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Honsinger Goes Three for Three and White Wins First-Ever National Title

By: Angelina Palermo  December 12, 2022

August, Musgrave, Munro, and Strohmeyer earn Junior and U23 titles on the final day of Cyclocross Nationals.

The final day of the 2022 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships concluded with the Junior, U23, and Elite races for both men and women. The course changed all week, with yesterday's condition causing riders to slip in the turns and on the run-ups. After the races yesterday, the course froze over, just in time for snow to start coming down midday. With several course additions for the UCI races, the dynamic going into today’s races was drastically different.

76 Junior Men lined up in the morning for the 17-18 race. The race favorites going into the day were reigning national champion Magnus White (Boulder, Colo.; Boulder Juniors) as well as Koppenbergcross winner Andrew (AJ) August (Pittsford, N.Y.; FinKraft Junior Cycling Team). The duo battled it out at the front and challenged each other through the corners. Three laps in, August made his mark and was able to get a 12-second gap on White to take the stars-and-stripes jersey. Pan American Champion and Connecticut local, David Thompson (New Canaan, Conn.; FinKraft Junior Cycling Team) rode an incredible race to finish with the bronze medal.

After the race, August said, “It was my first race in the U.S. this season for cyclocross. I knew I was doing well this season based on how I did in Europe, but back here in the U.S., it's kind of a different ballgame. I just took up the front and rode my own race, it was kind of tough to shake Magnus [White], but eventually, I was able to.”

Samantha Scott (Boise, Idaho; CompEdge Racing) and Kaya Musgrave (Littleton, Colo.; Bear CX) rode together for well-over 20 minutes, going back and forth in the lead at the beginning of the race. With two laps to go, the two were riding past pit one, and Scott slid out in the flat turns. She immediately got up but seemed to have issues with her bike and was unable to turn around to get to the pit behind her. She resolved her issue and hopped back on her bike to start on the triple run-up section of the course. By that point, Musgrave had already created about a 20-second gap that continued to grow. When asked about her stellar performance, Musgrave said, “I did not expect this one, and I am stoked." Her race tactics proved to work, "I just tried to keep it smooth and waited until it was my time to go and just went and pitted when I needed to." said Musgraves.

The U23 Women had a fast start. Madigan Munro (Boulder, Colo.; Trek Factory Racing CX), Katie Clouse (Grand Junction, Colo; Colorado Mesa University), Lizzy Gunsalus (Dudley, Mass.; Steve Tilford Foundation Racing), and Lauren Zoerner (Highlands Ranch, Colo.; Alpha Bicycle Groove Silverthorne) were leading the first lap until the field spread out through the technical sections where Munro was able to get a sizable gap on the rest of the field. Clouse chased hard but went into this season with fewer races under her belt than Munro, which could have played a role in her race fitness. Clouse has had a short but sweet cyclocross season. This year, she turned her focus to road racing but came out just for the National Championships taking silver in both the Collegiate and U23 races.

“It was a really good race. Maddie is so strong right now. All the girls are so strong, Lauren and Lizzie rode super well today. It's one of my first cross races back this season, so I didn't really know what to expect. I knew it would be a hard race, and I knew I just had to be consistent, and I knew the people who went down the least seemed to do the best." said Clouse.

Unfortunately for fourth-place finisher Gunsalus, a rolled a tubular in one of the farthest places from the pit would cause a significant time gap. She ended up having to run 3 minutes to the next pit, where she was then able to get a new bike but lost her podium spot.

After taking the collegiate varsity win earlier in the week, Munro doubled down to take the U23 Women’s event as well. “I think the first couple of laps, I was a bit nervous and didn't get my footing right away. I knew I just really had to stay patient and stay with it because you know anything can happen in a race, the people in front of me could crash just the same, so I knew I just had to be steady and not burn all of my matches and just get to the front as quick as I could so that's what I did and just went from there,” said Munro.

After an incredible ride, Andrew Strohmeyer (Mount Airy, Md.; CX Hairs Devo: Trek Bikes) finished his race in a time of 52:33 to earn the Men’s U23 national title. Jules Van Kempen (Lafayette, Colo.; Alpha Bicycle Company - Groove Silverthorne) finished in second, and Dillon McNeill (Papillion, N.E.; CX Hairs Devo: Trek Bikes) finished in third.

After his race, Strohmeyer said, “I thought of a little plan, but I hit the first turn, and it kind of just went out the window and something told me to just go to the front and ride hard, and it worked. I like riding conditions like this. It's probably the best conditions for me. The course was changing each lap and getting more slippery. I just had to keep my breathing under control and hit the right lines, and make sure that I was staying upright.”

Van Kempen discussed the key moment in his race that helped him secure silver, “At the top of the off-camber, one of the CX Hairs riders went down in front of me and slowed the other one down, I got a little gap and held that 5 seconds back to the finish… This is my best finish at the national championships. This is exciting for me, I would have loved to take the win, but I'm happy with second for now.”

One of the most exciting races of the day was the Elite Women’s race. After an action-packed start, riders were neck and neck going into the runups. A slip-up in the corner caused Clara Honsinger (Portland, Ore.; EF Education- TIBCO - SVB) to slide under the scrim, but that wouldn’t stop her from later winning by over a minute.

"This race is honestly one of the highest-pressure races of the year for me because I really want to win this jersey, especially coming back for the third time. So the points I focus on are really where I ride well and what I can do well - I spend time studying the course finding the little seconds I can break out of it, and just trying to keep a clear mind and not letting all of the hype around it get to me," said Honsinger.

Taking second was fan-favorite Raylyn Nuss (Warrenton, Miss.; Steve Tilford Foundation Racing), and rounding out the podium in third was Nice Bikes athlete Austin Killips (Chicago, Ill.).

In an exciting finale to the national championships, the Elite Men took to the line in the middle of a snowstorm. With conditions changing every lap, riders had to be very strategic when they dismounted their bikes. Leading the charge at the front on the first lap was Lance Haidet (San Luis Obispo, Calif; L39ion of Los Angeles). After bobbling in the pit, Haidet lost some time and was passed by the rest of the lead group, including Scott Funston (Boulder, Colo.; Blue Cycles p/b Build), Eric Brunner (Boulder, Colo.; Blue Cycles p/b Build), and Curtis White (Beverly, Mass.; Steve Tilford Foundation Racing). White and Brunner would eventually go on to play a game of cat and mouse. Each went back and forth until Brunner pulled away with a few laps to go. Brunner kept just enough distance between himself and White until he went down after the pits, resulting in White taking the lead. White would eventually pull ahead by seconds resulting in the earning of his first-ever Elite national title. This marked 18 years of racing national championships for White. All through the junior, U23, and elite ranks, he has never been able to capture the coveted stars-and-stripes jersey… until today.

After the race, White said, “It truly means the world. This sport is beautiful. I've wanted to be a professional cyclocross racer my whole life. I've been chasing the stars-and-stripes jersey, but my peers didn't make it easy on me, and I thank them for that. Day after day, my family, my fiance, my friends are sacrificing. It's freezing, my dad is motor pacing me, my coach is motor pacing me, we're in the woods training, and all the sacrifices have paid off. National Champion, finally, I’ve wanted that stars-and-stripes so bad, and I finally did it.”

White discussed his winning move, "When Eric went with 3 or 4 to go, I knew that I had to be patient. This course is hard. The chances of both of us making mistakes were high. When he went down, I saw my opportunity to get back to him and took it on the off-camber descent. It took all of my skill and focus to do that, but I made sure to do it behind him so he wouldn't see, and I saved that card for the last lap, and that was the move that won the race… I was breathing out of my eye sockets to keep the gap close, I had to focus on my race. I don't think I looked back once… I can't put words to it. The amount of people I heard screaming my name, it means the world."

After an incredible week in Hartford, Conn., the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships will head to Louisville, Ky. December 5-10, 2023.