass. And through the woods, he and I were together and I was just trying to hold him off. I made it all the way to the end, luckily still in front of him.”
Said Swartz about the snowy, frozen course and the great battle against Ellwood:
“The ruts, the frozen ice in the ruts, the 180 corners with frozen ruts, just everywhere. I can’t even count the number of times I had to like clip out and just dab my foot just to keep myself upright, just over and over and over again, and going down two or three times. Luckily I never messed up my derailleur or anything. But on the last lap I had a few little errors, and I needed to be in front going into the last lap and I just wasn’t there.”
Denzel Stephenson Interview – 2017 Cyclocross National Championships – Junior Men 17-18
Lane Maher Interview – 2017 Cyclocross National Championships – Junior Men 17-18
Ross Ellwood Interview – 2017 Cyclocross National Championships – Junior Men 17-18
2017 CX National Championships Hartford Results - Junior Men
|1||201||STEPHENSON||Denzel||Boulder Junior Cycling||39:45:00|
|2||203||MAHER||Lane||Hands On Cycling||40:05:00||20|
|3||209||ELLWOOD||Ross||Boulder Junior Cycling||40:47:00||1:02|
|4||204||SWARTZ||Caleb||Trek Cyclocross Collective||40:49:00||1:04|
|5||205||WOOD||Calder||Rad Racing NW||41:13:00||1:28|
|7||207||FUNSTON||Scott||Rad Racing NW||41:34:00||1:49|
|8||211||GUNSALUS||Gregory||AP Junior Development||41:45:00||2:00|
|9||214||SOTEBEER||Drew||Alpha Bicycle Co.- Vista Subaru||41:51:00||2:06|
|10||213||JONES||Henry||Bend Endurance Academy||42:06:00||2:21|
|11||217||BROOKS||Camden||AP Junior Development||42:40:00||2:55|
|12||216||LOGUE||Clyde||Killington Mountain School||42:49:00||3:04|
|13||202||GOMEZVILLAFANE||Benjamin||Cycle Sport - Specialized p/b M||42:55:00||3:10|
|14||212||CLOUSE||Evan||Hot Tubes Development Cycling T||42:57:00||3:12|
|15||219||MCCORMACK||Alex||Hot Tubes Development Cycling T||43:50:00||4:05|
|16||208||BOOTS||Kendrick||Alpha Bicycle Co.- Vista Subaru||44:15:00||4:30|
|18||210||SCHULZ||George||Van Dessel Factory Team||44:26:00||4:41|
|20||250||BUCHANAN||Brayden||Rad Racing NW||45:45:00||6:00|
|21||247||MYLES||Mark||Be Real Sports||45:49:00||6:04|
|22||221||BRUNNER||Nolan||Boulder Junior Cycling||45:50:00||6:05|
|24||223||VAUGHN||Daniel||Northampton Cycling Club||46:03:00||6:18|
|26||251||WATSON||Campbell||Boulder Junior Cycling||46:44:00||6:59|
|27||241||LUKENS||Joseph||Bend Endurance Academy||46:46:00||7:01|
|28||252||JEFFERSON||Gentry||Monticello Velo Club||47:17:00||7:32|
|29||228||CAMPBELL||Alex||TEAM CLIF BAR Cycling||47:27:00||7:42|
|30||218||AITTANIEMI||Ryan||AP Junior Development||48:49:00||9:04|
|32||222||DELLAMAESTRA||Ethan||Storm Racing Team||38:58:00||@1Lap|
|34||227||JOHNSTON||Spencer||Mock Orange Bikes||28:48:00||@2Laps|
|37||224||HARRIS||Benjamin||Rock Creek Velo||30:01:00||@2Laps|
|38||248||ZWICK||Ryan||CT Cycling Advancement Program||30:46:00||@2Laps|
|39||226||GOLDBERG||Evan||Rock Creek Velo||30:57:00||@2Laps|
|42||243||LAUBACH||Laraib||Rock Creek Velo||32:08:00||@2Laps|
|43||231||SMITH||Garrett||Tri Cities Road Club||32:15:00||@2Laps|
|44||232||MELTON||Wiley||Melton Design Build / GS CIAO J||32:15:00||@2Laps|
|46||242||SMITH||Tyler||Van Dessel Factory Team||22:08||@3Laps|
|48||246||RIDER||Bo||Rock Creek Velo||23:58||@3Laps|
|49||239||RYAN||Nathaniel||New England Devo||25:00:00||@3Laps|
|50||237||DIXON||Aidan||Rock Creek Velo||26:34:00||@3Laps|
|51||236||FRANZE||Brent||Giant Co-Factory Off-Road Team||17:27||@4Laps|
|DNF||234||NORVOLD||Christian||New England Devo|
|DNS||245||KIRKPATRICK BAIRD||Leo||KMS Cycling-Killington Mountain|