Logan Owen claimed his ninth consecutive Stars and Stripes – his first as an under-23 racer – earlier today at the USA Cycling National Cyclocross Championships in Boulder, Colorado. Owen who powered away from the field lead early in the race lead a California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized sweep of the podium. The 2013 U23 Champion Yannick Eckmann was second and Cody Kaiser, third. Teammate Tobin Ortenblad raced to a strong fifth.
“I was just so happy to be able to keep the streak going and to be able to win my first year as a U23, it’s huge to be able to do that, I don’t think anyone has ever done that in the US before.” said Owen who was quite emotional when he crossed the finish line. “I’m really happy to be able to win in front of my grand-parents that came all the way out here to watch me and my family. They’re probably the biggest supporters I have out there.”
The 18-year old added, “I remember, with about one or two laps to go, my grand-father was on the lower section of the course, I could hear him out of everybody and he was just telling me to focus and keep on going, that gave me so much more motivation to just keep digging through the pain, through the burn and the altitude. It was pretty emotional at the end, I was just so happy to win in front of them, so many emotions. I was in tears at the end.”
“It was a good race, he raced a good race, just a little bit of luck needed at the start. I felt good, I’m happy with the results, not what I was hoping for but I’m still happy with it. I’m looking forwards to the rest of the races now.” said 20-year old Eckmann who loved racing in his hometown. “It was amazing, the whole crowd running up the stairs, at the bottom of the sandpit, cheering for me to catch him and it motivated me a lot. I just quite didn’t have it but they were amazing, I was so happy. It feels so great to hear your name throughout the whole thing, it was great.”
“It was an awesome day, couldn’t really ask for much better. I felt confident out there racing, got the holeshot, I was really liking riding the course, a technically savy rider’s course.” said Kaiser who added, “I was able to ride the Belgian steps, so that was really cool.”
Ortenblad noted, “It went okay. I was hoping to do a little better, I was hoping to be on the podium but it was okay. I came back strong the last lap, Curtis [White] got a gap on me halfway through the race, I came back on the last lap, basically was right on him but I didn’t have any power left. I felt good about bridging.”
The four Berries lined up on the front row ready to tackle a course that had dried due to strong overnight winds that were still blowing, winds that Kaiser called “brutal’. “The start/finish stretch was a big headwind. It was gusty, it was a big factor. A lot of the course was facing that direction as well.”
Kaiser exploded to take the holeshot with Owen slotting in behind him following his pre-race strategy which included a bike change on the first lap.
“I was the only one to start on Typhoons because the other section of the course, which is where we started, was really fast and then it was muddy below. I started hard. Cody got the holeshot, I waited until the hill and I attacked on the hill and went around, it was so much easier for me on the Typhoons to get to the front because they are so fast. I pitted the very first lap, and got my bike with Rhinos on it, that was the plan to begin with and it worked perfectly.” explained Owen. “I came out of the corner second behind Curtis [White], went straight around and after that led the race pretty much of the time.”
Meanwhile behind Eckmann was surging missing his pedal. “At the start, some people bumped into me and I unclipped with my left pedal, I had already pushed on it and that just caused me the next push. It wasn’t the best start, I wasn’t hoping for that but stuff happens like that in races. You never know. A little bad luck at the start and after that, I just tried to make up as much time as possible right away.”
He continued, “I had to take some pretty big risks which I didn’t want to do. It happened and I did it. I was powering all out, leaving nothing behind. I closed it some but then he got away again. I just needed that little bit more push to get at him.”
Owen had established a gap at the end of the first lap with Eckmann giving chase, Kaiser, Ortenblad and White were together. The gap was established at 10 seconds from Owen to Eckmann one lap later with Kaiser now solo in third place leaving White and Ortenblad to battle for fourth.
Eckmann was able to close the gap to four seconds with three laps to go.
“I was riding a good tempo, saving it because I knew that it’s a longer race than the junior race, that weighed a little bit especially with the altitude too. I saw him coming, ” Owen explained. “It got pretty close. I was expecting it to come down a little bit, that’s when I decided to really open it up again on the climb in the back section, I just drilled and it was back up to 10 seconds. It pretty much stayed that way until the last lap, I had a made a bobble and so did he, the gap didn’t come down at all. I was able to celebrate my victory.”
Known for his technical prowess, 21-year old Kaiser was the only racer to ride the Belgian stairs to the delight of the crowd. “I was able to make the first time [in practice] and I didn’t have to step a foot down on the steps. I rode it every time in the pre-riding and rode it every time during the race.”
After White rode away from him, Ortenblad “rode within himself” until the final lap. “I figured that I’d go as hard as I could, I did and I was right on him. [On the finish straight], I gave it about four pedal strokes sprinting, and my legs said you’re getting fifth place today.”
Along with altitude, 19-year old Ortenblad had to face another challenge after the airlines lost his bikes on his Friday flight. “I had to ride Yannick’s bikes. That was a bunch of crap to deal with yesterday which wasn’t necessary. Not the best leadup to Nationals for sure. Yannick had four bikes so the mechanics worked on two of those bikes to fit me well enough, overall I’m happy with it. Good course, the conditions were really fun.”
Yannick’s older brother and teammate on the California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized road squad, Robin Eckmann, finished eighth.
Elle Anderson and Meredith Miller race the USA Cycling Elite Women National Cyclocross Championships on Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 1:30pm MT. The elite women’s race will be streamed live on USA Cycling’s YouTube channel.
Photo Courtesy California Giant ~ California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized sweeps USA U23 National Cyclocross Championships (l-r): newly crowned champion Logan Owen with Yannick Eckmann, team manager Anthony Gallino and Cody Kaiser