The second race slot of the early afternoon was a triple feature, with the Masters Men 70-74, 75-79 and 85+ fields taking the course at once.
Ruger Runs to Masters 70-74 Title
The first group to start kicked off the triple feature with plenty of early action. Robert Ogren (The Fix Studio) was the early animator, opening up a sizeable gap by the time the field reached the off-camber and limestone steps for the first time.
Chasing behind him were John Elgart (Sacramento Golden Wheelmen) and John Ruger.
Ruger weathered Ogren's hot start and then took over the lead in the bowl. When the front group exited the last climb, Ruger was in first with the other two chasing.
Ogren, however, was not about to let Ruger get away. The Minnesotan closed Ruger's gap in the first part of Lap 2 and hit the stairs wheel-to-wheel with Ruger. Ogren ran into trouble in the bowl, and when the dust settled from Lap 2, Ruger had a lead of nearly a minute on Elgart, who in turn led Ogren by about 10 seconds.
The only hiccup the rest of the way for Ruger was a brief pit stop before the off-camber in the last lap to clear the mud from his tires and brakes. He was able to get clear and ride clean the rest of the way to take the win.
"I think the mud was tricky," Ruger said. "If you got good lines in the mud it made a huge difference. I got lucky on the lines, I figured them out early. I'm very happy with the ride."
Elgart took second and Ogren bounced back to take third.
Full results are below.
McKeithan Wins One for the Generations in Masters 75-79
For Paul McKeithan (Evolution Jr. Development), racing runs in the family. He started racing in 2015, inspired by his granddaughter and fellow National Champion Alison McKeithan who won her title in 2014.
“It made me want to do it more,” he said of his first racing experience. “My son got me to ride on the road, then I rode a mountain bike around a cyclocross course, and I liked that. I got a cyclocross bike and that’s where it started for me.”
Despite their titles coming with a 66-year disparity in age, the two often train together. The elder McKeithan trains exclusively off-road three times a week in a hilly park with his granddaughter, who is now 13 years old.
McKeithan competed in two previous National Championships, riding to 6th place in both Asheville and Hartford. He came to Louisville with the goal of a podium following a year away from racing. “I had some shoulder surgery so I didn’t get to race last year. I started back this year, things are going good,” he told Cyclocross Magazine.
Fresh from his victory, McKeithan still wasn’t used to joining his granddaughter as National Champion. “It hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said.
The course in Louisville may have contributed to his disbelief. “It’s a great course, but for me, it’s very tiring. I’m just blessed I made it through it.”
Early in the race, McKeithan battled for position in a group of three. “The first lap was great, we had a good time riding it.” Eventually, it was down to McKeithan and Loren Russell when he made his move. “I think that little cut through the trees. I think I got around him there.”
McKeithan offered advice to younger racers seeking to continue riding later into life, “Don’t ever stop, keep going all the time.” Additionally, McKeithan acknowledged that in addition to the mud already present, later in the week weather will be a factor. When asked about equipment choice he advised that those racing this weekend "bring everything, in the rain.”
Schmid Golden Again in 85+
Fred Schmid is a mainstay of USAC Cyclocross Nationals. He has won multiple Masters titles outlasting both the competition and Father Time.
Schmid rode to his third consecutive national title at a racing age of 86 on Wednesday in Louisville.
Schmid is a latecomer to cycling, having started riding mountain bikes at age 61, where he has won two National Cross Country titles. He began racing cyclocross in 2012 after seeing cyclocross on television.
In Louisville Schmid faced changing conditions. “I’d ridden the course on Monday, and it was reasonable,” he told Cyclocross Magazine. “I could ride most of the stuff. But today, it was slick.”
“I thought it was going to be rideable, particularly with the weather today, I thought it was going to warm up and we’d have a little wind, a little sun. I thought the wind might dry it out.”
Faced with the unexpected Schmid did what he could to survive. “I just had to pick the bike up and push it, carry it, whatever.” With much of the course covered in icy mud, traction was at a premium which left riders running almost as much as riding. “I would say 40% was pushing,” he said.
In the end, Schmid was succinct about his Louisville race, "It was hard."
Results and photos are below.
Brandon Grant and Zachary Schuster contributed to this story.
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