LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY — The final men’s race of the 2012 Master’s World Cyclocross Championships was also the largest race of the final day of competition. The 55-59 year old field was deep with talent, including 1990 Mountain Bike World Champion Ned Overend (USA) who came into the race as the heavy favorite. Other notables included Henry Kramer (USA) and Norman Kreiss (USA) both of the Cal Giant Berry team, as well as Jim Gentes (USA) and Benny Andersson (SWE).
The sun continued to bear down on the formally frozen course, as the ruts softened to create a thin, slimy layer of muck.
Gentes would grab the holeshot, only to be immediately overhauled by Kreiss in the first straightway with Kramer close behind. Overend was off to a slow start, sitting 6th wheel entering the first chicane. He was almost taken down by a rider falling in front of him, but was able to keep it upright.
Kreiss wasted no time in establishing a gap, and by the time he hit the flyover for the first time he already had a 10 second gap over Kramer, followed a few seconds later by Overend.
Heading out for lap two, Kreiss had stretched his lead to 20 seconds, as Kramer and Overend were together. Behind them, Bob Downs (USA) trailed seven seconds later.
A lap later, Kramer and Overend had taken over for Kreiss at the front. Kreiss looked to have hit the ground at some point, and was covered in mud. Kramer and Overend would trade places several times on this lap, before Overend got to the front on one of the straight power sections and laid down an attack to establish a gap. At the same time, it appeared that Kramer had bike issues and was stuck in too easy a gear helping the gap to Overend grow quickly.
“Kramer and I traded the lead a couple times. He was gunning it out there; the first time I passed him he came back by my right away and surprised me. He was going for it out there,” said Overend.
With 1 to go, Overend had established a 25 second gap as Kramer and then Kreiss chased. Downs was close behind, and appeared to be saving some for the finale. Kramer had a slip up the last time through the wooded section, allowing Kreiss and Downs to close in on his wheel. It was going to be an all out battle for the final two spots on the podium.
“It was hard to put the power to the ground today; it was so slippery and traction was tough. You really had to learn the lines out there, but then it was tough to stay in ’em lap after lap,” explained Overend.
As Ned Overend came on to the pavement for the last time, he had plenty of time to celebrate another World Championship title. The crowd now looked down the finish straight to see who was going to fill out the rest of the podium.
Kreiss, Downs and Kramer all came on the pavement together, and it was a matter of grit, determination and who had saved some energy for the last effort to the line. Downs put up an impressive fight, but ended up getting overhauled by the two teammates as Kreiss would take the silver medal, followed by Kramer for bronze.Photos – Steve Anderson