The Junior Men 17-18 category has produced some great racing this season, with a number of young riders rising to the occasion throughout the season.
Maryland's Andrew Strohmeyer (CX Hairs Devo / Trek Bikes) entered as a rider others had an eye on after he took the win in the Pan-American Championship race a month ago. One of Strohmeyer's main rivals this year has been Magnus Sheffield (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld Devo), who got the best of Strohmeyer several times this year.
Nick Carter (KCCX) was another rider looking for a breakthrough performance after finishing second at Pan-Ams and second at Louisville Nationals last year. Joining Carter looking for a signature win was Jared Scott (Boulder Junior Cycling) and last year's Junior 15-16 National Champion Ivan Gallego (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld).
In short, there were a lot of talented Juniors looking to start Sunday's day of racing with a Stars-and-Stripes ride as the morning fog started to burn off of Fort Steilacoom Park.
Kyle Johnson (Giant Southwest) led the charge into the foggy morning before Sheffield took over the lead at the first run-up. Two of the other race favorites in Carter and Strohmeyer soon joined Sheffield at the front.
For the rest of the first lap, Sheffield stayed on the attack and pushed the pace at the front. Carter joined his wheel after the second descent, but at the end of the first lap, Sheffield again got a gap and led Carter by 5 seconds. Strohmeyer and Scott followed down the long start/finish straight with a few seconds between each rider.
At the start of Lap 2, Scott made his move up to third on the run-up, but a crash on the Sunday-only descent cost him the ground he gained. In the lead, Sheffield then went down on the first descent chute, allowing Carter to regain his wheel.
After everything that went on at the start of the lap, the four lead riders came back together at Pit 1. They stayed that way up to the top of the orchard and back down the second descent.
The group got its first shake-up when Carter got caught in the course tape near Pit 2 and went down. His spot of bother reduced the leaders to Strohmeyer, Sheffield and Scott. Meanwhile, Ian McDonald (Cycle-Smart) moved up to 4th, chasing 12 seconds.
"It was still a big group at the start and we were all staying together. People were trying to go but it would all come back," Strohmeyer said.
Entering the third lap, the three leaders continued to change positions. The three hit the second run-up together while Carter broke into fourth place by himself.
Up top in the orchard, Strohmeyer made his bid to control the front. Then, as he led the lead trio into the second descent chute, the race's key moment occurred.
Strohmeyer cleared the slick descent first, but behind him, Sheffield slipped out and crashed. As Scott maneuvered around the fallen rider, Strohmeyer went on the attack. He quickly opened up a 6-second gap. Scott took up the chase, while Sheffield dropped back with his teammate Gallego.
"I made a move with two to go on the second descent. I was able to get a gap coming off of there. I knew I had to make it stick because that was the move," Strohmeyer said. "I looked back and saw a gap and I decided to go and not look back."
At the end of that chaotic third lap, Strohmeyer led Scott by 8 seconds. Sheffield and Gallego chased 18 seconds behind the leader at the bell.
With a lead in hand, Strohmeyer dialed his last trip around the Fort Steilacoom circuit. He stayed clean to take home the Stars-and-Stripes and wrap up the Nationals and Pan-Ams sweep.
"I knew I had people chasing behind that are super strong so I just had to keep focused and get it done," Strohmeyer said. "It was really slippery. It suited me, I like riding in the mud. Its a really tough course, there’s not any recovery you just have to go hard the whole time."
Scott finished strong to take second, and Sheffield won the battle of teammates to finish third.
Gallego and Carter rounded out the wide-angle podium.
For more from the Junior Men's race, see the interview, photo gallery and results below.
Andrew Strohmeyer: Junior Men Winner Interview