The 2017 Jingle Cross World Cup, the biggest show of the three-day cyclocross festival in Iowa City, was originally supposed to be on Saturday. That was until a football game huddled and hoarded all the Iowa City police and punted the World Cup to Sunday.
Instead, a UCI C2 event was held in its place. While any UCI cyclocross race brings prestige, valuable points and prize money, fans and the promoter were left in suspense until minutes before the race as to who was going to take the Saturday start and risk taxing the legs, breaking equipment or crashing before Sunday’s UCI World Cup opener. Laurens Sweeck, winner of Friday Night’s UCI C1 event, was seen in plain clothes watching the race, while World Champion Wout van Aert was recovering from his University of Iowa football game.
A Chance to Race
For six opportunistic World Cup racers, Saturday’s race was a chance to put on a show, gain some fitness, possibly win some prize money, and ultimately do what they are paid to do, and hopefully love to do: race their bikes.
“I have a hard time skipping a UCI race,” Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz/Donkey Label Racing) said. Ortenblad, hailing from Santa Cruz, California is set to race three days in a row and sees it as an opportunity and investment. “We’re here, it’s a night race, it’s a bit cooler, and I thought I felt good last night, so [I decided to] keep it going and start to feel some fitness.”
Ortenblad lined up as the top UCI-ranked American, and third-ranked pro male overall, behind Belgium’s Gianni Vermeersch (Team Steylaerts) and France’s Steve Chainel (Team Chazal / Canyon). Being the top American wasn’t Ortenblad’s goal, however. Top racer or podium finisher was his expectation. “I definitely felt super confident coming in,” he revealed.
Ortenblad was joined by fellow American Justin Lindine as the two sole Americans racing both Saturday’s C2 and Sunday’s World Cup. Two other Belgians in Wietse Bosmans (ERA Circus) and Rob Peeters (Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice) joined the Americans, Chainel and Vermeersch in lining up Saturday and Sunday. Could a lower-ranked rider upset any of the six World Cup racers? Thirty-three racers took the start, including some Masters racers hunting for USA Cycling ranking points.
Living Up to Their Billing
After the field sprinted down the opening straight, it was immediately clear the World Cup racers weren’t lining up to soft pedal but rather to seize their opportunity to earn some points on a course with a similar layout to Friday night’s circuit.
Vermeersch led the group to Mt. Krumpit, followed by Ortenblad, Bosmans, and Chainel. Peeters chased, and only the 21-year-old Brannan Fix (Alpha Bicycle-Groove Subaru) looked in position to upset the pre-race rankings. Fix remained attached to Peeters, but the two soon popped off before the end of lap two, hoping for a pause in the action up front. It happened, and in lap three, the two rejoined to make it a leading group of six. The Fix was in for the win, for now.
Behind, Justin Lindine (Apex / NBX / Hyperthreads) chased, and on lap four, caught and passed a fading Fix.
Suddenly there were five to fight for the podium and the rights to high-five a few children from the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital, the beneficiary of the weekend’s proceeds. On lap six, Peeters and Bosmans popped, and the final podium was set, barring disaster. The top three ranked UCI racers in the face would have three trips around the fast Jingle Cross course to settle the three podium positions.
The Final Podium Fight
Ortenblad, on the eighth of nine laps, heard the two Europeans speaking in an unfamiliar tongue. He didn’t have time to figure out whether it was Chainel’s native French, or Vermeersch’s Dutch, but he knew something was up. “I heard them talking behind me, and at that time I was pretty attentive.”
Attentive or not, on the penultimate time up Mt. Krumpit, his legs didn’t quite respond. Vermeersch and Chainel stormed up the climb, and by the time the trio hit the sand, Ortenblad was four seconds behind.
Chainel’s attack worked, and Vermeersch took note. On the final time up the infamous run-up that the leaders were riding, Vermeersch took his turn trying the trick. “Mt. Krumpit was the best part for me, the climb,” Vermeersch said. “On the top there’s a little turn and I saw I had a few meters, and then I went full gas. Steve was really strong. I was a little bit afraid.”
Afraid or not, his final attack would be the one that mattered. He turned the tables on Chainel, hit the sand pit alone, and kept the gap to the finish. His Saturday night gamble was a smart one.
For Chainel, his ride was also a success. After crashing on Friday night on the first lap and pulling out, Chainel’s podium was a big step up. “Gianni has more power than me, I’m so happy with this second place,” Chainel said. “I’m really happy for this podium. Today, it’s a race to get some confidence for tomorrow.” Mission accomplished.
For Ortenblad, third place was also a reward for taking a risk the other top American cyclocrossers avoided. “It’s a big confidence booster,” Ortenblad said while surrounded by his parents and coach. “Now it’s time to go home, get some recovery, some protein and recovery drink, and get ready for tomorrow.”
The 2017 Jingle Cross Festival wraps up on Sunday with the Women’s World Cup at 2:00 p.m. and the Men’s World Cup at 3:30 p.m. Stay tuned to Cyclocross Magazine for continuing coverage from Iowa City.
Men's Reults - 2017 Jingle Cross Saturday Night
|2||CHAINEL||Steve||TEAM CHAZAL CANYON||56:10||6|
|3||ORTENBLAD||Tobin||Santa Cruz / Donkey Label Racin||56:23||19|
|6||LINDINE||Justin||Apex / NBX / Hyperthreads||57:57||1:53|
|9||KAISER||Cody||LangeTwins / Specialized||59:11||3:07|
|10||FIX||Brannan||Alpha Bicycle Co.-Groove Subaru||59:44||3:40|
|11||SELANDER||Bjorn||Borah Teamwear PB Bingham Built||1:00:09||4:05|
|12||MACKEY||Skyler||KCCX Elite Cyclocross Team||1:00:31||4:27|
|14||MCCONNELL||Kevin||Iowa City Cycling Club||1:01:22||5:18|
|15||POSTIER||Dylan||Garneau-Easton p/b Transitions||1:01:42||5:38|
|16||O'DONNELL||Trevor||Lakeside Storage Cyclocross||1:01:46||5:42|
|18||GINIAT||Andrew||Pony Shop CX Team||1:01:51||5:47|
|21||CLOUTIER||Tyler||Transitions LifeCare p/b Garnea||@2Lap|
|22||GOGUELY||Jules||Apex / NBX / Hyperthreads||@2Lap|
|23||RUSS||Kyle||Brazen Dropouts Cycling Team||@2Lap|
|24||FLIS||Mark||X-Men/ Trek/ Storm Cycles||@3Lap|
|25||CLEMENTS||Matt||Rotor Bike Components||@3Lap|
|27||MORGAN||Justin||Top Club CX||@3Lap|
|30||STROMSKI||Johannes||KMS Cycling - Killington Mounta||@4Lap|
|31||RICCI||Christian||Lakeside Storage Cyclocross||@4Lap|
|DNF||TYERS||Bryan||Lakeside Storage Cyclocross|