Our coverage is brought to you in part by Feedback Sports. See them at the Women's Forum tonight if you're in Reno.

Our coverage is brought to you in part by Feedback Sports. See them at the Women’s Forum tonight if you’re in Reno.

The 2018 U.S. Cyclocross Nationals in Reno kicked off in style with an impressive Men’s Collegiate Club field. Among the riders who took to the start line were several young men expected to compete for the podium in Sunday’s U23 race. With the collegiate call-up rules placing some of the biggest names in the race toward the back, it was bound to be an interesting start to the week of championship racing.

Eric Brunner (Colorado-Boulder) was one of the big names who started near the back. Brunner has been on a tear since the middle of the season and took home second in the U23 race at the Pan-American Championships. He enters Sunday’s race in Reno as one of the favorites in the same category.

Brunner had little trouble getting to the front and once there, he decided to stir things up on the first leg of the course where riders were buffeted by a brisk headwind. With riders still feeling each other out, Brunner attacked. None of the other strong riders were able to follow him, and Brunner did what any confident rider does with a gap: he stayed on the gas.

After getting early separation, Brunner wsa not be challenged the rest of the race. He stayed head down into the win and slowly built his lead each lap en route to a convincing championship ride.

Eric Brunner led a CU-Boulder stampede in Reno. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. Collegiate Club Men. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

Eric Brunner led a CU-Boulder stampede in Reno. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. Collegiate Club Men. © A. Yee / Cyclocross MagazineEric Brunner led a CU-Boulder stampede in Reno. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. Collegiate Club Men. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

Brunner’s win capped a memorable day for the Buffaloes of Colorado. Grant Ellwood (Colorado-Boulder) took second and defending champion Maxx Chance (Colorado-Boulder) took fourth.

Brunner said he benefitted from having his teammates behind him, “I know that everyone’s on the same side as me and working for the CU win.”

Brunning Away With It

Unlike his teammate Brunner who was stuck in the back of the 33-rider field, Chance got a prime front row call-up and made the most of it by taking the holeshot. Once off the starting straight, the riders embarked on a trip down a false flat straight that headed right into a headwind that was whipping early in the morning. The benefit of the straight was riders like Brunner could sort out their position by making a strong move in the windy power section.

The Collegiate Club men kicked off the week's championship racing. Collegiate Club Men. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable / Cyclocross Magazine

The Collegiate Club men kicked off the week’s championship racing. Collegiate Club Men. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable / Cyclocross Magazine

Brunner quickly got to the front and then deemed the pace too slow for his tastes. He attacked to see who would come with.

“I just moved up to the front and the pace wasn’t super high, so I decided to put in an attack and see if anyone could follow,” he said about his early lap one move. With the strong field, Brunner was a bit surprised that the attack worked better than expected. “I planned to move as soon as possible, but I didn’t really expect to get away that soon,” he added.

Once Brunner attacked, he stayed committed and rode away from the field. Collegiate Club Men. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable / Cyclocross Magazine

Once Brunner attacked, he stayed committed and rode away from the field. Collegiate Club Men. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable / Cyclocross Magazine

Once off the front, Brunner committed to the move. By the time he passed pit two halfway through the first lap, he had a ten-second lead solo off the front. Cooper Willsey (Furman) was the first rider to take up the chase, while Chance followed behind him. It was early and the chasers already had a lot of chasing to do.

Brunner was not challenged the rest of the race. His lead was 19 seconds after two laps and grew from there. He stayed focused on pedaling through the wind and handling the technical climb and descent.

In the process, he sent a message the other U23 riders in Sunday’s field could not help but ignore. Brunner will be ready come Sunday.

Eric Brunner posts up as he crosses the line, winning the Collegiate Club race at the USAC Cyclocross National Championships in Reno, Nevada. © D. Mable / Cyclocross Magazine

Eric Brunner posts up as he crosses the line, winning the Collegiate Club race at the USAC Cyclocross National Championships in Reno, Nevada. © D. Mable / Cyclocross Magazine

A Buffalo Stampede in Reno

Behind the winner, there was a lot of Colorado-Boulder black and gold occupying the front of the race. After a slow start, Grant Ellwood slowly found his legs as the race progressed and did the work of bringing back Willsey. After two laps, Ellwood was within striking distance, and in the third lap, he made the catch. Ellwood and Willsey rode together for a lap before Ellwood got a gap in the sandpit and extended it for the duration of the 50-minute affair.

Grant Ellwood and Cooper Willsey rode together before Ellwood got away. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. Collegiate Club Men. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

Grant Ellwood and Cooper Willsey rode together before Ellwood got away. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. Collegiate Club Men. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

“I moved up pretty quickly, but then I started feeling kind of bad, so I kind of had to manage my effort a little bit and ease off,” Ellwood said. That’s when Maxx and Cooper kind of got away. I toned it down a little bit and caught my breath and started to work my way back up. Once I was up to [Willsey], I sat on for a little bit to get some rest and then in the sandpit I got a bit of a gap and just went from there.”

Like Brunner, Ellwood said he has benefitted from having so many talented riders around him in Boulder. “It’s amazing,” he said about his Boulder squad. “Everyone’s in high spirits and always amped to go ride. We just feed off each other and grow with each other. We had a fantastic road season last year, and I think a lot of it was just how much fun we had.

Grant Ellwood found the right moves to take second on Wednesday. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. Collegiate Club Men. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

Grant Ellwood found the right moves to take second on Wednesday. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. Collegiate Club Men. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

Willsey hung on to take third, and last year’s winner Chance took fourth.

Maxx Chance finished fourth. Collegiate Club Men. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable / Cyclocross Magazine

Maxx Chance finished fourth. Collegiate Club Men. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. © D. Mable / Cyclocross Magazine

Yale’s Michael Landry showed the fight of a bulldog in the second half of the race to finish fifth and take the coveted not-a-Buffalo-nor-named-Cooper position.

Yale's Michael Landry had a strong fifth-place ride. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. Collegiate Club Men. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

Yale’s Michael Landry had a strong fifth-place ride. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. Collegiate Club Men. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

Full results are below the video interviews.

For more from Reno, see our continuing coverage of the 2018 Reno Cyclocross Nationals on our dedicated Nationals page.

Men Collegiate Club Results: 2018 Reno Cyclocross Nationals

PlaceBibNameTimeTeam
1123Eric BRUNNER48:31University of Colorado Boulder
2120Grant ELLWOOD49:05University of Colorado Boulder
3106Cooper WILLSEY49:33Furman University
4118Maxx CHANCE50:41University of Colorado Boulder
5122Michael LANDRY50:45Yale University
6133Ross ELLWOOD51:11University of Colorado Boulder
7103Garrett GERCHAR52:27University of Colorado Boulder
8124Jack TANNER52:40University of Colorado Boulder
9115David GREIF53:20University of Arizona
10131Andrew BORDEN53:23Castelton University
11104Zachary CURTIS54:51Bridgewater State University
12112Nevin WHITTEMORE55:33University of Colorado Boulder
13117Daniel WILLETT56:12US Air Force Academy
14108Ethan CALLLAPDartmouth College
15107Matthew OWENSLAPUniversity of Vermont
16127Simon LYNNLAPUS Air Force Academy
17109Samuel HEDLUNDLAPUniversity of Vermont
18119William HAWKINSLAPColorado State University
19116Donald SEIBLAPUniversity of Vermont
20126Rhys LOUISLAPArizona State University
21125Garrett CLARKLAPAppalachian State University
22111Zacharey ELZILAPUniversity of Colorado Boulder
23102Jordan CHAPMANLAPUniversity of Idaho
24129Kenneth ENGLERTLAPUS Military Academy
25128Miles FRANKLAPSaint Marys College-California
26114Sebastian STURGESLAPUniversity of Denver
27121Wheeler DAVISLAPAppalachian State University
28101Charles MANDELLAPUniversity of Vermont
29110Christopher ZAHASKYLAPStanford University
30113Gabriel PEREZLAPArizona State University
31130Andrew MERGENLAPUS Military Academy
32105Abdulgader ALALLILAPStanford University
33132Dylan ALLENLAPUS Military Academy