303 Project young gun Grant Ellwood had a great race at the US Cyclocross National Championships earlier this month, bagging himself a Team USA World Championships nomination after a third place finish in the U23 race. Here are a few words from Grant on that event and the selection process for the US Worlds team. The big show is this coming weekend in Valkenburg, NL. We wish both Grant and Maxx Chance, our other U23 rider representing his country at this race, all the best in their final travels and preparations for the event.
2018 US Cyclocross National Championships
Jan 14th, 2018
Since this was my last year to race cyclocross as a U23 (under 23) I had one main goal: to make the World Championships team. I was fortunate enough to have made the Worlds team my first two years as a U23, but after not being selected this past year I was determined to represent USA on the world stage once again. Looking back at past seasons, my coach and I realized that there are a few key races in the season that we need to put some extra focus on in order to make the Worlds team. The most important of these races was, of course, the US National Championships. This was the final race where all the U23’s would have a chance to duke it out with each other, head to head, to figure out who was riding well at the end of a long season.
The weeks leading up to nationals were filled with very tough training. Lots of high intensity workouts along with some long endurance rides kept the engine running into the week of Nationals. The first race of cyclo-cross Nationals was the collegiate race on Tuesday. After a slower start to my race, I managed to find some legs and put down some good laps to finish second to my CU Boulder teammate, Eric Brunner. Aside from the slow start, I was happy to have felt good through the race as well as gained some confidence going into Sunday’s U23 race. The following week leading up to Sunday’s race went by quickly. We got in some fun rides and explored the miles of casinos in Reno, NV.
As Sunday came, the nerves started kicking in. I knew this was my chance to have a good ride and hopefully earn a spot on the Worlds team. I started on the front row and once the start whistle was blown, we were off. I had a good start and got myself into 3rd or 4th wheel just following the top guys. I sat in this position watching the moves they were making. The first lap was super quick, (I heard our first lap was ~20 seconds faster than the Elite men, but don’t quote me on that). At the end of that first lap there were 5 of us still together and we kept drilling the pace. About a half lap later we dropped the 5th rider. Myself, Chris, Eric, and Gage made up the group of 4 that remained. Little gaps opened here and there, but it wasn’t until the 3rd lap that Gage flatted, causing him to drop from the group. When Gage did flat I got stuck behind him on the off-camber section as Chris and Eric opened up a 5-10 second gap. Once I got around Gage I gave it everything on the uphill and it wasn’t until the sand pit that I was able to make contact. The rest of the race I was yo-yoing off Eric or Chris, but I would gain the time back in the sand pit and on the run up. Coming into the last lap I was barely on the back of the group when Chris put in a massive effort and took off, which ended up being the winning move. I finished third behind Chris and Eric and was happy with that. That was the ride that I needed to have to give myself the best chance I could to be selected for Worlds.
A few days later I received an email confirming my spot on the Worlds team. Since then I have been putting in some good hours on the bike and have been working hard to get the legs ready for Worlds.
I could not be more excited for this opportunity and am feeling good going into Valkenburg!
— 303 Project Rider, Grant Ellwood