Jake Wells has been on a roll since kicking off his Masters racing career at Reno Nationals at the beginning of 2018. During the last 23 months, he has won 5-straight National Championships—3 Masters and 2 Singlespeed.
To keep his perfect streak going, Wells faced probably his toughest challenge yet in the Men's Singlespeed race at Lakewood Nationals. Opposing him were an on-form Ben Frederick (ORNOT) and a hard-charging Anthony Clark (Squid x Eliel), who has largely taken this cyclocross season off but was still showing some SickWhats from the start on Saturday.
The 154-rider strong Singlespeed Men's race kicked off with Frederick taking the holeshot and continuing his surge up the first run-up. He continued to set a blistering pace after the first descent, forcing the other contenders to join in or get left behind.
At the second run-up, Frederick led Wells by 5 seconds, while Justin Robinson (Santa Cruz Free Agent), Andrew Loaiza (Mettle Cycling) and Jeremy Russell (River City Bicycles / Bike Law) helped lead the chase.
When the 1st of 5 laps wrapped, Frederick and Wells were off the front, and Loaiza sat 11 seconds back. A group of six chased behind him.
One lap in, Clark was not part of the conversation yet. Not because he got off to a slow start but because with a low ranking score, he gridded on the 13th row. That changed by the end of the second lap, with Clark powering forward to third after just two laps. He was chasing 29 seconds.
Frederick and Wells stayed together through Lap 2, but at the end, Frederick really pushed the pace. He crossed the finish with a few bike lengths on Wells and then extended his lead on the long drag to the first run-up.
The pace proved too much for Wells, and Frederick opened up a 9-second advantage on Wells dropping back down to the flat part of the course. Frederick held that advantage on the run-up and second descent, but at the end of the lap, Wells was back to within 4 seconds. Clark sat 28 seconds in arrears.
Unbeknownst to the large crowd gathered for Saturday's final race, Frederick was having issues getting his cleat clipped in at this point in the race. If there was a cleat there at all.
"I spent a whole lap just trying to get clipped in," Frederick said. "When I crossed the start/finish line with two to go, I reached down and there was no cleat in the shoe at all. It’s not like it even twisted."
Even with no cleat, Frederick kept his lead up the first run-up and down the chute descent. He kept his advantage until the second run-up, when Wells ran passed him and pushed the pace on the climb up to the top of the orchard. In that section, Frederick's inability to pull up with his right leg proved too much, and Wells opened up a big lead.
At the end of the penultimate lap, Wells led Clark by 19 seconds, while Frederick chased another 20 seconds behind.
The question now was is the hard-charging Clark had some SickWatts left to bridge up to Wells. Clark's effort from near the back proved too much, and Wells held on to take the win.
Clark wrapped up an impressive second-place ride, and Frederick finished the last lap with a new shoe after his "all-star pit queen" ran to the team car to get a new right shoe.
"Anthony came through and was like, "Come on, keep fighting," and I know that Jake was a class act. When we were racing together, in the beginning, it was pretty cool. He’s been a really great guy for me, just being really encouraging in the background. He’s definitely a worthy champion for sure," Frederick said.
Stephan Davoust (Giant Factory Off-Road Team) finished fourth and Andrew Coe (PDX TI p/b Elevator Coffee) completed the wide-angle podium.
For more from the Singlespeed Men's race, see the photo gallery and results below.
Photo Gallery: Singlespeed Men, 2019 Lakewood Cyclocross Nationals