The mainly dry and spread out cyclocross nationals course in Reno was not your typical grueling cross course like those that span muddy Belgian hillsides. It was next to a sprawling dog park and a playground. It was at altitude but otherwise seemed almost benign.
The real test for Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com riders Stephen Hyde and Kaitie Keough came perhaps mostly from within. Having raced alongside 13-time national champion Katie Compton for years, Keough knew that she had to be mentally able to overcome the seemingly unbeatable Compton. Her strong efforts on the day placed her on the third step of the podium with a bronze medal, but she was clearly looking for much more.
As defending national champion, Stephen Hyde carried the pressure to repeat, as do all former national champions. He came to the race off of strong finishes in Belgium in December, but then was hit with patellar tendinitis coming into the new year. His heavily taped knee peeking out of his leg warmers did not seem like a good sign. On top of that, Hyde crashed and bloodied the same knee during a practice lap on race day. Having to mentally deal with that gnawing at him at the start line, Hyde nevertheless held with the elite group throughout the race before going head-to-head with Jeremy Powers into the final laps. As the pair approached the last technical section, Hyde attacked and pressed his advantage all the way to the finish. Compared to the snow blowing about the finish line last year, Sunday’s win for Stephen Hyde was a world apart.