They say anything can happen in the last lap of a cyclocross race. On Wednesday in the Men’s Masters 65-69 race, one rider found that out in the hardest way possible.
For the first three laps of Wednesday’s race, Kevin Johnson (Egencia) rode the perfect race. Johnson took control of the race in the bowl in the first lap and at the midway point seemed headed to a Stars-and-Stripes jersey.
However, behind him, Fred Wittwer (Sweet Spot Cycling) was charging hard after getting caught up in the sandpit in the first lap. Still, at the bell, Johnson had an 11-second lead on Wittwer.
Wittwer caught Johnson at the sandpit, and then shortly after that, Johnson’s chain snapped thanks in part to the thick Joe Creason mud that was accumulating on bikes all afternoon. It was the worst kind of mechanical at the worst possible time.
From there, it was Wittwer’s race to lose. The Virginian continued his second-half surge all the way to the finish line, taking the Masters 65-69 Stars-and-Stripes jersey.
“I was trying to chase back and eventually got them,” he said.
Tough Breaks in Louisville
With temperatures rising up near 50 degrees at the start of the Masters 65-69 race, the 28 riders who lined up got off to a hot start. Johnson and Glen Jones (Trek Midwest) got off the front early, thanks in part to a melee in the sandpit that held Wittwer and others up.
Johnson got a gap on Jones in the bowl and after one lap, he had a 40-second lead on Jones. Wittwer recovered after his traffic jam and sat fourth behind David Delperdang (Spin Racing).
“I had a front row start, but somebody went down in the sand pit right in front of me so I got tangled up with him,” Wittwer said. “After that, my bike wouldn’t shift. Fortunately, I had a bike in the pit.”
During the second of four laps, Johnson held his lead on Jones, while Wittwer slowly but surely moved up, place by place. Midway through the race, Johnson still held a 30+ second lead.
In the third lap, things started to happen. Wittwer moved into second and then noticeably closed the gap up to Johnson. When the two crossed the line at the bell, there were just 11 seconds between the two of them.
Wittwer continued his push to the front and then caught Johnson at the sandpit. Once clear of the man-made obstacle, the unthinkable happened for Johnson.
With the thick Joe Creason mud sticking like glue to tires and drivetrains, Johnson’s chain snapped. Already past the pit, he was left to run on foot while Wittwer rode away.
“It’s like ice in the downhill off-camber turns,” Wittwer said about the tough muddy conditions. “You just have to try and ride it out. It’s pretty scary.”
Now with a lead in hand, Wittwer continued his race-long charge to the ultimate conclusion: a Stars-and-Stripes jersey.
Jones held on to take second and Hardwick Gregg rode a solid second half of the race to take home the bronze.
Winner interview, photos and results are below.
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Photo Gallery: Men’s Masters 65-69, 2018 Louisville Cyclocross Nationals