The domestic UCI cyclocross scene convened in the nation’s capital over the weekend for the 2019 running of DCCX. Held at the Armed Forces Retirement Home, the race proved to be not unlike the Trek CX Cup / World Cup Waterloo and FayetteCross weekends, with fast, dry races on Day 1 turning into mudders on Day 2 after rains Saturday night into Sunday.
The race also featured several storylines that played out over the two days of racing. The two DCCX races were the third and fourth legs of the Union Craft Brewing – Rapha Parkway CX Trophy series that had payouts of $2,000 on the line for the time-based omnium.
Rebecca Fahringer (Kona Maxxis Shimano) and Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano) entered the weekend in the lead, looking to make it a second-straight team sweep in the series after they both won their respective categories in 2018.
Fahringer got some new nemeses this weekend, with Sammi Runnels (Squid x Eliel) and Courtenay McFadden (Pivot/Maxxis p/b Stan’s NoTubes) making the trip east to race in the nation’s capital, while Werner replaced his season nemesis Curtis White (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) with White’s teammate Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld). Hyde entered the weekend still looking for his first win of the 2019 season.
Read on for mini-reports, rider quotes and photos from Bruce Buckley.
Day 1, aka the Dry, Fast Day
Racing on the fast, dry Day 1 course was tight in both Elite races. In the Women’s race, a group of six riders formed, with Fahringer, Runnels, McFadden, Raylyn Nuss (MAAP / Mini U.S. Cyclocross Program), Carla Williams (Deschutes Brewery) and Caroline Nolan (Voler / Easton / HRS / Rock Lobster) in the mix.
“Today we had a few more people enter like Courtenay McFadden and Sammi who came in expecting to win,” Fahringer said about Day 1. “They really put the hammer down early and weren’t letting any ground up. There were six of us in the front group not letting an inch go. It was so fast and the ground was so hard, as long as you could keep it upright, there were only a few sections were you could apply power.”
Fahringer entered the race just thinking about keeping her lead in the Parkway CX Trophy series, but the group at the front gave her a chance to get a win in a tactical race.
“I have only ever won races where I had a gap early on and was able to hold it. Kind of a blow out situation,” she said. “I mean, Supercross, I led the whole race, and then Ruby got close to me at the end and took it. Sunny took it from me both times last year. Both mentally and physically I’ve never had the edge.”
McFadden was the aggressor early in the last lap, but Fahringer mirrored her moves early in the lap and then put in an attack of her own.
“I made a tactical move attacking when I felt like everyone else was a little weaker in the last lap. I was really surprised I came away with a gap onto the pavement,” Fahringer said. “I got to the front before Pit 1 of the last lap, but before Pit 2 is when I got the gap at the little W corners. I attacked into them and kind of tired people out so they would either crash or go into it a little slower. It held.”
After coming close to getting a win in a sprint against Sunny Gilbert (Pactimo / Colorado Proud) last year, Fahringer was committed to not leaving the result to the cyclocross sprint gods.”I remember coming to the line with Sunny last year, and I said, ‘I will not come to the line this year,'” she remarked.
Fahringer got her win in a tactical race, her third in a row. Runnels took second and McFadden third.
The Elite Men’s race played out similarly to the Elite Women’s. This time, at the front it was Werner, Hyde, Drew Dillman (SDG – Muscle Monster), Spencer Petrov (JAM Fund / NCC), Travis Livermon and Cody Kaiser (LangeTwins / Specialized) as the race moved into its midpart.
With the course rolling hard and fast, the racing followed suit. “Tape-to-tape. There were no gaps,” Werner said about the early pace. “The course was wicked fast, so even if you did push the pace and get a couple bike lengths, as soon as you let up a pedal stroke, it was all back together.”
The aggressors in the group early on were Livermon and Kaiser. The two put in attacks, but a mistake from Kaiser and the effects of aggression added up, and the group dropped to Werner, Hyde, Dillman and Petrov at the bell.
Werner described how the last lap played out.
“We came into the last lap with Dillman in the lead, and then I attacked on the back straight. It was a little bit of a risky move because I figured if anyone was still fresh and they were on my wheel when we hit the finish straight, it could be problematic. After laying down an effort leading into it, I was afraid I wouldn’t have the snap to hold them off. But I was able to keep Hyde at a bike length, and I held him off on the sprint.”
Werner took the win and kept his commanding lead in the Parkway CX Trophy series. Hyde took second and Dillman third.
“I think it keeps everyone sharper when the races go all the way to the line,” Werner said about how the domestic racing has played out this year. “It’s nice because it shows everyone is riding on a similar fitness level, and it comes down to who’s riding smarter and saves their matches for the end of the race. Or who’s riding smoother. It’s kind of cool.”
Day 2, aka “The Swamp” Day
On Saturday, riders raced each other. On Sunday, they found themselves racing the course.
The nation’s capital has long been referred to as “The Swamp,” and on Sunday, the DCCX venue turned into The Swamp, But for Cyclocross. There would be a lot less tactical racing to be found.
“I wasn’t sure of the strategy,” Fahringer said about her race. “I didn’t want to play games because in mud like this, if you start to play games and try to sit in, the next thing you know, someone in front of you bobbles and you get gapped off and you have to chase.”
After Fahringer maybe (?) took the holeshot—”I think I may have gotten the holeshot. I think that may be the first time that’s ever happened for me.”—McFadden took over the lead spot. Fahringer and McFadden finished up the first lap, which clocked in near 14 minutes with a lead on Nuss and Runnels.
In the second lap, Fahringer gained a small gap, but then she flatted. Fortunately, the conditions were not the worst for riding with a flatted tubular.
“I think it was because of a thorn,” she said. “I rode for maybe half a lap with it. I had been in the lead, and I was like ‘Alright, this is just like last year.’ I held the lead, I flatted, then Sunny passed me, I was frantic while I was chasing her, and then I crashed. I told myself to stay calm, whatever happens, happens. I stayed in the lead.”
Fahringer kept her advantage, but it was a small one on McFadden entering the last lap. With the series overall more or less secure, Fahringer focused in on getting her fourth-straight win and sweeping the 2019 Parkway CX Trophy.
“I didn’t think about crashing; I mostly just thought about coming back from the flat and keeping it smooth and then putting down power in straightaways,” she said.
McFadden captured second and Nuss stepped onto the podium with a third-place finish.
Stephen Hyde entered the Elite Men’s race having finished on a number of podiums this season, but he has still not gotten a win. With conditions turned sloppy, Sunday seemed like a good day for the three-time U.S. National Champion to get the elusive victory.
That said, with conditions completely different from the day before, Hyde did not necessarily have a vision for how his race would go. “I didn’t really have too much of a plan except to do my own thing today,” he said after the race.
The first part of the plan for Hyde was to get off to a better start than Saturday. The first day, he missed his pedal and was already chasing back in about 10th position after leaving the paved start stretch.
Werner took the holeshot, but Hyde slotted in right behind him. “Kerry got the holeshot, I was happy to have him in front of me. I always trust that guy, for better or worse,” Hyde said. “That whole time we were together the first half lap, we were just trying to find lines. Going left, going right.”
After Werner slipped out on one of the off-cambers, Hyde took over the lead and quickly used the running skills he showed off at Louisville Nationals to cement his lead. Hyde led by nearly 15 seconds after the 1st of 5 laps, and he did not look back from there.
“We were off the bike quite a bit here. I actually felt pretty good,” Hyde said about the challenging conditions. “At first, as with every race, you get in there and you’re thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m running so slow,’ but then you start to realize that that’s just the pace. You just have to kind of run with it, pun intended, I guess.”
Hyde’s lead on Werner eventually grew to nearly a minute, and he ended up winning by 42 seconds.
“I feel great. I really needed that one. It’s been a long season of Kerry beating up on me. It’s good to get that one out of the way,” Hyde said.
Werner entered the day with a 1:55 lead in the Parkway CX Trophy overall, so although he did not win the day, he did win the 2 weekends and take home a nice $2,000 check for his efforts.
Kaiser emerged from the chase to finish on the podium in third.
For more from DCCX, see the Day 2 highlight video from CXHairs.