Normally a defending champion and silver medalist and top American at Masters Worlds would line up at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships as an odds-on favorite.
Bob Downs (Planet Bike) had a nice run-up to Nationals. He took a silver medal at his goal race, the Masters Worlds in Mol. Belgium. He avoided the frigid Wisconsin temperatures in balmy Southern California, took in three laps at the NCNCA Districts in Northern California, and had a flawless start in the Masters 65-69 race in Reno.
John Wilson (S&M) took the holeshot and led for the first lap, with Martin Soetaert (Rol Wheels) and Russell Thorstrom (Team Upcycle) working to pull Wilson back and Downs tucked in right behind.
After a lap, Downs was on the way up. With his trademark neck bandana and Paul Curley-style rearview mirror, it was hard to miss Downs out on the course, and he had a commanding lap just two laps in.
If Downs squinted into his mirror on the long straightaways, he might have seen Wilson giving chase. Wilson said he was feeling the effects of his fast start on lap two, and needed to charge up the reserves for a strong finish.
With a lap and a half left, everything changed. Downs bombed down towards the off-camber climb, but soon was looking down at his rear tire instead of his rear mirror. He didn’t like what he saw, or felt, and no longer could rely on just his legs to do the talking. A few curse words escaped, as he worried that flatting just past the pits doomed his repeat title chances.
It was just the opportunity Wilson needed to retake the lead, but if Downs was unlucky, Wilson was doubly so. Double flat, in almost the identical spot as Downs.
The course dried out throughout the day, increasing speeds, and the brief Wednesday mud helped expose more rocks and increased the height of the multiple pavement crossings. Could such flat tires on Wednesday foreshadow dangers racers will face later in the week, especially as speeds increase? We’ll see.
Behind, a patient Scott Paisley (MVC / Blue Wheel) was riding a steady race, not worrying about foreshadowing or chasing the long shadows in the fading sun. The new-to 60-64 age group Paisley heard from a certain observant photographer out on the course that Downs had flatted, and suddenly was turbo-charged with a sense of opportunity. Paisley passed racers riding their rims, hit the front, kept his tires rolling, and rode the final lap as the 2018 Masters 60-64 National Champion.
Barney Baxter (Jigawatt Cycling) also passed the flat-tire plagued early leaders to finish second, with Jay Thorton (G2 Bike), rolling in for third. Downs recovered to finish fourth, while Wilson finished eighth. Downs found his glass half full after the finish, as he coaches Thorton and was happy to see him on the podium.
Men Masters 60-64 Results: 2018 Reno Cyclocross Nationals
|1||362||PAISLEY||Scott||MVC/Blue Wheel||Charlottesville VA||44:39|
|3||359||THORNTON||Jay||Laguna Beach CA||45:19||40|
|4||390||DOWNS||Robert||Wisconsin Cycling Association||Belleville WI||45:29||50|
|11||380||GENTES||Jim||Northern California/Nevada Cycl||Soquel CA||47:10||2:31|
|12||360||YOUNG||Brad||Porter Corners NY||47:16||2:37|
|16||351||CRAFT||Jeffrey||Team Lake Effect||Madison OH||48:00||3:21|
|19||399||WILLCOX||Robert||UC Cyclery/JW Floors||San Diego CA||48:48||4:09|
|20||375||GRANT||Dane||Team Roaring Mouse||San Francisco CA||48:49||4:10|
|21||388||SMITH||George||Menlo Park CA||50:22||5:43|
|23||356||MCCLENAHAN||David||Winthrop Harbor IL||40:15||@1Lap|
|25||378||ZIMMER||Chip||Lake Quivira KS||41:06||@1Lap|
|26||354||BEAR||Jan||Santa Fe NM||41:12||@1Lap|
|27||368||HARKOLA||Bill||Pen Velo Racing/Summit Bicycles||San Carlos CA||41:22||@1Lap|
|28||352||FOX||Albert||Davis Bike Club Race Team||Vacaville CA||41:37||@1Lap|
|29||355||EHLER||William||Grand Junction CO||41:40||@1Lap|
|31||369||ORTENBLAD||Rick||Santa Cruz CA||41:51||@1Lap|
|32||376||RAYMOND||Kevin||VELOBODY / GERK'S||Seattle WA||42:19||@1Lap|
|34||361||CORTHELL||David||AUDI RENO-TAHOE||Reno NV||43:08||@1Lap|
|35||391||BRYSON||Mark||Sacramento Golden Wheelmen||Sacramento CA||43:33||@1Lap|
|36||371||SADOFF||Paul||Santa Cruz CA||43:58||@1Lap|
|37||372||HEYER||Leigh||Team Velosport / Rock n Road Cy||Rancho Santa Margarita||44:05||@1Lap|
|38||366||ROETMAN||Ray||ZiaVelo Cycling||Las Cruces NM||44:11||@1Lap|
|39||398||NORTH||Craig||Ann Arbor Velo Club Inc.||Ann Arbor MI||44:18||@1Lap|
|40||393||SMITH||Anthony||El Dorado CA||44:34||@1Lap|
|41||373||SLAVONIC||John||Nevada City CA||44:47||@1Lap|