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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- On a downright balmy day, under cloudless blue skies, Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) won Day 1 of the 2012 Derby City Cup on Saturday in Eva Bandman Park.
The U.S. national champion had been off the front with Ryan Trebon (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) with two laps to go in the third round of the Trek USGP of Cyclocross, and the two had seemed evenly matched until Powers drove away from the lanky Cannondale rider to take sole possession of the lead with one lap remaining.
"I found the flow today," Powers said when asked if he found the rhythm he was looking for ahead of the world cyclocross championship, which will find its way to Louisville and Eva Bandman Park in February.
Trebon hung on for second, and Danny Summerhill (Garmin-Chipotle) proved best of the rest, taking third in a four-up sprint with Adam Craig (Giant-Rabobank), Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) and Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement).
Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus) got the holeshot, but Summerhill came by him on the second grassy straightway with Berden on his wheel. It was Berden who then took charge, leading a group containing McDonald, his Rapha teammates Powers and Chris Jones, Summerhill and Trebon into Lap 2.
Powers took the front on the pavement, and then Trebon led the way through the long sand pit, pursued by Summerhill, Powers and Berden.
With seven laps remaining the leaders were Trebon, Powers, Berden, Summerhill and Craig, cranking out six-minute laps as they blazed around the sunburned grass of the riverside park. Johnson was doggedly working his way forward after a tough start and finally bridged to the leaders.
Berden attacked the group and Craig chased with the others in tow. Then Trebon, Powers and Berden left the others behind, and Johnson sat on, forcing Summerhill and Craig to chase as Justin Lindine (Redline) closed in on them.
Just a half lap later, Berden appeared in the front with Trebon attacking to bridge the gap. Just as quickly, Powers rode from sixth wheel through the group and launched ahead to fill the gap to the leaders. It was the move of the day; from that point on the race took on a very different complexion.
"As soon as that move went, Ryan snapped me out of the hibernation I was in," Powers said. "Tim was with us and would have slowed us all down in the next technical section, so I wanted to go before he could do that, to minimize how much work it would take for me to get up to Ryan. I put in an attack in the most technical section and was able to just come around them."
Berden almost immediately fell back, leaving Powers and Trebon to battle for supremacy. And a battle it was -- Powers rode the limestone staircase while Trebon ran it, and the two stayed neck and neck, adding to their advantage with three laps to go.
With two to go the leaders soft-pedaled through the finish line. And the gap hovered at 35 seconds -- but started dropping -- to Berden, Johnson, Summerhill and Craig. Summerhill sat up and stretched the back, knowing the show was about to begin.
Then, up front, Powers punched it. He opened the throttle on the paved straight that paralleled the finish straight and, with one to go, he was gone. While he churned the pedals, Trebon wilted under a setting sun.
Trebon would steadily fall behind over the course of the final lap, but hung on for the runner-up spot.
"It was warm out there. Jeremy and I were both kinda hurting; he just rode one section faster and that was it," Trebon said. "It wasn't so much a race of attacking; we were both just slowly dying out there."
Meanwhile, the race behind was just getting started, as a dynamic last lap saw frantic scrambling for position as Berden, Craig, Johnson and Summerhill wrestled for the final spot on the podium. The Belgian made an early bid, attacking through the sand pit, to no avail. Craig led onto the last paved straight, but it was Summerhill blazing to third to continue his best-ever cyclocross season.
"The less I give a crap -- pardon my language -- the better I do," Summerhill said. "I've just been caring less and less about training -- if I can get a ride in great, if not, no worries -- and it's been great."
Craig, sporting his now famous fluorescent yellow helmet, crossed the line fourth.
"I started mountain biking in December and I assumed that I'd be riding 'cross like a total joker," he said. "But I'm not, so I'm just taking it one day at a time. I'm pleased I'm riding well, and I'm slightly irritated about it, because it's going to cut into my ski season. I had a good race, but Summerhill punked me for the last podium spot."