Jonathan Baker giving chase in the 35-39 race. © Joe Sales

Jonathan Baker giving chase in the 35-39 race. © Joe Sales

Be sure to keep checking our complete coverage of the 2009 Cyclocross National Championships Center as we continue to update the page with more updates, tech pieces photos, and videos.

by Josh Liberles

Bend, Oregon proved a very worthy host for the 2009 National Cyclocross Championships. Although the venue is four hours from Portland, the nearest major city, that didn’t diminish either participation or what was a phenomenal crowd.

The Championship races were, of course, at the center of the festivities, but there were B races, a Clydesdale Championship of the universe and an incredible amount of event-related activities all over town. The much-praised “bike-handler’s” race course featured twists, turns and swoops that continually changed with the weather.

After a four-day all-out blitz of reporting, racing and participating in a variety of supplemental cyclocross events, we’re left with spinning heads, smiles and some flash-memories of the highlights:

Zach McDonald from University of Washington took the Collegiate Men D1 Cyclocross National Championships.© Cyclocross Magazine

Zach McDonald from University of Washington took the Collegiate Men's D1 Cyclocross National Championships. © Cyclocross Magazine

  • Zach McDonald bounces back from a disappointing U23 race Saturday, where a mechanical ended his chances and he finished a lap down, to battle Benjamin Sonntag the very next day for the Div 1 Collegiate crown. In what was arguably the most exciting, hard-fought battle at Nationals, the two exchanged the lead throughout the race and a half-dozen times on the final lap before McDonald risked it all to pass on the final corner and sprint to the title at the line.
  • An amazing 106 starters in the Elite Women’s field; a dominant, superb Katie Compton; Amy Dombroski’s relentless, at times reckless pursuit; and Meredith Miller’s road power balanced by her impressive skills on a very technical course.
  • Jeremy Powers’ blindingly-fast holeshot and subsequent all-out effort to lead the Elite Men’s field wire-to-wire before a miscue on the off-camber grass sent him sprawling, Jonathan Page’s two pit-stops to adjust tire pressure that took him out of the lead group, Trebon’s resilient pursuit in front of the home crowd and Johnson’s flawless ride to outdistance all challengers en route to his third Elite Nationals title.
  • Saturday afternoon, Grant Berry put on a clinic in the Masters 30-34 race while the Masters 35-39 event boiled down to a four-man throwdown with Jonathan Baker able to forge a small gap over Justin Robinson, USGP 35+ series winner Ali Goulet and defending national champ Brandon Dwight in one of the weekend’s most hotly-contested races.
  • The fans! Cyclocross Magazine‘s live coverage audience peaked at almost 4,000 viewers on Sunday for the Elite events while the crowds who made the trip to the events grew steadily throughout the weekend. Our educated guesses put the crowd at 10,000 strong by the end of Sunday. “The positive comments from my fellow racers made me so proud to be from Oregon,” Sue Butler wrote to the OBRA Oregon bike racer’s email list. “I think they were in disbelief of the amount of fans. The starting chute of the race was better than a World Cup!””‘Welcome to Oregon’ was all I could think to say,” continued Butler. “We do love our cross!”

    Dave Queen used a cape to fly through the course and protect himself from the beer. © Cyclocross Magazine

    Dave Queen used a cape to fly through the course and protect himself from the beer. © Janet Hill

  • There were so many events going on around town that it was like attending a convention: from BikeArt to an array of parties and functions. Oregon got to show its accepting, good-time cyclocross essence in events like Friday night’s Clydesdale Championship of the Universe and Sunday’s post-race party, complete with head-to-head Gold Sprints on stationary track bikes. Even Ryan Trebon, fresh from his silver Elite medal earlier in the day, got in on the action. Other supplemental events that completed an incredible week were the world premiere of Brian Vernor’s excellent film The Cyclocross Meeting and an informal, wonderful presentation on the evolution of our sport in America, Three Generations of Cyclocross.
  • The next generation: Coryn Rivera bested her rival, Kaitlin Antonneau, in the Junior Women’s race, but Antonneau had the better finish between the two in the Elite Women’s event. The women took turns beating one another at the Portland USGP and this is a rivalry that will only serve to better both of their games. Former Junior World’s silver medalist Danny Summerhill backed up his great season by snagging the U23 title in decisive fashion while Cody Kaiser took the holeshot and largely controlled the Men’s 17-18 event. Both riders will top the lists of the World Championship team selections.
  • Teal Stetson-Lee needed every instant of her two-minute lead as a mechanical forced her into a long-distance run with her bike for the line in the Collegiate Div 1 Women’s race. Lee held off Ashley James, who would later go on to take the U23 title, by just ten seconds after building a two-minute lead. Arielle Filiberti’s ride in the Div 2 field was so impressive that she passed the majority of the Div 1 women who started a minute in front to claim her national title.

    Crashes, Day 1, Cyclocross National Championships. © Janet Hill

    Crashes, Day 1, Cyclocross National Championships. © Janet Hill

  • The ever-evolving course left everyone guessing. Hard-packed snow cover with one good line would soften up under high desert suns, only to freeze again in the late afternoons. Saturday afternoon’s races saw full-on mud while Sunday’s marquee events saw firmer tracks. Most loved the course and vocally supported it, but a few met their demise on paved corners that became wet under the sun then froze up later in the day. As mechanic and Cyclocross Magazine contributor Dave Drumm said, The course was “a challenge for even the most seasoned racers and mechanics. The conditions not only changed day to day but hour by hour and, in some cases, halfway through a race.”
  • Our publisher Andrew Yee risked life and limb to scout and film the course for you, our readers, on a late Wednesday afternoon preview ride. He then strapped the camera on for the B race for more video intel and entertainment.
  • The longtime Masters racers proved that they’ve lost nary a step. Paul Curley brought home his 25th national title in the Masters 55-59 division on Tufo tubulars at 40+ psi – which is low pressure for him, Dan Norton stomped the 60+ race to nab his 13th title, Pete Webber held off a resurgent Don Myrah in the 40-44 event, Kevin Hines used his motorcycle-honed skills to tear through the course’s steep, icy climb and attention-grabbing descent for the 50-54 title, things got a little physical between James Alan Coats and Jonny Bold before Bold was able to exploit a gap and take the 45-49 win.
  • Depth of Field: The U.S. boasts some incredible cyclocross talent, led by UCI #1 ranked Katie Compton and former World’s silver medalist Jonathan Page. Although Compton’s victory was convincing, her chasers proved that they’re ready for the world stage and can line up against Europe’s best. The men’s race was even tighter at the front with Trebon, Powers, Wells and, of course, Johnson demonstrating that they’re not just good by national standards – they’re the real deal.
  • National Champions head in different directions: While Katie Compton heads back to Belgium to tackle the rest of the European season, Tim Johnson heads for Santa Barbara for training and told Cyclocross Magazine at the post-race party he’ll drive up from training in Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz to show off the jersey and beat-up on unsuspecting NorCal racers at the Surf City race on January 10th.
  • Although the fields were deep and laden with legendary talent, there were also notable absentees, including former national champs Steve Tilford, Ned Overend (who we hoped to see race both Masters and Elites) and Kathy Savary. Georgia Gould, one of the top Elite Women in recent years, had also opted out of the late season ‘cross races.
  • Bend, Oregon hosted two National Championship shindigs in 2009: Elite Road and Cyclocross. July’s road event, on the heels of the Cascade Classic, saw temperatures over 100 degrees for the hottest stretch of the year while Cyclocross Nats brought an unusually intense cold snap. Both events will be back for 2010, we’ll see what the weather gods bring.

Special thanks to those who helped keep Cyclocross Magazine‘s live coverage functioning out there in the cold: Team 2020 for the propane heater, Red Zone racing for lunch, whoever was nice enough to drop off those Clif bars and Rebound Sports for hand warmers that kept our fingers typing the updates!

Be sure to check out our full coverage of the 2009 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships.