Grit and glory on final day of cyclocross at Cantigny

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Updated 12/12/2021 5:40 PM

The nation’s best cyclocross racers don’t end up atop a medal stand or podium.

The top riders instead step onto three tree stumps for their moment of glory, a fitting final stage for a gritty sport, part mountain biking, all action.

The ceremony Sunday afternoon concluded a week of racing at the cyclocross national championships, a USA Cycling event held for the first time at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

Riders in collegiate, professional and age-group categories defied the elements, hurtling across a 2-mile course in freezing temperatures one day and high winds another.

“The participants might not want it, but I usually

hope for one or two days of precipitation just to really give people a true cyclocross experience,” Tara McCarthy, USA Cycling director of national events, said ahead of the finale.

Cyclocross competitors avoided the mud-bowl atmosphere of the 2019 championships near Tacoma, Washington. But Cantigny’s Butterfly Hill and man-made obstacles on the race route provided a test of bike-handling skills.

The sport puts a unique spin on off-road cycling: Riders dismount their bike, sling it over their shoulder, run up hills or stairs and get back on their wheels, ideally without face-planting.

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