Sweeck's Sweecking and Noble Hopping: Five Vegas Takeaways

Sweeck's Sweecking and Noble Hopping: Five Vegas Takeaways

Sep 23, 2017 by Ian Dille
Sweeck's Sweecking and Noble Hopping: Five Vegas Takeaways

On Wednesday night, as the lights began to dim on CrossVegas’ final show in Sin City, a huddle of men — one wearing Mardi Gras beads, another shirtless — shouted, “SWEECK, SWEECK, SWEECK,” from the base of the finish line stage, upon which the podium sat.

When the racer for whom they chanted walked onto the stage, waved his hand, and took his place on the podium’s top step, his diehard fans led the assembled crowd in a roar of applause.

Even in its curtain call in Vegas — the race will move to Reno, along with the Interbike tradeshow in 2018 — CrossVegas brought the same energy that has always made it one of America’s most iconic events. Here’s what we saw under the lights on Wednesday night.

1. The Sweeck Brothers Sweecking

The adulation for elite men’s race winner Laurens Sweeck wasn’t without reason. He rode the uphill sandpit on the first lap and emerged with a huge gap. He wasn’t to be seen again until he waited for his brother, Diether, in the closing meters. The two brothers finished side by side.

The 24-year-old Belgian twins have quickly gained a following among U.S. cross fans for their tenacious style of racing as well as for their laid-back personas and appreciation of the American cross scene and culture. Laurens and his brother were the only Belgians to make the stop at CrossVegas during this hectic week in racing, which will see two World Cup events and three UCI races occur within 10 days.

They came because they have a personal relationship with CrossVegas promoter Brook Watts, and also because — well — Vegas baby. They stayed at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino on the Vegas strip with an entourage of family members, who also serve as their support staff, and the Belgians admitted to pulling the handles on a few slot machines during the week.

If the brothers — particularly Laurens, who’s ranked fourth in the world — continue racing with this amount of panache throughout the season, we can expect Sweeck (pronounced, Svaeck) to become a verb. What is Sweecking, exactly? You’ll have to watch them race to find out.

2. Powers On Point

Once it was apparent no one would ride with Laurens Sweeck, Powers played a waiting game in the second group containing Sweeck’s brother Diether, Canadian Michael Van Den Ham, Bjorn Selander, and Geoff Kabush.

Powers told us he’d come into the season well-conditioned but with little speed work in his legs; he has put late-season goals like the national championships and the Pan American championships at the top of his agenda. His third-place finish in Vegas confirmed he’s on track.

3. The Return Of Bjorn Selander

Coming in just behind Powers in fourth place, Bjorn Selander rode an impressive race (on borrowed wheels, since he rolled a tire just prior to the start). Selander dug deep to maintain contact with the chase group, and secured some valuable UCI points for his finish.

After spending a number of years racing on the road and undergoing surgery to correct an iliac artery endofibrosis diagnosis in his leg, Selander is now dedicating himself solely to cross for the 2017-18 season. His ride in Vegas showed that decision just may pay off.

4. Katerina Nash Doling Out High Fives

About halfway through the women’s elite race, Katerina Nash took off with Clif Pro Team compatriot Catherine Pendrel, and the duo wasn’t to be seen again.

Nash eventually left Pendrel behind, and cruised in solo for the win with enough of a gap to high five fans on both sides of the finish straight as she pedaled toward the line. Nash, who also won the Jingle Cross World Cup in Iowa City a few days prior to CrossVegas, has come into the 2017 season in flying form. We’ll see if she can hold the momentum.

5. Ellen Noble Making Everything Right In The World

Noble wowed fans in Iowa City by bunny hopping the course’s barriers on her way to a top-10 World Cup finish. In her Vegas pre-ride, she gave hopping a shot, but after a fumble over the second barrier, decided not to risk it in the race. However, with the lights and the fans and the adrenaline of the race, she bunny hopped the CrossVegas barriers all night long.

“I think they moved the barriers a bit further apart,” she mused about her change of heart.

Former editor of Bicycling magazine Bill Strickland perhaps put it best following CrossVegas, when he tweeted, “Yeah, there’s a lot of shitty stuff going on — but @ellenlikesbikes is bunnyhopping barriers in UCI races. It’s all gonna be alright.”