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Jeremy Powers dominates cyclocross races at Look Park

  • Chris Field of Salem wins the Category 3 section of the Cycle Smart CycloCross event at Look Park in Northampton Saturday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Chris Field of Salem wins the Category 3 section of the Cycle Smart CycloCross event at Look Park in Northampton Saturday.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cyclists sprint up a hill during the Cycle Smart CycloCross event at Look Park in Northampton Saturday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Cyclists sprint up a hill during the Cycle Smart CycloCross event at Look Park in Northampton Saturday.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ben Civiletti (L) of the University of Vermont waves an American Flag while heckling cyclists running up a hill at  Cycle Smart CycloCross event at Look Park in Northampton Saturday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Ben Civiletti (L) of the University of Vermont waves an American Flag while heckling cyclists running up a hill at Cycle Smart CycloCross event at Look Park in Northampton Saturday.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cyclists crowd the track at the Cycle Smart CycloCross event at Look Park in Northampton Saturday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Cyclists crowd the track at the Cycle Smart CycloCross event at Look Park in Northampton Saturday.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cyclists crowd the track at the Cycle Smart CycloCross event at Look Park in Northampton Saturday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Cyclists crowd the track at the Cycle Smart CycloCross event at Look Park in Northampton Saturday.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Chris Field of Salem wins the Category 3 section of the Cycle Smart CycloCross event at Look Park in Northampton Saturday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Cyclists sprint up a hill during the Cycle Smart CycloCross event at Look Park in Northampton Saturday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Ben Civiletti (L) of the University of Vermont waves an American Flag while heckling cyclists running up a hill at  Cycle Smart CycloCross event at Look Park in Northampton Saturday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Cyclists crowd the track at the Cycle Smart CycloCross event at Look Park in Northampton Saturday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Cyclists crowd the track at the Cycle Smart CycloCross event at Look Park in Northampton Saturday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

NORTHAMPTON — Local cyclists and race organizers reminded the cycling world this weekend why the Pioneer Valley is one of the cradles of the sport in the United States.

On Saturday and Sunday, more than 1,000 cyclists converged on Look Park for two days of racing on grass, sand, pine needles, tree roots, and even a bit of asphalt, in the 22nd annual Cyclo-Smart International (CSI) cyclocross races.

Some competitors came from as far away as Alberta, Canada, and Oregon, most came from the northeastern United States, but all of them had to tip their helmets to Jeremy Powers of Easthampton. Powers, 29, is currently regarded as the best male American competitor in cyclocross, the sport that puts bikes with thin, knobby tires and cantilever brakes onto terrain more familiar to cross-country runners than to most cyclists.

In each day’s premier event, the elite men’s race that completes an eight-race all-day program, Powers took the corners, the sharp uphills, and the barriers that force riders to dismount and carry their bikes, with unmatched skill, emerging at the front of the line in the final lap and hammering down the straightaway to finish first against intense competition.

And all this while jet-lagged after a delayed flight home from the Czech Republic, where he had just finished seventh in an international field in the season’s first World Cup cyclocross event.

In the Look Park races, riders pedal on a 1.5-mile loop course for a number of laps determined by how long it will take to make a race of 40 or 60 minutes, depending on the age/gender category. The CSI races are part of the Shimano New England Pro Cyclocross Series, a four-venue, eight-race series held through the autumn in New England.

Powers’ biggest challenge came from 31-year-old Adam Craig, of Bend, Ore., who was leading Saturday’s race when one of his tires rolled off its wheel and he had to change equipment. “Adam was going full gas, applying pressure, and we were all feeling it,” said Powers. “You just try to capitalize on other riders’ errors.”

On Sunday, Craig was again leading Powers as the racers plummeted down the steep hill from the Look Park gazebo to the miniature railroad tracks, but Powers made up time by hurdling the barriers faster, led Craig through a series of tight turns on the grass and won the race in an all-out sprint.

In the women’s elite race, former Olympian Mary McConnelaug, 41, of Chilmark, shared the podium both days with Crystal Anthony of Manchester-by-the-Sea. They finished 1-2 on Saturday, when Anthony twice slipped on tight turns while McConnelaug paced herself neatly though the most technical parts of the course to win handily. Then they reversed those positions on Sunday, when McConnelaug was stuck behind another rider long enough for a super-motivated Anthony to gain a gap too large for McConnelaug to make up.

"This is an awesome course!” exclaimed McConnelaug on Saturday, celebrating yet another in a long list of her victories over the years in Look Park. “It’s really well laid out, and I love coming to this area.”

On Sunday, it was Anthony’s turn to celebrate. “Today I was patient,” she said. “I knew not to rush things. I knew Mary was right there (behind me), and I just had to keep concentrating.”

Other results
Concentration, patience, endurance and a bit of luck were the stuff of many stories in the pack behind the winners, and in the various teenagers, amateur riders’ and masters’ races earlier each day.

One of the strongest showings on Saturday came from 12-year-old Philip Hempstead of Northampton, who won the Juniors 10-14 year division and, in the process, overtook every rider in the women’s Category 3-4 and 35+ age group race, which started on the same course a minute ahead of the junior riders.

On Sunday Hempstead was less fortunate, catching the side of his foot on his chain ring at the start, taking a spill, and recovering just well enough to finish second behind Ryan Aittaniemi, whom he had beaten the day before.

In the men’s elite race on Saturday, runner-up to Powers was his own housemate and training partner, Jeremy Durrin, 24, a former president of the UMass Cycling Club during his undergraduate years. He raced with excellent tactics and stamina, as he continued to make cyclocross aficionados take note of his up-and-coming status. The effort of Saturday showed just a bit on Sunday, as he settled for seventh after racing the entire one-hour event among the lead riders.

Third in Sunday’s elite race was Justin Lindine, 28, of New Salem. Like Craig, Lindine had lost precious time by taking a spill on Saturday but bounced back to make his presence felt 24 hours later, sharing the lead several times and joining Powers and Craig for a decisive breakaway before ceding ground to them in the final mile.

Top local performer in the women’s elite races was Frances Morrison of Easthampton. Formerly a member of the collegiate cycling team at Mount Holyoke College, the 24-year-old Morrison stayed in this area to pursue cycling. “My goal was to make the top 10,” she said after Sunday’s race. She achieved that goal twice, placing eighth on Saturday and ninth on Sunday.

Other local winners included Alec Donohue, of the Northampton Cycling Club (NCC), who won the Masters Men 35+ race on Sunday, and fellow NCC rider Victoria Gates, who won the women’s Category 3-4 also on Sunday.
Complete results for both days, as well as further information about the cyclocross series, are at www.crossresults.com.

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