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It is not very often that cyclocross riders get to say they made a “National Championship” move. After all, how often does a race on the sport’s biggest stage come down to one corner or one feature?

On Thursday in the Men’s Masters 55-59 race, the stage was set for a winning move. Emilio Cervantes and Todd Cassan (Rally Sport Cycling Team) survived an early group of four and took their battle well into the last lap. Cassan led up the climb and was in first position down the descent.

Little did he know, Cervantes had his spot picked out. Most riders were going high on the off-camber along the pond, but Cervantes found a line during pre-ride he thought could give him the ultimate advantage. The California native went low and his wheels hooked up just as planned.

“There were two spots where everybody was going high, but you could go low and carry a bit more speed where it was a little dicier,” Cervantes said about where he made his move. “I didn’t do it during the race because I didn’t want to show it. At the very end at the bottom of the off-camber there was a low line you could rip. It was bumpier, but I could bunny hop the curb and get some speed. I saved it for the end.”

He passed Cassan and would not give up the lead. He sprinted across the finish line to take home his first career cyclocross Stars-and Stripes jersey. His ultimate move wrapped up an exciting race that helped bring early excitement to Thursday afternoon’s races.

Emilio Cervantes had the right moves to win the Masters 55-59 race on Thursday. Masters 55-59. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable/ Cyclocross Magazine

Emilio Cervantes had the right moves to win the Masters 55-59 race on Thursday. Masters 55-59. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable/ Cyclocross Magazine

What was his key to getting the jersey? Probably a little bit of car racing and a lot of planning.

“I’m a car racer too,” Cervantes said. “And part of car racing is picking different lines, so when I’m pre-riding I’m running off-line everywhere seeing where it’s fast and where there’s grip.”

A Quick Group of Three

It did not take long for the lead selection in the first race of Thursday afternoon to form. After half a lap, a lead group of Cervantes, Cassan and Gunnar Shogren (Pathfinder of WV Race Team) shot off the front. David Turner and Craig Undem (Cycle U) took up the chase.

Riders line up at the start. Masters 55-59. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © J. Vander Stucken / Cyclocross Magazine

Riders line up at the start. Masters 55-59. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © J. Vander Stucken / Cyclocross Magazine

During the second lap, Undem made it his mission to bridge to the leaders. After a calm, warm morning, the winds kicked up just in time for the afternoon’s races. As the three leaders looked around a bit, Undem was able to grind into the wind on the false flat and close to the front. Halfway through the second lap, the lead group was now four.

Undem’s work took its toll, and a lap later he was dropped. The lead selection was again Cervantes, Cassan and Shogren. A memorable five-lap race was afoot.

A lead group of Cervantes, Cassan and Shogren formed quickly. Masters 55-59. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable/ Cyclocross Magazine

A lead group of Cervantes, Cassan and Shogren formed quickly. Masters 55-59. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable/ Cyclocross Magazine

The Right Moves

Inside two to go, Cassan decided it was time to force the other two to put their cards on the table. He attacked in the windy false flat, and Cervantes responded while Shogren Dangled.

One of the moves on display was Greg Fenton hopping the Little Loenhout ditch. Masters 55-59. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable/ Cyclocross Magazine

One of the moves on display was Greg Fenton hopping the Little Loenhout ditch. Masters 55-59. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable/ Cyclocross Magazine

With a lap and a half left, Cervantes’ title dreams were almost dashed. Heading toward the technical section, he lost control and went through the course tape. He continued down along the course and had to backtrack to get back on the course. Shogren passed him, and then the two had to chase Cassan down. They did, and at the bell, the group was three again.

In the first half of the last lap, Cassan and Cervantes again shook things up by upping the pace in the first half of the lap. They freed themselves from Shogren and the lead trio was now a duo. Either one of the two racers would have to find their spot, or the race would likely come down to a sprint finish.

“We were about five or six seconds up,” said Cervantes. “We basically battled the whole rest of the lap. You know, both of us just trying to kill each other. It was an exciting race.”

Cassan and Cervantes threw everything they had at one another. Masters 55-59. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable/ Cyclocross Magazine

Cassan and Cervantes threw everything they had at one another. Masters 55-59. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable/ Cyclocross Magazine

Cassan led up the climb and ensuing descents. With the technical off-camber and a narrow trip up to Jurassic Park, being first wheel after the descent was the place to be. However, Cervantes had a plan up his sleeve.

In his other free time, Cervantes dabbles in car racing, which requires top-level line choices of its own to be successful. During pre-ride on Wednesday, Cervantes scouted out about six spots where he thought he had a line on a different line than his competitors. One of these spots was the off-camber at the bottom of the hill.

Cervantes picked his line and dropped to the low line to pass Cassan. His tires hooked up and the lead was his. He kept the lead position, pulled onto the finish straight in first position and ripped off his last effort of the race. The Stars-and-Stripes jersey was his. He had made literally a National Championship move.

Cassan took second and Shogren rolled across to take third.

A rider passes through Jurassic Park. Masters 55-59. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable/ Cyclocross Magazine

A rider passes through Jurassic Park. Masters 55-59. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable/ Cyclocross Magazine

Full results and a winner interview are below.

Men Masters 55-59 Results: 2018 Reno Cyclocross Nationals

PlaceBibLASTFirstTeamCity STTimeGap
1812CERVANTESEmilioLake Forest CA41:50
2781CASSANToddRally Sport Cycling TeamBoulder CO41:544
3809SHOGRENGunnarPATHFINDER of WV Race TeamMorgantown WV42:1323
4803SEIBDonaldBMB RacingBryant Pond ME42:4959
5787UNDEMCraigCycle USeattle WA43:031:13
6811TURNERDavidMurrieta CA43:111:21
7800FENTONGregUC Cyclery/JW FloorsRamona CA43:421:52
8825TROJANJayArc En Ciel Racing TeamLincoln RI43:461:56
9779CUMMINGSJeffBellingham WA44:192:29
10796WARRENMikeVelo Fratello Cycling TeamSebastopol CA44:232:33
11830MARSHALLTimSTONEHAUS/FACTORY TREKNewbury Park CA44:272:37
12827FOYGregoryAptos CA44:412:51
13786SMITHFrankFeedback Sports RacingNederland CO44:452:55
14794LASTAYOPaulKUHL Cycling TeamSalt Lake City UT44:462:56
15788HAMPTONPatrickSchnur RacingRichmond VA45:063:16
16835URBINAMichaelMorgan Hill CA45:423:52
17806SOVEREIGNDanSacramento CA45:594:09
18824RICHARDSDougBlue Sky VeloLongmont CO46:144:24
19802MEIGHANRobertSan Jose CA46:234:33
20790DAHLSTROMRobertBoulder Cycle SportBoulder CO46:334:43
21815KLOTZDeanLeadout RacingCameron Park CA46:33s.t.
22805MASTORASMarkSan Bruno CA46:434:53
23813ATKINSONJimLos Gatos CA46:595:09
24810GERCKEEmilFeedback Sports RacingCasper WY47:075:17
25820HILLDanielTruckee CA47:135:23
25799HENRYMarkIncline Village NV47:175:27
25816GUNSALUSMarkCorner Cycle Cycling ClubDudley MA47:526:02
25795HAYSDaveRoseville CA48:126:22
25776PAPPEJamesCannondale Capo p/b GQ-6 MastBakersfield CA48:206:30
25808TIETZWilliamHelena MT38:55@1Lap
25789SCARBOROUGHMikeReno WheelmenReno NV38:57@1Lap
25804THORNEStevenOR39:02@1Lap
25782TINLINERossPen Velo Racing/Summit BicyclesSan Carlos CA39:16@1Lap
25822WEAVERScottBishop CA39:16@1Lap
25807SCHAUBMichaelFeedback Sports RacingGolden CO39:32@1Lap
25797FLICKJeffreyKUHL Cycling TeamSalt Lake City UT39:39@1Lap
25817CARPENTERThomasTeam Oakland CyclingOakland CA39:39@1Lap
25798DE ANDARaulWest Sacramento CA39:45@1Lap
25834MILIKIENBentleyTruckee CA40:13@1Lap
25792KOENIGMarkPen Velo Racing/Summit BicyclesSan Jose CA40:27@1Lap
41818SALVAILPen Velo Racing/Summit BicyclesMountain View CA40:32@1Lap
42778HILLIGOSSAngry CatfishEden Prairie MN41:01@1Lap
43791KANEKOEl Sobrante CA41:19@1Lap
44831VRIELINGFunsport Bikes Cycling TeamModesto CA43:02@1Lap
45785DOMMENSan Anselmo CA43:12@1Lap
46833SEIVERTol'Republic/SERTGrass Valley CA43:23@1Lap
47801PARENTIOrange Pedal CyclingReno NV44:11@1Lap
48832RIDGWAYColavita Racing Inc.Santa Rosa CA44:16@1Lap
49838AFFONSOTeam Oakland CyclingEmeryville CA44:49@1Lap
50777SPRINKELSparks NV44:50@1Lap

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.

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