Heading into Thursday's Collegiate Club Men's race, Eric Brunner, Jack Tanner and the other Colorado Buffaloes faced a tough task. Riders from Colorado-Boulder had won the last three Collegiate Club National Championships, with Maxx Chance winning in Hartford, Brunner in Reno and Grant Ellwood in Louisville.
After heavy overnight rains, Brunner proved up to the task on the slick, challenging Lakewood Nationals course. He took the lead after the first run-up and stampeded into the second half of the first lap. No one could match his pace early on, and one lap in, Brunner's lead was already up near 20 seconds.
From there, Brunner did not look back, ultimately winning the race by over 2 minutes. In the process, he got some openers in for his final U23 Men's race coming up on Sunday and scored a fourth-straight Collegiate Club National Championship for one of the top club programs in the country.
"We've got a bunch of good guys, and it's always good to keep it in the family. I have teammates I can count on," Brunner said about his win.
The Brunner Stampede
The first of Thursday's seven championship races kicked off with Iowa Hawkeye Seamus O'Connor-Walker taking the holeshot.
Soon after the start straight, the race took an unfortunate turn when Ross Ellwood (University of Colorado - Boulder) hit a small hole and crashed hard to the ground. A number of riders, including Sam Noel (University of Vermont) got caught behind the crash and Ellwood left the race injured.
Brunner took over the lead spot at the run-up and quickly exploded off the front of the pack. When he descended the first chute, his lead was already pushing 10 seconds.
"It's such a hard course, it just broke up and I went with it," Brunner said about his fast move.
Behind Brunner, teammate Jack Tanner slotted into second, and Calder Wood (Cal Tech San Luis Obispo) and O'Connor-Walker chased behind him. One lap in, Brunner already led Tanner by 30 seconds. Andrew Borden (Castleton University) sat another 8 seconds back.
After the first lap, the rest of the five-lap race was a Brunner coronation. He stayed on the gas and extended his lead each lap before winning by over 2 minutes. Next up for him is Sunday's U23 Men's race, where he will be going for a win after finishing 2nd in Reno and 3rd in Louisville.
"My focus has always been the U23 race, but this year, I've just been playing with riding a little bit harder in the days leading up to races and tapering less," Brunner said. "I think it helps me feel better. This was a priority, but it also helped me prepare for the U23 race."
Behind Brunner, the action was the fight for second. At the end of Lap 2, the chase became Tanner, Wood and Borden. Borden was the first rider to pop off the pace in Lap 3, and then in the first half of Lap 4, Wood got a small gap on Tanner.
Wood held the advantage to take silver, and Tanner finished third.
Noel had one of the most impressive rides of the day, roaring all the way back to finish fifth. Borden helped round out the wide-angle podium.
For more from the race, see the winner interview, photo gallery and results below.
Visit our dedicated 2019 USA Cycling Cyclocross Nationals page for all of our 2019 National Championships coverage.
You can purchase our race photos from our nightly galleries at cyclocross.zenfolio.com and help support our event coverage.
Eric Brunner: Collegiate Club Men Winner Interview