Thank you to everyone who supported our trip to Cyclocross Nationals in Illinois — our 11 riders had some fantastic races, a very enjoyable time, and some impressive results with three riders on the podium.
In the 13-14 age group, Bjorn Blankenship finished 2nd with his teammate Jack Billowitz right behind him in 3rd. The race was postponed by three hours due to severe wind and rain overnight that destroyed many tents and blew down some trees at the venue. Although the rain stopped, the wind continued and the course was drenched. Many of the fast sections from the day before were now a bog and the rolling hills were incredibly slick off-camber mud. Both Jack and Bjorn love challenging courses and put in lots of time building their skills so they both had fantastic races.
“My race was half fast,” Bjorn said, “and half technically challenging — a good mix. But I didn’t care for the wind.”
Jack was stoked with his race, saying, “It was super fun sprinting, slipping and running through mud!”
Next up Saturday morning was Bjorn’s younger brother, Kai Blankenship. He started on the front row and gave his most concerted effort to ride at the front the entire race. He gave everything he had for two laps of the course, finishing 3rd in the 11-12 age group race. “That’s the hardest I’ve ever pedaled my bike,” he said.
Zane Strait and Tyler Morgenson were up next in the 15-16 JR Men. They headed out for two laps of the course as conditions were worsening: the chopped-up grass began mixing with the mud and started sticking to frames, tires and shoes, forcing riders off their bikes to run the uphill sections and even some corners to prevent crashing or breaking their equipment. Both riders exchanged bikes in the service pit to have clean tires for the second lap. Zane spent most of the race in podium contention but several minor mistakes in the mud cost him some time so he finished a very strong 9th place out of 80 riders, with Tyler riding to 34th place.
On Sunday, the sun came out but the course froze solid overnight, making conditions overall faster but tricky with firm deep ruts icy grass. In the 17-18 JR Men, Ian Brown (16 from Bend) had a fast start to ride the first half of the race in 4th and 5th position. With one lap to go, he was overtaken by another rider and finished 7th in the field of 70 of the fastest teenagers in the country.
“The first first lap of my race was the most hectic five minutes I’ve ever experienced within a cyclocross race,” he said in the airport on the way home. “Over seventy riders charging through the frozen ground fighting for every position was a recipe for chaos. It was challenging enough to stay upright in the tough conditions let alone race for a National title. As the race went on and the course began to thaw, the once frozen ruts became a mud-based ice skating rink. Overall Nationals was a crazy race and a true showing of cyclocross.”
Other CJC riders in that event were Jake Johansen (Portland) in 21st, Caiden Hartrich in 28th, Benicio Thorne (Portland) in 51st, and Halen Harrison (Portland) 52nd.
Our final rider to start was Madeline Stover (Portland) in the 17-18 JR Women. As the course thawed, the mud became even more slippery to ride and it was sticking to the bikes, jamming up pedals, chains, gears and shoes with thick heavy muddy clumps of grass. Madeline swapped bikes several times in the service pit and was forced to run several portions of the course each lap for the 45-minute race.
“I think Madeline had the most exciting race to watch today,” said her coach and CJC director Bill Warburton. “She started at the back of the race and passed more than half of riders in some pretty epic battles to finish 12. She was focused, strong and smart with her tactics.”
Ian agreed, saying, “Another highlight was sprinting around the course with my teammates cheering on Madeline Stover on her way to claim 12th in the intense 17-18 junior women’s race.”
Madeline said her race was, “Frozen, slippery, muddy and so much fun!”
“This is a huge highlight of the season for the riders,” said Warburton. “I’m incredibly happy and proud that our team was able to resume racing at this level with everyone feeling prepared — and they earned some fantastic results.”
This eventful trip was all about our team working together, supporting each other, having fun, and learning along the way.
John Worthington works at Sunnyside Sports and has been our team mechanic at a couple national events. We kept him busy building, servicing, washing and disassembling all the bikes — and he drove it all round-trip from Bend in our van!
THANK YOU to all of the coaches for your encouragement and support of our team this fall!
- Landon Farnworth
- Mike Brown
- Brenna Wrye-Simpson
- Steven Beardsley
- Summer Newlands
And a big thank you to the parents, supporters and donors who helped make this trip such a success!