Four JAM/NCC junior riders made their debut in Cyclocross National Championships this weekend at Riverside Park in Hartford, Connecticut.
Jaden Wise, 14, lined up at 9 o'clock in the morning with 62 riders in the junior 13-14 category while temperatures dropped below freezing. He had a strong start, moving up quickly through the pack from his third-row call up position. Things were looking pretty good until he hit traffic at the base of Break Bonker Hill, which was covered in frozen-solid, cement-hard ruts.
"I got caught behind a group of riders that had a hard time running the off camber," he said. "I got passed by a lot of people."
Wise won ten races this cyclocross season but says National Championships were a new challenge. He finished on the lead lap in 25th place.
"It was fun, hard and very different than the other races that I have done," he said. "It was nationals, and there were kids from all over the country."
Mira Fowler, 14, was also making her debut at nationals and raced in the junior girls 13-14 event.
"I really liked the course," she said. "It was my first nationals and I can't wait for more to come."
By noon on Saturday, it was dumping snow as Aiden Mapel, 15, lined up to start racing with the junior men 15-16. He was bundled up just enough to keep warm to finish in 58th in a large juniors field.
Katie Johnson, 16, raced in white-out conditions in the junior women's 16-17, where she finished 13th.
"My favorite part was the ruts," she said. "It really, really pushed me physically and it all came down to the mental game of how hard and clean to ride."
Johnson says the most difficult part of the race was the Bonk Breaker Hill, where junior riders traversed the base of the hill rather than climb it as other categories did in previous days.
"It was hard to run along the top without slipping and hard to see what was ahead," Johnson said. "Overall, the experience was amazing. This is going to be a race I will talk about for ages."
Course conditions were a bit muddier on Friday when Coach Alec Donahue raced with the Master's 40-44. The frozen ruts made the Break Bonker Hill mostly unrideable and that meant a lot of running. Donahue had a decent race finishing in the top ten.
On Sunday, JAM/NCC riders will be racing in several events. Jack Kisseberth and Scott Smith will represent the team in the elite men's race at 3:00 p.m. Natalie Tapias will race the women's elite at 1:15 p.m.. Trent Blackburn and Case Butler will be in the U23 race at 11:30 a.m.. Anna Savage will race in the junior 17-18 that goes off at the same time as the women's U23 but will be scored separately. Her race is at 10:00 a.m.. All of Sunday's races will be live-streamed starting at 9:00 a.m. on USA Cycling Youtube or at Cyclocross Magazine.