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USGP of Cyclocross #4 - Mercer Cup - C1
West Windsor, New Jersey, USA, November 16, 2008
Race 4 - November 16: Elite Men
Wells brothers triumph in New Jersey
Todd takes series lead while Johnson unable to start
By Kirsten Robbins in West Windsor, New Jersey
US Olympian Todd Wells triumphed over the elements and and younger brother, Troy, to take round four of the USGP series in Mercer County Park on Sunday. The elder brother just had enough time to salute the hardy souls present at the finish before turning to watch his sibling take second place. Jeremy Powers (Cyclocrossworld.com) picked up third after muscling his way through the mud to crack a podium place.
"It is so great racing with Troy," said the elder Wells after the finish. "If I'm going to get beat by someone I'd rather it be him than anybody else. We have good family dinners after races like this... my mum wanted a photo of us on the podium together so she's going to get that opportunity today. I would love to see him get his first win here but I need all those points. If it wasn't for the points I would gladly let him have the win; we raced it out the whole time today."
Wells took to the podium twice, as race victor and newly annointed USGP series leader; he currently sits on 140 points and is followed by Powers, who now has 132, while Tim Johnson (Cyclocrossworld.com) moves to third, with 120 points. The day's drama began even before racing began however, when Johnson was forced to abandon the start due to injuries sustained in the previous day's racing. A torn bursa in his kneecap meant a day on the sidelines.
"It was one of the toughest races to watch," said Johnson. "All the top riders on the USGP points are still very close and without being able to race today means I lost a lot of points. There are still two races in Portland but I lost so much today."
Having taken the series lead the day before, Johnson's predicament was a terrible stroke of luck for the American national champion, although it worked in favour of Wells, a prospective contender for Johnson's crown. "It sucks for Timmy because he is riding so strong this year and these are great conditions for him," said Wells. "It's a bummer he's injured. I never expected coming into the season that I would be in contention for the jersey.
"I'm glad to be riding well now and the fact that I'm in this jersey is really cool. My goal is nationals and being good at nationals means I'll be going good in Portland too, for the last USGP."
The Mercer County Park course had changed drastically from the previous day's event held on two sides of the grounds. Course tape was a precious commodity as plenty was used to fix the broken tape from the day before. Event organisers eliminated one side of the circuit, condensing the course into the second half of the park - the changes made for some tighter cornering but the thick mud left over from Saturday still bogged down both riders and their bikes.
Some 60 riders lined up under chilly winds and overcast skies ready to embark on a second attempt at conquering the power sucking, glue-like mud, slipping and sliding or just plain sludging their way along. The mud partially dried much thicker than the day before, making lines harder to calculate, the injured list long and the finishing list short.
"You're fighting so many battles out there on a course like this," said Powers, who was forced to run a lot more than he would have liked. "With this mud, the lines change, you get fatigued, things don't go the way you want and then you get tangled up in the course tape. I think most people know that running is not my favourite thing to do; it's just really difficult to keep it together and that's the hardest part about racing in these conditions."
A leading trio emerged from the start to include Todd Wells, Powers and Jesse Anthony (Jamis). Anthony fell off the pace, leaving the front position to Wells and Powers to contend. As one rider surged ahead of the other, they clung to each other's wheel, not letting go until an opportunity to attack presented itself.
A well represented, seven-man chase group emerged from behind the leaders to include the younger Wells, Ryan Trebon (KONA), Andy Jacques-Maynes (Specialized), Jamey Driscoll (Cyclocrossworld.com), Barry Wicks (KONA), Dan Timmerman (Reynolds) and U23 USGP leader Nicholas Weighall (Rad Racing). However, during the second lap the chase group disjointed into seven equal parts, each approximately ten seconds or more from the other.
"I've been motor pacing a lot and working with my new coach Todd Herriott to prepare for this season," said Weighall. "He's really gotten me on track. It's nice to be up at the front and I know I can be there. I hope I can keep gaining points towards the U23 USGP title. My focus is to get the points to have a better start when I go over to Europe next month."
By the end of the second lap, the front riders positioned reshuffled with Todd Wells and Powers increasing a commanding lead. Troy Wells earned himself the most aggressive rider's jersey when he moved his way up into third position, as Trebon dropped back into fifth place. "When it was just Todd and I, we were working pretty hard up front but when Troy bridged across I realised it was going to be a totally different race," said Powers. "But there weren't very many tactics going on in a race like this. They were just riding the sections better and some of the good lines that I was taking in the beginning were starting to disappear on me. I just wasn't riding the stuff as well as I did yesterday."
Troy Wells continued to work his way through the mud until he was only a few seconds off the back of the leaders. The crowds cheered as the younger Wells brother made contact with the duo and cheered even louder when he surged past them both. He explained the move as such, "I was picking some really good lines today. When everything is going well, it's just easy to keep moving forward. I think I was just in the right grove on the course and I just wanted to continue with that. I saw that Jeremy and Todd were attacking one another so when I caught up I decided that was a good opportunity for me to go because they were a little bit tired. Jeremy let a gap open up and then Todd bridged across."
The brothers then keyed off of one another to open a sizeable advantage over Powers - on the penultimate lap, they had successfully gained more than 15 seconds. With the lead safe enough from the rest of the field, the pair changed tactics. Having raced 'together' they then began competing amongst themselves for the victory.
A game of cat and mouse ensued as Todd and Troy surged ahead of each other but in the end it was the experience of the big bro who took the final lead. "I got ahead of Todd on one of the running sections and then he got ahead of me the same section on the last lap" said the younger Wells. "I almost closed the gap down toward the end but he opened it up a second time and stayed away."
Cheers were heard from around the park however, emanating in particular from a mass of cyclo-cross fans gathered at the muddiest section who donated cash primes to the field. The section quickly turned in to what was known as the 'money lane', a chance for every rider to earn a buck for their hard work. Each fan, with a cow bell in one hand and a beer in the other, placed a one dollar bill upright into the mud for the riders to scoop up as they ran through.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Todd Leister/leisterimages.com
Images by Mitch Clinton/www.clintonphoto.com
Images by Dave McElwaine/www.trailwatch.net
1 Todd Wells (Team GT) 2 Troy Wells (Team Clif Bar) 3 Jeremy Powers (Cyclorossworld/Cannondale) 4 Jamey Driscoll (Cyclocrossworld/Cannondale) 5 Andy Jacques-Maynes (Specialized/KMC Pb Cal Giant) 6 Ryan Trebon (Kona) 7 Nicholas Weighall (Rad Racing/Hagens Berman) 8 Barry Wicks (Kona) 9 Matt Shriver (Jittery Joe's Pro Cycling Team) 10 Daniel Summerhill (Team Clif Bar) 11 Nicholas Keough (Sonic/ Louis Garneau) 12 Davide Frattini (Colavita Sutter Home P/B Cooking Light) 13 Dan Timmerman (Reynolds) 14 Mark Lalonde (Planet Bike) 15 Christopher Jones 16 Derrick St. John (Stevens Cross) 17 Stephen Tilford 18 Weston Schempf (C3-Sollay.Com!) 19 Aaron Schooler (Team H & R Block) 20 Adam Mcgrath (Van Dessel) 21 Matthew O'keefe (CCB/Volkswagen) 22 Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart) 23 Justin Spinelli 24 Brian Matter (Gear Grinder) 25 Chance Noble (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) 26 Tyler Wren (Colavita / Sutter Home Presented By Cooking Light) 27 Ryan Iddings (Lapierre USA) 28 Nathanael Wyatt (Carolina Fatz Pb Santa Cruz Bicycles) 29 Mitchell Peterson (Monaviecannondale.Com) 30 Michael Gallagher (C3-Sollay.Com) 31 Justin Robinson (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) 32 Braden Kappius (Clif Bar Development Cross Team) 33 Josh Dillon (Fiordifrutta / Cannondale) 34 Andrew Wulfkuhle (C3-Sollay.Com) 35 Matt Kraus (RGM Watches - Richard Sachs - Boathouse Inc) 36 Jeremy Ferguson (Cal Giant/Specialized) 37 Bjorn Selander (Ridley Factory Team) 38 Mitch Hoke (Clif Bar Development Cyclo-Cross Team) 39 Rickey Visinski (Exodus Road Racing) 40 Colin Cares (Clif Bar Development Cyclo-Cross Team) 41 Patrick Bradley (Rutgers University Cycling Team) 42 William Dugan (RGM Watches - Richard Sachs - Boathouse Inc) 43 Stephen Cummings (Indiana Regional Medical Center) 44 Charles Pendry (Inland Construction) 45 Andrew Guptill (Colavita/Sutter Home Pro Cycling Team) 46 Travis Livermon (Cannondale / CCN) 47 Christian Favata (Favata's Tablerock Tours And Bikes) 48 Steve Fisher (Rad Racing / Hagens Berman) 49 David Hackworthy (Ridley) 50 Greg Wittwer (Alan North America Cycling Team) 51 Andrew Llewellyn (Calistoga Racing Team) USGP standings 1 Todd Wells (Team GT) 2 Jeremy Powers (Cyclorossworld/Cannondale) 3 Tim Johnson (Cyclocrossworld/Cannondale)