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USGP of Cyclocross #5 - Portland Cup - C1
Portland, Oregon, USA, December 6, 2008
Race 2 - December 6: Juniors
McDonald wins under sunny skies
By Laura Weislo in Portland, Oregon
Zach McDonald scored an impressive victory in the UCI Junior men's race in the US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross Portland Cup on Saturday. The Seattle-area native didn't need the normal cold and wet conditions in which he excels to take the win ahead of the Hot Tubes duo of Nathan Brown and Gavin Mannion.
Brilliant blue skies and bright sunshine greeted the riders for an important contest which not only provided rare junior UCI points but is also one of four races which will determine the US team for the world championships in Hoogerheide, The Netherlands in January. With this and the USGP series on the line, McDonald (Classic Cycles) didn't waste any time getting to the front.
The race got off to a fast start thanks to a long, paved straightaway, but once racers turned into the muddy moto-cross track a select group formed quickly. McDonald held the lead he took from the gun through the muddy berms with Mannion, Robin Eckmann (Team 5280) and Andrer Barker (Clif Bar) and Brown in tow.
McDonald maintained a high position while the other riders began to suffer from mishaps on the slick, wet grassy turns. "We were just kind of hanging at the front, setting a decent pace. I was just waiting for people to make mistakes - not really attacking, but when they would make a mistake put in a little acceleration and try to pop them one by one," McDonald told Cyclingnews.
The lead group narrowed down to Emsky, Brown and McDonald until the latter made his move with three laps to go. "I ended up gapping them through the mud section and just tried to hold it from there."
Building up a lead of 20 seconds, McDonald's win seemed secure until a few last-lap mistakes caused him to worry a bit. "I slid out in one of the hairpins, and I know Gavin and Nate are really strong on the road, so it was a little more pressure than I wanted to be under at the end, but it worked out."
That Mannion took third place was perhaps the most unexpected result of the race. The Massachusetts native was one of the first to suffer from a crash, and spent the majority of the race chasing, only fighting his way back up into the podium position on the final lap.
"I had a few crashes - people crashed in front of me on the road and I had a little bit of bad luck. I wasted a lot of energy chasing," explained Mannion.
Little mistakes proved to be major factors on the fast, mainly flat course. Washington native Eric Emsky made it as far as second position, but vanished from contention on the penultimate lap, while Clif Bar's Andrew Barker worked his way into third position only to be overhauled by a charging Mannion in the finale. Brown, riding consistently throughout the race, chased in second position for the final two laps, but could not make up ground on McDonald.
With the US national championships only a week away, the win here and a double victory in the Mercer Cup in November, McDonald is looking to improve upon last year's second place to Luke Keough, who sat out the Portland Cup, but choosing to race less than a week before the championships could turn out to be a bit of a gamble.
"Luke's taking the weekend off so he'll be nice and rested, and especially after New Jersey he'll be wanting to win pretty bad. Hopefully it rains and turns really muddy because I like that a lot better. We'll see what happens."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Mitch Clinton/www.clintonphoto.com
1 Zach McDonald (USA) Classic Cycles 2 Nathan Brown (USA) Hot Tubes Development Team Inc. 3 Gavin Mannion (USA) Hot Tubes Development Cycling Team Inc. 4 Andrew Barker (USA) CLIF BAR Development Cyclo-Cross Team 5 Eric Emsky (USA) Rad Racing NW 6 Cody Kaiser (USA) California Giant Strawberries 7 Robin Eckmann (USA) Team 5280 Magazine 8 Cody Cox (USA) CLIF BAR Development Cyclo-Cross Team 9 Ian Terry (USA) Rad Racing NW 10 Benjamin Swedberg (USA) Rad Racing NW 11 Connor Oleary (USA) FFKR Architects/SportsBaseOnline.com 12 Morgan Ryan (USA) Team CICLE 13 Gabe Watson-Norris (USA) Rad Racing Hagens Berman LLC 14 Madison Chilenski (USA) Team Oregon 15 Colton Swearingen (USA) Mt View Cycles 16 Jeff Hopkins (USA) Willamette Valley Cyclery 17 Taylor Stewart (USA) Bicycle Trip Santa Cruz 18 Kevin Strawn (USA) W.A.R. 19 Dylan Macdonald (USA) bike trip santa cruz 20 Kyle Vanderstoep (USA) Bike Trip 21 Robby Milazzo (USA) Bicycle Trip 22 Joshua Kaneg (USA) Bicycle Trip DNF Cole Cutright (USA) Oh Boy Oberto/Redline DNF Chris Wallace (USA) KCCX/VERGE DNF Luke Keough (USA) CL Noonan/Coast to Coast/KAM DNF Ryan Miller (USA) Fred Meyer/Lakeside DNF Danny Hiller (USA) Team 5280 Magazine