Strong Rides in the Dirt For Men, Women at USGP SmartWool Cup

The seven men and women who comprise the Optum p/b KBS cyclocross team tackled the first day of the second event of the US Gran Prix of cyclocross yesterday, the SwartWool Cup in Fort Collins, CO. Joined by Chad Haga, tackling one of his first races since breaking bones in both hands earlier in the road season, the team showed impressive form across the board, with Carmen Small and Jade Wilcoxson finishing in the top ten in their first ever USGP ‘cross race. Cyclocross specialist Tristan Schouten mixed it up with some of the sports best, before an untimely mechanical on the final lap dropped him out of podium contention. Schouten finished 7th overall.

With UCI ‘cross points determining each riders start positioning, both Small, Wilcoxson and new teammate Amanda Miller were forced to start from the back of the field and make up significant ground to contend the race. Make up ground they did, with top-ten finishes for Wilcoxson and Small and Miller finishing 14th.

“I think I was more nervous for this race than I was for anything this season on the road,” said Wilcoxson, who spent her first year as a pro road racer shaking up standings around the country, finishing third in the NRC. “It’s definitely a new thing for me – it’s a whole different set of skills that goes into a cross race, but it is still all about going fast, and this course is a lot of fun.”

Tristan Schouten powers up a tough stair climb at the course’s halfway point.

The men also demonstrated rapidly building form on the first day of racing, with Tristan Schouten battling for position from an elite lead group which included national champion ‘cross racer Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) and Ryan Trebon (Cannondale). On the final lap, Schouten suffered an unfortunate flat that required attention just a few minutes from the finish, dropping him to a still impressive 7th.

Schouten, a bit frustrated by the bad luck after consistently moving up the rankings over the past 3 weekends of racing, hopes for redemption on the second day of racing today. Alex Candelario, having recently relocated to Bend, OR, has been honing his cross skills in the rich local ‘cross scene. He racked up one local victory, and was 12th yesterday in his first UCI race of the season. Former multi-time ‘cross national champ Jesse Anthony finished 16th, just behind Candelario. Also notable was Mike Sherer, who clipped in for his first race after breaking his wrist just six weeks ago. Mike received clearance to race a few days ago, and is eager to get underway in the dirt this fall.

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