Finish Line Portraits

There are plenty of ways of talking about the rigours of cyclocross, but none are quite so informative as taking a good look at the faces of riders as they cross the line after a race. Each rider sits somewhere on the continuum between disheveled and destroyed, gathering themselves after an hour of exhaustive efforts, and every face is an advert for the peculiar joys of riding your bike in the mud on the weekend.

These finish line portraits come from the KMC Cyclocross Festival of Thompson, Connecticut, on a course that made even the most accomplished riders take a few spills. One of the stories of the weekend was Ellen Noble’s hard-fought second place against the reigning queen of American cyclocross, Katie Compton, while Jeremy Powers sat the weekend out to recover from a knock picked up at the Trek CXC Cup.

Ellen Noble

2nd place, Saturday.

“I just tried to stay calm, cool and collected.”

On Saturday, the National Champion won the women’s race, and the U23 National Champion, Ellen Noble, rolled across the line for second just under a minute behind her. The results of the past few weeks, which have put Noble top of both the USA’s Pro Cx leaderboard and the U23 World Cup rankings, are not-so-subtle hints that the next couple of years are going to be a lot of fun.

Stephen Hyde

1st place, Saturday. 2nd place, Sunday.

Hyde is a reformed BMXer from Florida, and despite being a late-comer to the sport he makes it look like he grew up hopping barriers and sliding around muddy turns. Last season, the rumour mill of American cyclocross set to work dissecting exactly how good Hyde can become. Judging by his technically assured performances this weekend, he’s still getting better.

Jamie Driscoll

2nd place, Saturday. 5th place, Sunday

"That was a real hard man's race."

A related bit of trivia: do you know who won USA Cycling’s Pro Cx leaderboard for the past two seasons? Jamie Driscoll. He’s the reliable diesel of American cyclocross, consistently appearing at the sharp end of professional races every weekend from September to January.

Arley Kemmerer

9th place, Saturday. 8th place, Sunday

"Yeah, I'm bleeding."

One further bit of trivia: what is Arley Kemmerer’s profession when she isn’t hunting UCI points? She’s a lawyer, with an office in Leighton, Pennsylvania.

Justin Lindine

9th place, Saturday. 12th place, Sunday

"Oh, that was a blast… once I collected myself."

Dan Chabanov

24th place, Saturday. 21st place, Sunday

"I fell into a hole."

Mark McConnell

16th place, Saturday. 6th place, Sunday.

"It was nice to have a taste of Zolder in Thompson."

During the warm-up laps, one waggish rider began complaining that the GPS on his phone must be broken – he’d tried to drive to Connecticut, but had somehow ended up in Belgium. The jury is still out on whether the racers appreciate the course’s difficulties, or bemoan them.

Katie Compton

1st place, Saturday and Sunday.

It’s said that if you take up cyclocross then you’re actually taking up two hobbies: cyclocross itself, and cleaning mud off of your belongings after cyclocross races. The joke hides a half-truth: cross is terribly inconvenient at times, and occasionally uncomfortable (although the diehards will tell you that this is all part of the charm). But it’s also a sport that inspires devotion, and has the ability to make you feel as exhausted and happy as the faces in the above portraits. Now that we’re in to October, it’s truly the right time of year to test out the muddy attractions of cyclocross, whether that means finding a circuitous route through the woods, or signing up for an hour of all-out riding at a cross race.