After a day of close races on Wednesday at Lakewood Nationals, 2 men in the Masters 55-59 Men's race decided to do their part to continue the part. Fast starter Andy August (Park Avenue Bike p/b Borah Teamwear) and Todd Cassan (Rally Sport) broke from a group in the first lap and settled in for a two-man battle one lap into Thursday's four-lap race.
For the next two laps, the two riders traded turns and worked together to extend their lead on the chasers. They crossed the finish line together at the bell, preparing to start racing one last lap for the chance to wear the Stars-and-Stripes for the next year.
In a close battle, it can often be one dab, one slip that makes the difference between winning and losing. If the battle between August and Cassan was not going to come down to a sprint, it might very well be one of those moments that would make the difference.
Cassan led down the first chute descent— a rutted descent that was eroding more and more with each passing rider—in the bell lap. Following Cassan, August slipped out at the bottom and fell to the ground.
The mistake gave Cassan the race's first real advantage. He pressed his advantage and turned the opportunity into what would prove to be a decisive gap. Cassan kept things clean the rest of the way to capture the Stars-and-Stripes on the slick and challenging afternoon of racing.
"He was right there the whole time. I would get him on the uphill and he would beat me on the downhill, so I knew I didn’t want to be with him at the end. When he bobbled I went," Cassan said.
Two for the Title
New York's Andy August traveled across the country for Lakewood Nationals, and when the light turned green for the Masters Men 55-59 race, he did his part to stretch his legs after the journey. August grabbed the holeshot and stayed on the attack up the first run-up.
His aggression helped draw out a group of five leaders at the second run-up. The group included August, Todd Cassan, Gannon Myall (Canyon / Cal Giant / Enduro), defending champ Craig Undem (RAD p/b Cycle U) and Doug Graver (Ridge Cyclesport).
August and Cassan hit the run-up first, and they used the long climb to the top of the orchard section and ensuing descent to get a gap on the others in the group. A few bike lengths at the bottom of the second chute became a solid 5 seconds at the end of Lap 1.
Throughout the second lap, the duo extended their lead, and the chase took shape. The three chasers became Gunnar Shogren (Pathfinder Factory Racing), Myall and Emilio Cervantes (949 Racing).
With the course becoming increasingly slick due to overnight rains and on-and-off Thursday precipitation and the descents rutting out with each passing rider, riders were racing the course as much as each other. Instead of playing games, August and Cassan pressed forward, and in the process, extended their lead to 22 seconds at the bell.
The stage was set for an epic last-lap battle with the Stars-and-Stripes jersey on the line.
Cassan pushed the pace early in the bell lap and took the lead at the top of the first run-up. Then at the first chute descent, the race's decisive moment occurred.
Cassan went down the slick, rutted feature first and cleared it. Behind him, August slipped out at the bottom and went to the ground. In a race where advantages had been measured in wheel widths, Cassan now had a big gap.
"I didn't really attack when he bobbled, I just kept going," Cassan said. "I don’t know where it was, but he was behind me when he bobbled."
Attack or not, Cassan's advantage was up over 10 seconds at the second run-up. Armed with the motivation of chasing the Stars-and-Stripes jersey, Cassan completed a strong last lap to take the win.
"It's an epic course. I had a great coach, I have great guys around me. Everybody’s skills were put to the test today," Cassan said.
Although August had a good gap on third when he crashed, he was not guaranteed silver by any stretch. Cervantes and Shogren visibly closed the gap to second, and August ultimately went on to take second by a narrow 4 seconds.
Cervantes captured third and Shogren fourth. Graver rounded out the wide-angle podium.
For more from the Masters Men 55-59 race, see the winner interview, photo gallery and results below.
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Todd Curran: Masters 55-59 Men Winner Interview