by Grant Berry

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY – Cyclocross racing is big in Louisville. Big enough to garner the financial and in-person support of “Papa” John Schnatter and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, both of whom came to scope out the venue, cheer on racers, and in the Mayor’s case, hand out podium awards and handshakes or kisses on Day 2 of the Exergy USGP of Cyclocross.

With winds forecasted to gust up to 50 mph and a chance of rain, racers were on their toes trying to guess what to expect at the venue. For the Elite races taking part in the latter part of the day, the sun came out and the wind even died down a bit to once again make the riders focus on each other and the course, rather than the elements.

Todd Wells could be hanging out on the beach in Costa Rica, sipping drinks with little umbrellas in them and enjoying his victory in one of the world’s hardest races: La Ruta de los Conquistadores. Instead, he was in Louisville, Kentucky hoping to taste victory in one of his last races of what could easily be described as his best season yet. Time would tell if he could win at two very different events and venues in an amazingly short amount of time.

Announcer Dave Towle put it best; “There is no doubt in my mind that Todd could run a sub 2:10 marathon, then sprint a mile under four minutes the next day. He is amazing.”

When the whistle blew, Ben Berden (Stoemper-Ops Ale) once again busted off the line, grabbed the holeshot, and led the huge field out on to the course. Day 1 winner Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) quickly caught up with the Belgian and led over the flyover with Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain-Maxxis), Wells (Specialized Factory Racing), Tim Johnson (Cannondale-CyclocrossWorld) and a host of other top men close behind. Going into the steep ride (or run) up, Kabush passed Powers, and was determined to make the race his … or at the very least, make it hard. The day before, he had been caught off-guard a bit by the early accelerations, and wanted to make sure he was at the head of the bike race when it counted.

“I wanted to be aggressive, and give myself a chance today. There are a couple sections that were a lot more difficult today so I figured if I was in front and riding clean I could save myself a bit of energy,” he explained.

Going into the third lap, Kabush continued to force the issue and looked to make Powers feel the difficulty of the course.

“I was hurting trying to hang on his wheel … and was feeling yesterday for sure. It was touch-and-go a bit on those first few laps,” Powers explained.

With five laps to go, Wells, Johnson and Berden had made contact with the two. Wells immediately went to the front, hopped the barriers, and sprinted out of the saddle to see who would come with him. Powers instantly responded, as eventually the others made contact again as well. Less than half a lap later, Wells would hit the gas again, this time on the steepest section of the course. His efforts dropped Johnson and Berden, and put Powers and Kabush again on the offensive.

With three to go, Powers would enter that same section in front, and while he rode, Wells was forced to dismount and let a small gap open up. Powers crossed under the finish line banner with a three second lead. Wells did not look to Kabush to share the work; he simply put his head down and by the time they hit the barriers, they were once again together.

“There was no way I was going to give up that easy,” said Wells.

As the pair came around to the sandpit, Powers was in front and rode it smoothly, but Wells had an issue, and was again forced to dismount. Sensing Todd’s difficulty, Powers hunkered down over his bike and attempted to put daylight between himself and the 2010 National Champion. But by the time they entered the woods, the two were once again back together.

They would continuously trade places on the front, with Wells taking long pulls and Powers punching it whenever he could.

“Powers was attacking all over the course. I was patient and brought his attacks back slowly, but it hurt. I don’t have a ton of snap right now, but I knew if I rode my own pace I could bring him back,” Wells said.

Coming through the sand on the last lap, Powers led, but Todd rode the section smooth, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

As they headed towards the woods for the last time, Powers maintained his position on the front as Wells was running out of real estate to make a move. They both rode the final steep hill cleanly, and as they hit the pavement Powers had a two bike length lead over Wells and looked to have the race won. In an effort to keep him honest, Wells never stopped driving as Powers started to salute the victory a little early, nearly pulling a “Zabel” as he crossed under the finish banner with Wells less than a bike length behind him. Powers had doubled up on the weekend, making his win count at the Eva Bandman Cyclocross Venue: three wins out of four races.

Fans may be asking: where was Ryan Trebon (LTS-Felt)? He smacked his knee hard preriding the course early in the day, and was doubtful of starting. He did toe the start line, though with a leg warmer on his injured leg. Watching him tackle the stairs and the barriers was tough; he was clearly limping and in grimacing in pain. He would finish tenth. Trebon plans to heal up for the series finals in his hometown of Bend, Oregon.

For his efforts, Powers would also pull on the series leader’s jersey going into the last round in Bend.

Yannick Eckmann (Pearl Izumi – Shimano) won the U23 race, and reclaimed the U23 Series Leader’s jersey. Cody Kaiser (Cal Giant Berry Farms) put in a huge effort and was second on the day in the classification.

Read about Katie Compton’s domination of the women’s race here.

Elite Men’s Results

1POWERS JeremyRapha/Focus
2WELLS ToddSpecialized
3KABUSH GeoffTeam Maxxis / Rocky Mountain
4BERDEN BenOps Ale - Stoemper
5JONES ChristopherRapha/Focus
6JOHNSON TimothyCannondale pb CyclocrossWorld.c
7DRISCOLL JamesCannondale pb CyclocrossWorld.c
8MATTER BrianGear Grinder / Clif Bar
9SCHOUTEN p/b Blue B
12LINDINE / Joe's Garage
13HOKE MitchellTeam Clif Bar
14ECKMANN YannickPearlizumi/Shimano
15SUMMERHILL DanielChipotle Development Team
16LIVERMON TravisSmart Stop-Mock Orange p/b Ridl
17KAISER CodyCalifornia Giant Berry Farms/Sp
18MCDONALD ZachRapha/Focus
19WICKS BarryKona
20SCHOOLER AaronTeam H&R BLOCK - Sri Importing
21STAFFORD JaredRide With Rendall
22KNAPP RyanBob's Red Mill Cyclocross
23WOODRUFF TravisTrek Bicycle Store - Boulder
24MULLER LukasPhiladelphia Cyclocross School
25TOWNSEND JeromeSmartStop / MockOrangeBikes pb
26KAPPIUS BradyTeam Clif Bar
27ALDERS Bryan
28REARDON AndrewBob's Red Mill Cyclocross Team
29DURRIN JeremyJ.A.M. Fund / NCC
30WELLS JakeStan's NoTubes Elite Cyclocross
31MYERSON AdamTeam Mountain Khakis presented
32BATTY MarkSpiderTech Powered By C10
33MCCONNELL MarkSynergy Racing
34MCNEELY EvanEMD Serono-Specialized
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35MILLER DanielTeam Seagal
37FISH KevinKCCX/Fuji Presented by Challeng
39DALLE ANGELINI GiancarloRio Blanco
40WYATT NathanaelCarolina Fatz Cycling Center pb
41PARMELEE MarkCycletherapy
42LARSEN ChrisINDUSTRY NINE/Youngblood Bicycl
43ALLEN Matthewbehind bars/ little guy racing
44FYFE WillBirmingham Bicycle Co
45HEULE Christiancannondale pb CyclocrossWorld.c
46OMER ClaytonBobs Red Mill Cyclocross
48COLE BradMercy Elite Cycling Team
52BERGEY GunnarC3 Athletes Serving Athletes
53GEROW DanielWolverines/ACFSTORES.COM
54STREET BillKuhl Midwest Regional MTB-CX Te
55PREBLE KolbenClif Bar Development Cyclocross
56DAYTON AlexSmartstop / Mock Orange p/b Rid
57KERSTING MitchellBob's Red Mill Cyclocross
DNFADAMSON ShaunCycle-Smart
DNSWINTERBERG LukasPhiladelphia Cyclocross School
DNSLASLEY JacobTeam Soundpony
DNSCHEWNING MichaelTeam Hungry!
DNSHAUGH SpencerBehind Bars/LGR
DNSMUEHL EricIndustry Nine/ Highland Brewery