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Held at San Rafael Regional Park in Reno, Nevada, the 2018 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships featured 35 championship contests over six days, with more than 1,600 athletes taking to the start line. On the final day, sunny skies, mild temperatures and large crowds of cheering spectators greeted the competitors around the 3.3-kilometer course.
In the women’s race, Katie Compton (KFC Racing-Trek-Panache) won the same way she won the 13 previous years edition: solo. Second-place finisher Ellen Noble (Aspire Racing), making her elite championships debut, came closer to the 39-year-old than anyone has before, relentlessly reeling in the gap, second by second until crossing the line just seven seconds short.
“I was concerned the whole time,” Compton said. “Ellen has been riding really strong. I know she wants to win really badly too. She’s young, she’s got a ton of energy and technically she’s good so yeah, I knew she was always there and I knew I had to ride smooth and I tried to make as few mistakes as possible. I knew she was there and I wasn’t easing up.”
In the men’s race, Stephen Hyde (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) successfully defended his national cyclocross title, but only just, finishing 13 seconds ahead of four-time national champion Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing) after a final-lap attack snapped the elastic that had held them together the entire race.
A six-man group formed on the first lap that included Hyde, Powers, Kerry Werner (Kona), Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz-Donkey Label Racing), Curtis White (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) and Jack Kisseberth (JAM Fund-NCC). One by one the group thinned, with White and Kisseberth both suffering punctures while Powers drove the pace. With three laps remaining Powers launched an attack that saw Werner lose contact. Ortenblad was unable to respond, drawing out Hyde, who countered with his own attack. Powers clawed his way onto Hyde’s wheel, and from that point on it was a two-man battle for the stars-and-stripes jersey. A late pass by Hyde in the last half of the final lap proved to be the difference, with Powers finally relenting inside the last moments of the race.
“I have personally learned a lot from Jeremy about racing at altitude,” Hyde said. “Sit and sit and make your move as late as possible. But he was driving it from the beginning, and that’s rare. When I saw Tobin start to kind of wave around, I was like, ‘Okay, he can’t close the gap.’ So I attacked the both of them and got some separation. We dropped Tobin and I knew that was the nail in the coffin. It was up in the air if could drop Jeremy, and he came back super, super strong. It was a really big battle on that last lap. Both of us knew it was going to be who did this run-up on the last lap. He passed me really hard, and I passed him in that last one, and we were able to make it out of the big chicane without crashing, and I got the gap.”