Curtis White (Cannondale p/b Cyclocross World) has won cyclocross races in a lot of different ways in his career, but against a field with the caliber of Sunday’s C2 at Rochester Cyclocross, there was still at least one stone unturned.
Last week at GO Cross, White showed he can win a two-man duel when he beat Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano) in the last lap, but on Sunday, White decided to go full send midway through the race.
“In the past when I’ve won races, it’s always been from a group or a last-lap surge. This year, I wanted to win as many ways as possible. I wanted to be comfortable going from the line, halfway through, last lap,” White said.
White led into “The Jungle” section of technical features in Lap 5 of 8 and emerged from the woods with a gap on Hyde, Sweeck, Werner and Vincent Baestaens (Group Hens – Maes Containers). Hyde did his teammate a solid by controlling the pace in the chase, while White opened up a 17-second gap with 3 laps to go.
Off the front, White fully committed to the move. Once Sweeck got organized, he surged forward and knocked White’s advantage down to 10 seconds at the bell. What followed was a tense 8 minutes as White stayed on the accelerator while trying not to make any mistakes.
White held the move and crossed the line with an emphatic celebration as he added another way to win a cyclocross race to his growing arsenal of skills.
“I didn’t let up until the last corner. I’m proud to have that result and the effort, I’m happy,” White concluded. “I feel incredible. It’s a C2 race but I feel that it’s one of the biggest wins that I’ve had with the field that we had here, the effort and how long the effort was.”
Cannondale Controls Early
Although Sunday was a C2 to Saturday’s C1, the second race of the Rochester weekend seemed slated for another slugfest with a packed field taking the line at Genesee Valley Park. One of the riders looking to bounce back from Saturday was Curtis White, who finished sixth but fell off the pace of the lead group late in the race.
On Sunday, White showed he was ready to put Saturday behind him from the gun, taking the holeshot and leading the field out into the prologue that played right into White’s power strength.
“Curtis got a great start, he’s a good starter, he’s a monster,” Hyde said. “With that new start loop, it gives you a really good opportunity to look back and see where everybody is after that first chicane. And I just noticed that there were a few key players that we had on the back foot so it was a good opportunity to get three good North Americans up there that could really roll it.”
Joining White near the front was Hyde, who had to overcome a bad start in the C1 to work his way back to a third-place finish. Sitting second wheel, the defending U.S. Champ did not have to waste extra legs getting to the front.
For most of the first lap, it was a core of Americans who controlled the front, with White, Hyde, Gage Hecht (Donnelly – Aevolo) and Werner taking the first four spots at the front. Sweeck followed with Timon Ruegg (Swiss Racing Academy / VC Steinmaur), while Saturday’s winner Baestaens dangled at the back of the group.
“Early on, [Stephen] Hyde and I were riding really well together,” White. “As teammates, you learn to read each other well and read the situation well, and really play off each other. So we kept the pace high and I think we caught out a few guys off guard, particularly some of the Euros.”
During Laps 2 and 3, it the lead group of 7 stayed relatively compact with the Cannondale team well represented at the front. At times, Baestaens appeared to dangle off the pace, but each time, he recovered and kept with the pace.
In Lap 4, the group of 7 lost a few of its members. Hecht dropped off the pace after pitting due to a mechanical issue and then Ruegg fell off as well. Midway through the race, the lead selection was down to five—White, Hyde, Werner, Sweeck and Baestaens.
On Saturday, Baestaens had the plan to attack in The Jungle inside two to go. Not wanting to let the Euros dictate the climactic laps of Sunday’s race, White was ready to attack in Lap 5.
White went to the front entering The Jungle and turned up the throttle through the technical section. “I had picked that point out and I stuck to the plan,” he said after the race.
White exited The Jungle with a gap and perhaps calling on some of his road experience given the long straights in front of him, White turned up the heat.
As White accelerated away, Hyde helped dictate the pace in the chase, alternately sitting on the front and slowing things up and sitting second wheel to keep the group at bay.
When White crossed the line to complete Lap 5, his lead on the 5 remaining chasers was up to 17 seconds. He got a gap, but he still had three laps to go to seal the win.
“I jumped ahead in the wooded section, and I came out with a gap. I saw that they were starting to play tactically behind. Hyde was playing the teammate role behind and being a big help,” White said.
After finally sensing that White might be riding away, Sweeck jumped into action in Lap 6 and put in an attack. Coming out of The Jungle, Hyde and Baestaens scrambled to hold the Belgian’s wheel. The result of Sweeck’s move was to take a chunk out of White’s lead, leaving the defending Pan-Ams champ with just 10 seconds on the chasers with two to go.
During Lap 7, Baestaens popped off the chase, leaving Sweeck with Hyde on his wheel. White, meanwhile, had his head down cranking out every watt he could muster out of his legs.
“It was total tunnel vision. I told myself don’t look back. Maybe I snuck a glance once or twice but I was really relying on listening to what the gaps were, but the last lap, I didn’t look back once,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hyde was stuck in a bit of limbo. If White faded, he could still race for the win, but at the same time, he was still trying to hold Sweeck at bay and allow his teammate to get the impressive solo win.
“If you’re on the front, you’re on the front and you’re digging. Curtis was just close enough. He was fading, we were going fast, Diether was killing it. So there was definitely where ‘okay keep it hot’, and you could still win the race,’” Hyde said.
At the bell, White’s lead was 10 seconds. What followed was a tense 8 minutes to close out the weekend of racing in Rochester.
When White cleared The Jungle holding on to a measurable gap, it appeared he was probably going to win the race. Not leaving anything to chance, he stayed full-throttle through the finish, finally taking time on the finishing stretch to soak in the moment and celebrate his win with emphasis.
“I’m proud to have that result and the effort, I’m happy,” White concluded about his race.
Behind White, Hyde and Sweeck dueled right to the end of the race. Hyde took the lead after the Belgian Staircase in the last lap but slipped out on a corner, allowing Sweeck to pull back to his wheel. The two hit the finishing stretch together, setting the stage for a long finishing sprint.
Hyde hit out first, but Sweeck pulled even in the closing meters and popped Hyde by inches (centimeters?) to take second. Hyde wrapped up his second third of the weekend.
Full results are below.
Next up is the Jingle Cross World Cup weekend in Iowa City.
Elite Men Results: 2019 Rochester Cyclocross Day 2
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Result|
|11||7||VAN DEN HAM||Michael||CAN||01:03:45|
|36||23||GOMEZ VILLAFANE||Benjamin||USA||2 Laps|