According to Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld), Saturday’s Rochester Cyclocross race was “the first day of school.”

Although the two-time defending national champion did not have new clothes to show off, he did get to reunite with a talented field of athletes looking to show their offseason improvement and take a win over the best male rider in U.S. ’cross the past two seasons.

If Hyde and the others did their homework, they knew that the course at Genesee Valley Park has produced several sprint finishes during its two years at the venue. With Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano) on fire at the start of the season and several other strong riders in the field, it would be fair to expect another down-to-the-wire finish.

Midway through Saturday’s C1, the lead group was Hyde, Werner, Gage Hecht (Alpha Bicycle – Groove Subaru) and Lance Haidet (Donnelly Sports). With a chase group that included Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz – Donkey Label Racing) and Jeremy Powers (Pactimo – Fuji – SRAM) dangling nearby, it appeared another thrilling finish might be in order.

In Lap 5 of 9, Hyde turned up the wattage and launched an attack coming out of the woods in the southeast corner of the course. No one came with him, so he decided to stay on the gas. Although Werner would eventually give chase, Hyde’s mid-race flier proved decisive.

“In year’s past it’s a been a sprint here,” Hyde said. “I was kind of anticipating that. I didn’t necessarily think I was going to go with five to go, but I was kinda testing the waters and it felt good.”

Hyde’s report card on the first day of his second national title defense: a solid A.

Stephen Hyde celebrates his win. 2018 Rochester Cyclocross Day 1. © Bruce Buckley

Stephen Hyde celebrates his win. 2018 Rochester Cyclocross Day 1. © Bruce Buckley

Turning Up the Speed Upstate

Just like the Women’s race earlier in the afternoon, the Men’s race started fast. Werner took the holeshot and then Hyde and Werner took turns pushing the pace at the front.

Midway through the first lap, their efforts had already broken the front of the race apart. The lead group was Hyde, Werner, Hecht and Haidet. Chasing them were Powers, Ortenblad and Spencer Petrov (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld).

“It was faster from the get-go than I think we all had imagined,” Ortenblad said about the start of the race. “There was a group of four, then Powers and I were chasing, Powers was doing the work.”

The next three laps were really all about whether the Powers/Ortenblad/Petrov (and then Jack Kisseberth (Garneau-Easton p/b Transitions LifeCare) group would catch the leaders or if the lead group of four would prove to be the selection. Hyde et al. certainly had their work cut out for them given the amount of firepower sitting just 5-10 seconds behind them.

The second lap, it was the young riders driving the pace in the lead group, with Hecht and Haidet trading pulls at the front. At the start of Lap 3, Powers was perilously close to leading his contingent back to the front, so Hyde went to the front and laid down the hammer in an effort to keep the lead group from swelling.

“Those guys were there and they were driving really well on the second lap,” Hyde said. “So now, I need to take charge of this group and see if I can whittle it down. And see if I can make sure that we don’t get that second diesel group riding back to us and having to deal with that. So I hit it.”

Hyde’s hard work was successful in keeping a small but measurable gap between the lead group and the chasers, who were down to three after four laps due to a Petrov crash.

Hyde Tests the Waters

Midway through the race, Hyde decided to shake things up in the lead group. After exiting the wooded, technical section, Hyde attacked the others. After the race, he said the attack was more of a flier, just to see what would happen.

What happened was Hyde got a several-second gap on the other three riders. Since no one followed him, he did what one often does with a gap: he attacked. When the dust settled, he had almost 10 seconds on the three chasers. Behind them, Ortenblad broke free of Powers and took up a solo chase to move into podium contention.

A lap after Hyde’s attack, Hecht and Werner nearly snuffed it out and came back to make it a group of three. However, they were unable to make contact, and during the next half lap, Werner gained time on Hecht and moved into a solo second position.

Ortenblad continued to work his way forward, and when the riders got the bell, it was Hyde on his way to a solo win with Werner chasing him while trying his darndest to hold off Ortenblad, Hecht and Kisseberth. Needless to say, it was probably the longest 7-8 minutes in recent memory for Werner.

Hyde skated untouched through the bell lap. He aced his first exam of the season and came away with a relatively comfortable win—at least compared to last year—to start his 2018/19 season.

“My legs felt good and I kept looking at the lap counter,” Hyde said about his time off the front solo. “I was thinking maybe I don’t want to do this for five laps, maybe one of them would ride back up to me. They kind of started coming back up. I hit it again and just kept the pressure going. They weren’t able to ride up to me.”

Werner’s second, however, would not come as easy as Hyde’s win. Ortenblad and Hecht seemed to close their gap early in the bell lap, but Werner used his technical prowess to gain time via the technical features and open up a more comfortable margin he could ride to a second-place finish.

Ortenblad and Kisseberth went down to the wire, with Ortenblad grabbing the third podium spot in a sprint finish.

“I just tried to ride forward most of the day, pick guys off one at a time,” Ortenblad said about his afternoon. “I was able to do that for sure, but I like to think that maybe if I was in that front group I could have made a move, gone with Hyde.”

Men's podium: Stephen Hyde, Kerry Werner and Tobin Ortenblad. 2018 Rochester Cyclocross Day 1. © Bruce Buckley

Men’s podium: Stephen Hyde, Kerry Werner and Tobin Ortenblad. 2018 Rochester Cyclocross Day 1. © Bruce Buckley

Full results from the race are below.

The Rochester Cyclocross weekend wraps up on Sunday with the Men’s race at 3:55 p.m. EDT.

Men's Results: 2018 Rochester Cyclocross Day 1

RankBIBLast NameFirst NameCountryResult
149VAN TICHELTYorbenBEL1:06:08
2017ST JOHNDerrickCAN1:08:43
2840SUNDQUISTChristianUSA1 Laps
2931TOUGASEdouardCAN2 Laps
3122RICCIChristianCAN2 Laps
3232LONEYCalvinCAN2 Laps
3336MANCINIPeterCAN2 Laps
3430GUNSALUSGregoryUSA4 Laps
3539CARLSONErikUSA5 Laps