With its September date, often dry weather and course that features a number of power sections, Rochester Cyclocross has gained a reputation for fast, tactical racing. On Saturday in the Elite Men’s race, that again proved to be the case.
For the first three-fourths of the hour-long throwdown at Genesee Valley Park, despite repeated efforts from Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) and Vincent Baestaens (Group Hens – Maes Containers), nothing could create a definitive break in the lead group. With two laps to go, there were still seven riders at the front with a shot of taking home the C1 win.
Midway through each lap on Saturday’s UCI C1 course, riders entered “The Jungle.” No really, that is what event organizers called the section that featured off-cambers, run-ups and up-and-downs. With one mistake having the potential to drop you out of contention, riders jockeyed for position heading into the woods each lap.
Baestaens knew the importance of getting a clean look at the challenging features, and inside two to go, he put in an effort to get there first. When he cleared the series of technical challenges, he had a small but definitive gap on Hyde and the rest of the chasers.
Committing to his advantage, Baestaens extended his lead to a good 20 seconds at the bell, as Hyde, Diether Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) and others did their best to give chase.
Baestaens stayed perfect in the last lap to take the UCI C1 win and kick off his U.S. trip in style in Upstate New York.
“I wanted to shift the group because there was all this nervous riding. At the technical piece, everyone wanted to be in first, second or third position because otherwise, you were way too far back. I knew I had one good attack left, and I managed to make it work today,” he said about timing his attack for the win.
Tactical Racing Early On
In the past few years, the Elite Men’s race at Rochester Cyclocross has become known for the fast, intense racing as domestic riders get a crash course before the U.S. World Cups. This year, several European riders made an early trip to the U.S. and provided some wild cards as riders hit the start line at Genesse Valley Park.
Gage Hecht (Donnelly / Aevolo) got the festivities started by taking the holeshot and leading the field charging out into the first sweeping corners. Curtis White (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld), fresh off a strong start to the season in Roanoke, then moved to the front after the technical section and led the riders into the Double Trouble section.
Behind White, riders stacked up one-by-one. Well back early on was last year’s two-day winner Hyde, who had trouble getting going off the start line.
Although small gaps formed between a few groups at the end of the first lap, by the end of the second group, a massive group totaling 11 massed up at the front.
Included in the group were a now-recovered Hyde, White, Baestaens, Sweeck, Hecht, Michael van den Ham (Easton – Giant p/b Transitions LifeCare), Brannan Fix (Alpha Bicycle – Groove Subaru), Lance Haidet (Donnelly – Aevolo), Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano), Drew Dillman (SDG – Muscle Monster) and Simon Ruegg (Swiss Racing Academy / VC Steinmaur).
With so many riders massed at the front, once Hyde returned to the front he went to the lead and led the riders out for the third of eight laps. Hyde’s efforts yielded some return, with a group of 5 that included Hyde, Baestaens, Sweeck, Hecht and Ruegg breaking free from the rest of the 11.
The race’s big first big move came midway through the race when Baestaens attacked following the Double Trouble Section. Calling on some of his road prowess, White quickly covered the effort while Hyde followed close behind.
“The race was really tactical, with the guys of Cannondale always trying to be in the front with two, so it was a little bit of a fight,” Sweeck said after the race.
Midway through the race, it was still a group of five at the front, with Werner, Fix and a few others dangling close behind within striking distance.
The stage was set for a race that would be decided in the latter stages of the hour, if not the last lap.
“We knew from the start the conditions were fast,” Baestaens said about the chaotic first half of the race. “It was dry, so we knew before the start it was going to be a tactical race, so you had to be alert on every attack and every move so you can make the right one at the right time.”
Belgians Make Their Moves
Next up in making a move was Hyde, who attacked after The Jungle section in the fifth lap. His move again stretched the front group, and this time, Hecht fell off the pace, forcing him to join up with others to give chase.
Inside three to go, Hyde continued his aggression, taking a small lead after the run-up along the canal and sending it toward the second half of the course. His advantage was again snuffed out, and the Hecht chase group powered forward to make it a group of seven at the front with two to go.
The men still left standing were Hyde, Hecht, White, Werner, Baestaens, Sweeck and Ruegg. Some had spent the afternoon attacking, some leading and some chasing, but with two to go, if you could get to the front, there was still space to make a winning move.
The rider who would get that winning move was Baestaens. Sensing that he was strong on the technical section in the woods, he moved to the front and took the lead spot through the series of challenging features. His spidey sense was validated when he carried an advantage after the steep run-up. Werner, Ruegg and Sweeck were chasing for second. Baestaen’s advantage was up to nearly 25 seconds.
The Belgian held his advantage to capture the C1 win and celebrated as he passed down the stretch in front of a sizable crowd gathered to welcome him home.
“I attacked just before the technical piece because I knew it would be difficult if you are in second, third or fourth wheel. It’s difficult to come back, especially when you’re giving it your all,” Baestaens said. “I had a little gap with two laps to go, which is normally holdable to make it to the finish, but it was still quite heavy because of the wind.”
The chase group kept together until the wooded section, where it broke apart for good. Sweeck emerged in second, and Hyde followed to take third after a slow start set him back early.
“I felt in the last lap I still had some energy in my legs, so I pulled to be in the front and then rode as hard as I could, and I came out in second,” Sweeck said.
The weekend’s racing wraps up with a C2 race on Sunday. Full results are beneath the post-race interview videos.
2019 Rochester Cyclocross Results: Elite Men Day 1
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Team||Age||Result|
|1||4||BAESTAENS||Vincent||BEL||GROUP HENS - MAES CONTAINERS||30||00:59:54|
|11||7||LOOCKX||Lander||BEL||GROUP HENS - MAES CONTAINERS||22||01:01:25|
|12||6||VAN DEN HAM||Michael||CAN||27||01:01:34|
|41||19||ANDRESEN||Andreas Lund||DEN||21||2 Laps|