USA Cyclo-cross National Championships - CN

Baltimore, USA, December 14-15, 2001

2000 Results    Results    Past winners



Johnson, Gullickson prepare for fight

Marc Gullickson and Tim Johnson are two of America's top cyclocrossers, whose brutal battles have elevated this nation's "mudders" to international calibre. Great friends off the bike, both riders have retreated to their respective corners - Johnson to New England and Gullickson to Colorado - to tune up for a smashing battle in Baltimore on December 15-16.

As racers they are completely different; Johnson is the perfect tactician. Rarely falling, fast with dismounts, capable of picking apart opponents on the barriers and obstacles into and out of which he is dazzling.

Gullickson has been referred to as the "Jake Lamotta of 'cross"; he is known for falling, getting up, and battering opponents with his locomotive force. A converted mountain bike racer, Gullickson learned the sport the hard way in Colorado racing mostly against other mountain bikers.

Until 1999, both riders were routinely beaten by Team Saturn's Mark McCormack, Frank McCormack and Bart Bowen, who laughingly rode to the national and SuperCup titles from 1996 to 1998. In 1999, however, Gullickson showed remarkable improvement, especially with his start.

"In cyclocross the first lap is half the race," said Gullickson, 31, who duelled with Bowen that season. He won his first SuperCup in Boulder and won again in Portland. He then roared away from the three Saturn stars to claim victory at the 1999 nationals at San Francisco's Presidio. The next day he lost the SuperCup series on the last lap to Bowen.

Then a promising young amateur, Johnson opened the '99 season in the U.S. but spent the bulk of the season in Europe, returning for the nationals. He won the Under-23 (espoir) title and rode brilliantly in the SuperCup finals, finishing third. Gully and Johnson were a sort of rebel alliance against the Saturn juggernaut. They had fought them to the line and drawn blood.

"That was when Gully held off all three Saturn riders and me by himself. It broke the stranglehold...Racing to a prescribed finish isn't good for anybody," said Johnson.

In 2000, the curtain came up with the spotlights shining on Johnson and Gullickson. The Colorado star had a pro contract with Mongoose/Hyundai, finishing the mountain bike season as a top American. Johnson got a pro contract with Saturn, becoming a teammate of his New England rival, Mark McCormack and joining the empire.

In each SuperCup Gully and Johnson duelled brilliantly. Gullickson opened with a win in Boulder. In Gloucester, Mass., McCormack took the day and Gully and Johnson sprinted to a photo finish for second. In Chicago, Johnson scored his first SuperCup win over Gullickson.

Then came Kansas, held in Arctic conditions. Racing in 40-degrees-below zero conditions, Johnson used a last lap assault and soft tire pressure to score the nationals victory over Gullickson. The next day, in relatively balmy 20-degree conditions, both men duelled to the line, leaving Dale Knapp (Kona/Voicestream), Jonathan Page (Richard Sachs) and McCormack in their frozen wake. Gullickson powered to the win in the closing meters to score the SuperCup title.

The 2001 season opened with three unique factors: first, the SuperCup opened in Gloucester with World Champion Erwin Vervecken of Belgium on the start line; second, Gullickson had a bona fide teammate in Todd Wells (Mongoose/Hyundai); and third, new UCI races had sprung on to the calendar nationwide offering crucial international points and new venues for these racers to compete.

Vervecken crushed all in the SuperCup opener, with Johnson second and Gullickson third. In Chicago Sundt, Knapp, Candelario and Wells went to the line with the two favourites. More important there, however, was that Johnson raced without Team Saturn support. Gullickson's new teammate, Todd Wells delivered a last lap attack that set up Gullickson for the winning counter-attack. In short, Team Saturn's dominance could be challenged by Mongoose/Hyundai and Kona/Voicestream.

So into Baltimore goes Johnson and Gullickson, with Gullickson in the SuperCup leader's jersey by just two points over Johnson, the national title up for grabs, a handful of wild cards in the deck, and three dominant teams set to do battle.

No person has ever won both the SuperCup series title and the nationals in the same year. "I can guarantee it's going to be a good race," said Johnson. "Whoever beats the hell out of each other most will get the jersey."

Course Preview

The course in Baltimore's Patterson Park has been designed by Tom Stevens, and is being touted by the organisers as "possibly his greatest course ever."

"The whole thing is uphill," said John Pavlat, a SuperCup staff member who walked the course with Stevens. "It's brutal."

The course features pavement, turf, bricks, concrete stairs, dirt and a wild assortment of gullies, steep cambers and grass that has grown on top of brick sidewalks. It's estimated that the elite riders will take around seven minutes to complete each lap, with most of the time being spent on the hillside. The downhill section is punctuated with returns up the grade and technical twists that all but eliminate a chance to rest.

One of the features is a grass camber of 200 meters that is steeper than most velodromes. There are five forced dismounts on the nationals course, ranging from run-ups to barriers to a staircase.

"This is a great course for the slow-twitch riders like Marc Gullickson (Mongoose/Hyundai) and Dale Knapp (Kona/Voicestream)," said announcer Richard Fries. "But when it's fast and tricky, watch for Saturn's Tim Johnson and Mark McCormack to pounce. You can start from 50 back on this course and make it to the front; if you're strong this course is for you."

Promoter Lyle Fulkerson added that the crowd would "will see just about everything. And lots of that, from the start-finish area, is up close action."

The course will be rebuilt after Saturday for Sunday's SuperCup. That course has fewer forced dismounts, but several other berms and cambers to challenge riders.

Past winners

Elite Women
2000 Alison Dunlap (Team GT)
Elite Men
2000 Tim Johnson (Saturn)