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.
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.
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 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.
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.
“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.
Willsey hung on to take third, and last year’s winner Chance took fourth.
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.
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
|1||123||Eric BRUNNER||48:31||University of Colorado Boulder|
|2||120||Grant ELLWOOD||49:05||University of Colorado Boulder|
|3||106||Cooper WILLSEY||49:33||Furman University|
|4||118||Maxx CHANCE||50:41||University of Colorado Boulder|
|5||122||Michael LANDRY||50:45||Yale University|
|6||133||Ross ELLWOOD||51:11||University of Colorado Boulder|
|7||103||Garrett GERCHAR||52:27||University of Colorado Boulder|
|8||124||Jack TANNER||52:40||University of Colorado Boulder|
|9||115||David GREIF||53:20||University of Arizona|
|10||131||Andrew BORDEN||53:23||Castelton University|
|11||104||Zachary CURTIS||54:51||Bridgewater State University|
|12||112||Nevin WHITTEMORE||55:33||University of Colorado Boulder|
|13||117||Daniel WILLETT||56:12||US Air Force Academy|
|14||108||Ethan CALL||LAP||Dartmouth College|
|15||107||Matthew OWENS||LAP||University of Vermont|
|16||127||Simon LYNN||LAP||US Air Force Academy|
|17||109||Samuel HEDLUND||LAP||University of Vermont|
|18||119||William HAWKINS||LAP||Colorado State University|
|19||116||Donald SEIB||LAP||University of Vermont|
|20||126||Rhys LOUIS||LAP||Arizona State University|
|21||125||Garrett CLARK||LAP||Appalachian State University|
|22||111||Zacharey ELZI||LAP||University of Colorado Boulder|
|23||102||Jordan CHAPMAN||LAP||University of Idaho|
|24||129||Kenneth ENGLERT||LAP||US Military Academy|
|25||128||Miles FRANK||LAP||Saint Marys College-California|
|26||114||Sebastian STURGES||LAP||University of Denver|
|27||121||Wheeler DAVIS||LAP||Appalachian State University|
|28||101||Charles MANDEL||LAP||University of Vermont|
|29||110||Christopher ZAHASKY||LAP||Stanford University|
|30||113||Gabriel PEREZ||LAP||Arizona State University|
|31||130||Andrew MERGEN||LAP||US Military Academy|
|32||105||Abdulgader ALALLI||LAP||Stanford University|
|33||132||Dylan ALLEN||LAP||US Military Academy|