Curtis White looked a bit unfamiliar on the start line at Trek CX Cup, sporting the new kit Steve Tilford Foundation, the splatter of red, blue and gold a complete change from years in the green of now-folded Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld. His jersey may have a new look, but the three-time silver medalist at US ‘cross nationals raced with a familiar gritty pace at the front of the elite men’s C1 race on Friday.
He made the selection of 10 riders in the front group of riders from the field of 56 on Friday in the C1 contest. His new colours flashed at the front of the group when White attacked with four laps to go in the 10-lap race. He created some chaos in the group with the disruption, causing riders to drop back.
On the final lap, European champion Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions) attacked for the victory with Belgian Daan Soete (Deschacht-Hens-Maes) in second, while White rode across the line at the back of the international chase group for eighth place. Caleb Swartz was the next US rider to finish, in 11th place, edged out of the top 10 by a Belgian duo.
“You know, it was just racing in the group, it was very tactical, it was very fast. It really was a lot of the Euro racers that wanted to get the jet lag out of the legs. This is their test day. They’re training at a high level together, they’re able to push each other in training, and then in the races over there,” White told Cyclingnews after the fast finish.
“We’ve had a good start to the season here in the US. But this is a really good test for me to race against my European competitors. The last three races have been in the mud, it’s been a little slower, a little bit lower cadence racing. So this was a very fast, responsive race that I felt like I needed in the legs. So I was really happy to follow the wheels. Technically, I felt like I was driving the bike. I wish I played it a little bit better in the last lap with positioning.”
White has five podiums out of the first six races in the US, including a victory in his last outing before Waterloo at the C2 Charm City Cross. He is currently second in the US Cyclo-cross Series (USCX), 50 points behind Vincent Baestaens (Spits CX Team), but has a chance to secure the overall title in November at Really Rad Festival of Cycling as Baestaens is expected to be racing in Europe at that time.
So how does it look for Sunday, the first World Cup of 14 for the 2022-2023 season?
“Yeah, a lot of Belgians, a lot of Dutch, it’s the field we had today [Friday C1] plus a few extra. So I think taking my experiences today, learning from them with the positioning [is important]. It wasn’t about who was strongest, it was about positioning. It’s so fast and technical that there’s not much passing,” White noted about the Friday race.
After a pair of C1/World Cup competitions on the US tour of Waterloo and Fayetteville, White will not chase World Cup points in Europe but remain in North America through the US Cyclo-cross National Championships, which return to Hartford, Connecticut for a second time, December 6-11. He will then travel to Europe for a block of racing.
Nationals are always on his mind. In ten consecutive trips to ‘cross nationals to compete in junior, Under-23 and elite races, he has never finished lower than sixth place. But for now, his focus is on Wisconsin.
“Overall, I’m happy with the ride and happy to represent the new team, the new colours at the Trek Cup,” White said. “We have a few new features coming into play, a couple of run-ups Sunday. So it’ll be a challenging day.”