Chris Jones in the starting grid at Cross Vegas, by: Jeremy Dunn

The race featured no fewer than four current national champions and a field regarded as the most talented list of cross riders to race in North America. Team riders Chris Jones and Zach McDonald were on hand for the annual kick off to the domestic cross season and prepared to answer everyone’s question, “Would there be a repeat of last year?”

The 2009 edition of Cross Vegas featured Jones and Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale-Cyclocross World) in a dramatic two man breakaway from which Jones took second place. Jones was confident before the race saying, “I just came from USPro Road Nationals, so the fitness is there. We’ll see how the race plays out.”

The race started hard and remained fast through its entirety. Jones was in the front group with the race favorites. Driscoll was the only rider to escape the group for any significant amount of time. Jones last heroic dig saw him in 2nd place, 15 seconds clear, midway through the last lap. That move set fire to the front of the chase, though, and when the dust settled Driscoll had been pipped meters before the line by French Champion Francis Mourey.

Zach, historically a slow starter, dieseled his was through the field all night to a creditable 20th, 2nd U23. Reflecting on the race, McDonald mused, “That was a rude way to start the season; it was super fast! The crowd kept me going, it was like a World Cup with the fans so deep all around the course, yelling and cheering.”

Jones, 11th on the night, added, “We have such phenomenal support this season and battling against the some of the best riders in the world was the perfect way to begin this program as we aim for the 2013 Worlds in Louisville.”

Scott Rittschof of Focus USA described the atmosphere as surreal. A veteran of many CX World Cup and World Championship races, he said the intensity at Cross Vegas, amongst the racers as well as in the huge crowds, was every bit as extraordinary.

The Rapha-Focus Team heads to the first round of the USGP of Cyclocross in Madison, Wisconsin this weekend, September 25th and 26th, where Jones will aim for the top place on the podium.

Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus) and Francis Mourey (FDJ)

Photo by: Podium Insight