The Junior Men 11-12 racers might have been among the youngest Championship racers at Lakewood Nationals this week, but does not mean their race was any less exciting. On another damp morning at Fort Steilacoom Park, a thrilling battle broke out between two young riders look to capture a Stars-and-Stripes jersey.
Saturday's Junior Men 11-12 race started with Rowan Child (Dogfish Racing) and Tomas McIntosh (Kiel Reijnen All-Stars) leading the field down the long start straight. The field quickly strung out as the riders wound their way toward the steep run-up the Masters racers had been contending with all week.
When the front of the field reached that feature, it was Child, Bjorn Blankenship (Cascadia Junior Cycling) and Isaiah Culbreath (Oklahoma Flyers) at the front. The lead trio stayed together down the following drop, and then on the flat section before the sand pit, Kian Reid (Gillespie Devo Racing) bridged to make it a group of four.
From the sand pit to the end of the first lap, Reid and Child broke off the front, and the duo carried an 8-second lead on Culbreath and Blankenship into the second lap of the three-lap race. In the first part of the second lap, Blankenship then broke into solo third.
During the second lap, Reid and Child battled back and forth, trading attacks and counters. For every move one rider made, the other jumped out of the saddle and countered. The result was the two young riders entering the final lap together. Blankenship sat 23 seconds back.
Child described the motivation both riders were feeling in the tight battle. "It’s just the sense that, you’re so close to a national championship. I don’t want to get second."
Reid took the lead early in the final lap, and he then led through the first twisty section added for Saturday's race. On a straight leading toward Pit 1, Child again made a move. As he accelerated toward a right-hand turn, he grabbed the inside position. Reid lost traction and slipped out.
"I was like “ Go! Go! Go! Can’t look back!" Child said.
After an entire race of tight racing, Child had gone free with a sizeable gap. He was not out of the clear, however. He still had to run up the steep run-up and drop down the slick, rutted descent chute.
Child aced the descent and came out of it with a 9-second lead on Reid. He kept things upright the rest of the way to take the win and the National Championship.
"It took everything, with these conditions. I’m still surprised I won.," Child said after the race. "It was all battling. I'd say he’s a little bit faster, but he made one mistake and that was it for him."
Reid finished close behind to take the silver. Blankenship took third. McIntosh and Porter Melvin (The Cycling House) rounded out the wide-angle podium.
For more from the Junior Men 11-12 race, see the winner interview, photo gallery and results below.
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Rowan Child: Junior Men 11-12 Winner Interview