National cyclocross championships are always a great showcase of bike-handling skills in tough conditions.
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The 2019 US Nationals were no different as the country’s best off-road talent fought in the mud of Lakewood, Washington over the weekend.
In the women’s race, Clara Honsinger (S&M/CX Sellwood) emerged victorious and put an end to Katie Compton’s (KFC Racing-Trek/Knight) unmatched 15-year winning streak at elite level.
Another unforgettable moment from the race came from the 22-year-old winner of the elite men’s race, Gage Hecht.
After attacking early, Hecht was under pressure from his rivals when, heading into the final, he hit a technical descent at full speed and started to lose control.
Hitting a rut on the sharp slope, Hecht’s bike kicked and his back wheel left the floor, sending him towards the course tape at full speed.
Somehow, he managed to stay upright and rode through the tape and off the course, sending spectators scuttling away.
Hecht then showed great composure and pulled back onto the course, dragging the tape along with him.
As Hecht rode away unscathed, his chasing rival Kerry Werner (Kona-Maxxis-Shimano) rode full gas into the tape that Hecht had dragged across the course.
Werner was sent flying over the bars and into the mud, quickly recovering and jumping back on the bike.
The crash may have made the final difference, as Hecht rode to his first US national title, 17 seconds ahead of Curtis White (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) while Werner missed out on the podium, finishing fourth at 1-27 back.
After footage of Sunday’s crash emerged online, debate ensued about whether Hecht should have been sanctioned for taking out Werner, with some arguing that it altered the outcome of the race while others suggested it was a race situation that would have been difficult to avoid.