The highly enthusiastic announcers called Katie Compton the best U.S. cyclo-cross racer ever, as the 33-year-old from Colorado Springs crossed the line far out front of the field for her 8th consecutive national title on Sunday.
Then they anointed Kaitlin Antonneau the best young rider in the country, and a possible successor.
The 20-year-old from Racine trailed Compton, her coach and mentor, by two minutes at the finish, but secured the USA Cycling U23 championship, a second place overall in the elite women’s group and most likely a slot on the U.S. team racing in the UCI World Cyclo-cross championships later this month.
On Saturday, Antonneau added a stars and stripes jersey to her collection with a win in the women’s Div. 1 collegiate race.
Compton, 33, recognized the young talent chasing her over the hills in Badger Prairie Park.
“She’s a great girl, has a great head for bike racing,” Compton said. “As long as she keeps having fun, she’ll be up here for a long time. “I’m hoping I’m retired by the time she starts beating me!”
Starting at noon, Compton led the race on a hard and rutted course from start to finish, leaving the battle behind.
Antonneau broke a rear derailleur hanger early, pitted for a new bike quickly, then raced Nicole Duke for the silver medal. She broke away with two laps to go, and stretched the gap enough to take a deep breath in the finishing straight.
Kaitlin Antonneau racing to a silver medal in the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross championships.
Photo by Tom Held
With Duke in third, the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com teammates flanked Compton on the winner’s podium.
In the men’s elite race, perennial favorite Jeremy Powers, the Team Rapha-Focus rider from Easthampton, Mass., triumphed in his long-time quest for a national championship.
With the afternoon sun casting long shadows over the course, Powers traded attacks with Ryan Trebon, Zach McDonald, Tim Johnson and Jonathan Page. The lead group flew over the still-frozen ruts left in the shadows and the mud softened in the sun, until Powers and Trebon broke the band with two laps to the finish.
With one to go, Powers pushed his advantage to six seconds and raced down the final descent from the water tower hill alone.
"I can retire happy now," a very emotional Powers said. "I don't care really what happens after this. This was the one thing that's eluded me and to get this it means so much. I'm going to proudly wear that national champion's jersey every day next year."
Brian Matter, from Sheboygan, dangled off the top 10 for much of the race, and hung on for 13th, the best finish by the Wisconsin contingent in the men’s elite race.
“It got a little bit long at the end for the legs, and I lost a couple spots,” said Matter (Team GEARGRINDER). “All in all a good way to end the season.
“The spectators were awesome here, a lot of local flavor cheering for me.”
Brian Matter climbs toward the top 10 in the elite men's race. Photo by Tom Held.
Matter went into the race ranked 8th in the USA Cycling cyclo-cross standings, and had high expectations after a solid season.
“A great day would have been top five, and I was shooting for top 10, so it’s a little disappointing.”
Tristan Schouten, of Plymouth; and Matt Shriver and Corey Stelljes, of Madison, cracked the top 30 in a field 85.
Overall, more than 1,000 riders from across the country raced in Verona during the four-day championships, which will return in January 2013.
“The community support was unbelievable,” said Andrea Smith, a spokeswoman for USA Cycling.
Feedback from the riders and spectators was generally positive, although the unseasonable weather created some unexpected problems. The staff hired to plow snow off the course was relegated to spreading straw and wood chips to manage the mud.
Full results from the masters, collegiate and elite races can be found here.
Click below for a post-race interview with Kaitlin Antonneau.
Below is a post-race interview with Brian Matter.