"That was hard," Dan Chabanov said to anyone listening at the end of the Men's Masters 30-34 race on Wednesday.
Although the rains expected later in the week had not yet arrived, frozen mud started to thaw when the Baby Masters took the course, making the mud alternatively thick and sticky. Throw in the healthy amount of climbing at Joe Creason Park, and although it was just the second championship race of the week, it was a tough one.
Early on, Chabanov got a tough challenge from Charlie Mullins, with Mullins leading after the first lap and sticking with Chabanov into the middle part of the race.
In the third of six laps, Chabanov made his move on one of the course's several climbs. On the last big climb out of the bowl toward Pit 2, he put in an attack and got a gap on Mullins.
At the end of the lap, it was nine seconds. By the end of the race, it would grow to over 40 seconds.
Chabanov did not look back en route to taking home a national championship.
"It was definitely like, how few times you can crash, and how long you can stay on the bike," Chabanov said about the tough conditions.
Baby Masters Help Start the Day
The Baby Masters race at Nationals is always a bit of a wild-card because no one really knows who else is going to show up. As Philadelphia's Dan Chabanov stood at the line, he got a shout-out from race announcer Bill Shieken. At least one rider was not an unknown.
Early on, however, the race animator was another Quaker Stater in Charlie Mullins. Mullins raced out to a fast start with Chabanov, and midway through the first lap, the two already had almost 10 seconds on the rest of the chasers. In the back part of the course, Mullins pulled ahead and held a 5-second lead after one lap.
Early in the second lap, the two came back together and locked into a battle. Behind them, Bradford Perley and Bryan Fosler (801 W. Madison) were chasing for third.
Although the morning air was crisp and clear, warming temperatures started to melt frozen mud and turn it into a slick veneer on many of the course's most technical spots. In the third lap, both Chabanov and Mullins went down in the chicaned descent. With both men hitting the ground, there was no advantage gained.
"The course conditions are treacherous," Chabanov said in a somewhat understated fashion.
Shortly after their double spill, the race's big moment happened. On the last climb out of the bowl, Chabanov powered up the climb on his bike. Mullins slipped a bit and had to dismount. At the end of the lap, Chabanov had a 9-second lead.
"I looked back and he [Charlie] was running and I was riding so that was like go time," Chabanov said.
The next lap, Chabanov extended his lead to over 40 seconds while Mullins dropped back to a race for second with Fosler.
Chabanov entered the last lap with a 29-second lead and kept things clean and upright in the last lap to win the Baby Masters National Championship.
Mullins got the bell side-by-side with Fosler but was able to get a gap in the first part of the last lap to take home second. Fosler rounded out the podium in third.
Winner interview, photos and results are below.
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