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USGP of Cyclocross #3 - Mercer Cup - C1

West Windsor, New Jersey, USA, November 15, 2008

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Race 4 - November 15: Elite Men

Johnson takes Cup and series lead

By Kirsten Robbins

Tim Johnson (Cyclocrossworld.com) takes the win
Photo ©: Dave McElwaine
(Click for larger image)

Tim Johnson (Cyclocrossworld.com) proved to be the fastest man in America - when it comes to racing his bike through muddy cyclo-cross conditions - at the third USGP round in New Jersey. The reigning US National Champion soloed in to a very sizeable Mercer Cup victory ahead of two-time US Olympian Todd Wells (GT) and 2008 USGP winner Ryan Trebon (KONA).

"A huge thanks to Stu [Thorne] and our volunteers in the pit because I was able to change bikes every half a lap, twice a lap," said Johnson who had three spare bikes lined up in the pits ready to go. "I needed to ride as fast as I could without making mistakes today. I had 22 psi [in my tyres] and having the extra bikes was huge. If I can save five seconds a lap because I have a clean bike with the right tyres and pressure, than I gain 30 seconds over six laps."

Johnson started round three of the USGP of Cyclocross just seven points behind Jesse Anthony (Jamis) in the standings. His winnings today moved him into the lead with 120 points, 14 points ahead of Anthony (106) and 22 points ahead of Jeremy Powers (98).

"Jesse is riding very well and he gets better as the season goes on," said Johnson. "Even if he had a not-so-good finish, he was still a very fitting leader going into today. He's always had good success in mud riding. I've been in this position before - second overall - five times in the USGP. I'm not even going to consider myself riding in the leader's jersey tomorrow. I just want to go out there and ride my bike."

After heavy rain had poured onto the Mercer County Park for the second weekend of USGP racing, the sun broke just in time for the start, although as predicted, the rain had softened the grounds. As each category raced prior to the elite men, the the mud level rose and thickened on the three-kilometre circuit. These desirable cyclo-cross conditions forced the riders to run through much of the course and over many of it's Belgian-style features.

The circuit crosses back and forth, utilising the full dimensions of the park. Anthony saw the rare opportunity to take the hole shot from the fast pavement onto the grass, with with Matt White (BikeReg.com) in tow. But before long, Anthony found himself alone, off the front, a beaming white USGP leader's skinsuit guiding the way for the rest of the field.

Series leader heading into the race,
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

"Yeah that was my ten seconds of fame," said Anthony who place second in round one and two in the Derby City Cup in Louisville. "I had planned on riding conservatively at the start but the hole shot presented itself and I figured that I might as well get it. It was better to stay out of trouble, pick my own lines. With this kind of mud, if you're with four of five guys and they mess up in front of you, chances are you go down, too. To be honest, I didn't feel all that great today."

Behind Anthony, an improving group of front row riders snaked their way around the circuit from one side of the park to the other trying make the valuable time back to the escapee. The rain had hardened the sand pits, a section of terrain that is normally a test of strength and skill, turning it into the 'easiest' part of the race, where riders could take a deep breath.

Johnson was the only rider to later respond to Anthony's quick start, catching him after the built up fly over and wooded trails. Known for his talent through the mud, Johnson ran much of the deep muck while finding the correct lines to quickly pass through the lighter batter. "I was either hoping for a terrential downpour or for it to be stick like this to make it nastier and more difficult," said Johnson. "It means that if you can do it without making a mistake you can gain a few extra seconds on everyone else."

Anthony's early efforts began to show as he drifted back to fifth place in the second lap. Chase riders Trebon, Wells, Powers along with Andy Jacques-Maynes (Specialized) and U23 winner Nicholas Weighall (Rad racing) clawed their way back into the fight with one another. However, Johnson's flawless riding style through the sludge gave him an additional ten-second margin for each lap. The chase group dwindled, with Jacques-Maynes pulling out of the mud pit and Power and Weighall falling off the pace. The battle for second place between Trebon and Wells arose as the pair spent the rest of the race together, swapping places on the sections that better suited each other's abilities.

Todd Wells had a pretty good race
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

"I tend to do well in the mud but I actually like it better when it's less boggy, " said Wells. "I was riding a lot of the sections that Trebon was running. It may have been faster to run but when it came time to get back on his bike I always had a little more energy." Wells gained the advantage he needed ahead Trebon on the last lap. According the the runner up, it had much to do with almost blindly choosing the correct line.

"He would gap me on the up hill sections getting a small gap from running," said Wells. "I would gain the time back on the riding sections and even put a little time into him. There are so many different lines that sometimes you can take a bad line, lose speed, waste energy and not go anywhere. I think I just picked a couple good lines and I was able to ride faster through some of the sections of the last lap."

An indication of how thick the mud was came when the last lap bell rang after only four laps were completed. With Johnson gaining a substantial lead it was clear, barring serious mechanicals, he would be the race winner. "Both of the false flat uphills out of the pits were really hard," said Johnson. "It was the kind of hill that made you think, 'Is it better to run or to ride?'. I wound up shuffling through it. One of the things I've learned is that if you really can't ride it than you should get off an run. It's okay if you get on and off the bike three times in the same straight away, as long as you can pick up some speed when you are on the bike."

The elite men's racing will return to the Mercer Country Park for round four of the USGP on Sunday, with predicted evening thunder storms ensuring the course is as technically demanding as it was in round three.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Mitch Clinton/www.clintonphoto.com

Images by Todd Leister/leisterimages.com

Images by Dave McElwaine/www.trailwatch.net


1 Tim Johnson (Cyclocrossworld/Cannondale)                         
2 Todd Wells (Team GT)                                             
3 Ryan Trebon (Kona)                                               
4 Jeremy Powers (Cyclocrossworld/Cannondale)                       
5 Jesse Anthony (Team Jamis Bikes)                                 
6 Troy Wells (Team Clif Bar)                                       
7 Nicholas Weighall (Rad Racing/Hagens Berman)                     
8 Jamey Driscoll (Cyclocrossworld/Cannondale)                      
9 Mark Lalonde (Planet Bike)                                       
10 Barry Wicks (Kona)                                              
11 Davide Frattini (Colavita Sutter Home P/B Cooking Light)        
12 Matt Shriver (Jittery Joe's Pro Cycling Team)                   
13 Matt White (Fiordifrutta Elite Cycling Team)                    
14 Derrick St. John (Stevens Cross)                                
15 Christopher Jones                                               
16 Bjorn Selander (Ridley Factory Team)                            
17 Justin Spinelli                                                 
18 Daniel Summerhill (Team Clif Bar)                               
19 Dan Timmerman (Reynolds)                                        
20 Mitchell Peterson (Monaviecannondale.Com)                       
21 Matthew O'Keefe (CCB/Volkswagen)                                
22 Brian Matter (Gear Grinder)                                     
23 Chance Noble (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized)         
24 William Dugan (RGM Watches - Richard Sachs - Boathouse Inc)     
25 aaron Schooler (Team H & R Block)                               
26 Weston Schempf (C3-Sollay.Com!)                                 
27 Ryan Iddings (Lapierre Usa)                                     
28 Colin Cares (Clif Bar Development Cyclo-Cross Team)             
29 Josh Dillon (Fiordifrutta / Cannondale)                         
30 Nicholas Keough (Sonic/ Louis Garneau)                          
31 Justin Robinson (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized)      
32 Braden Kappius (Clif Bar Development Cross Team)                
33 Alex Howes (Clif Bar Development Cyclo-Cross Team)              
34 Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart)                                      
35 Mitch Hoke (Clif Bar Development Cyclo-Cross Team)              
36 Adam Mcgrath (Van Dessel)                                       
37 Giancarlo Dalle Angelini (Team Redline)                         
38 Peter Bradshaw (Embrocation/Igleheart/Cambridge/Mad Alchemy)    
39 Greg Wittwer (Alan North America Cycling Team)                  
40 Joey Thompson (Rocky Mtn Chocolate Factory Cycling)             
41 Travis Livermon (Cannondale / Ccn)                              
42 Andrew Wulfkuhle (C3-Sollay.Com)                                
43 Steve Fisher (Rad Racing / Hagens Berman)                       
44 Matt Kraus (RGM Watches - Richard Sachs - Boathouse Inc)        
45 Christian Favata (Favata's Tablerock Tours And Bikes)           
46 Bill Elliston (Fuji)                                            
47 Rickey Visinski (Exodus Road Racing)                            
48 Peter Rubijono (Embrocation/Cambridge/Igleheart/Madalchemy)     
49 Patrick Bradley (Rutgers University Cycling Team)               
50 Jeremy Ferguson (Cal Giant/Specialized)                         
51 Charles Pendry (Inland Construction)                            
52 Andrew Llewellyn (Calistoga Racing Team)                        
53 John Burns (Bikeman.Com)                                        
54 Guillaume Nelessen (Van Dessel Factory Team)                    
55 Benjamin Popper (HRS / Rock Lobster)                            
56 Conor Mullervy (Clif Bar Development Cyclo-Cross Team)          
57 Michael Gallagher (C3-Sollay.Com)                               
58 Bill Marshall (KCCX/Verge)                                      
59 Adam Szczepanski (Wissahickon)                                  
60 Nathanael Wyatt (Carolina Fatz Pb Santa Cruz Bicycles)          
61 Kevin Mullervy (Clif Bar Development Cyclo-Cross Team)          
62 Matthew Rotroff (Inland Construction)                           
63 Gavriel Epstein (Century Road Club)                             
64 Lucas Livermon (Inland Construction)                            
65 Philip Riggio (Proasshit.Dk)