With a savvy move on a snowy day, Curtis White made himself a champion
Three straight trips to US Cyclocross Nationals, three straight second-place finishes. Curtis White had every right to feel like he was snakebitten on one of the biggest stages for an American cyclocross star. But on Sunday he buried the notion of curses, hexes, or any other superstitions impeding his success. On a snowy day in Hartford, Conn., he outdueled defending champion Eric Brunner in a thriller to win his first ever elite national title.
“It truly means the world,” White said after the race. “I don’t normally get emotional after races, but you know, this sport is beautiful. I wanted to be a professional cyclocross racer my whole life. I’ve been chasing the Stars and Stripes. My peers haven’t made it easy on me, and I thank them for that. Day after day, my family, my fiancée, my friends were all sacrificing.
“All the sacrifices paid off, and I’m the national champion finally. I wanted that so bad. It’s something I thought about every day.”
Snow began to fall during the elite women’s race, and blanketed the ground by the time the men lined up. The course was wet and slippery, and getting worse.
White and Brunner established themselves as the two strongest riders in the race after two chaotic laps. Then midway through the seven-lap race, Brunner pulled away in hopes gaining a definitive lead. He couldn’t escape the bad conditions, however. With just a few laps to go, Brunner crashed in the pits, and White took advantage of the gaffe to catch up to his rival.
White rode patiently with Brunner, then used his technical savvy to keep his momentum high through an off-camber descent, giving himself a lead that Brunner couldn’t close. White won the race by four seconds.
“I was taking a big risk on the descent off-camber,” White said. “I saw a chance to get free momentum coming out of it and when I caught him, I tried that move. I don’t think he saw it. And then that was where I put all my eggs in the basket on that last lap.”
White and Brunner have done battle many times, and Sunday’s back-and-forth highlighted how close their competitive relationship has grown.
“Eric’s really upped his level over the last few years. He’s a fierce competitor,” White said. “Every weekend, there was something to learn from him: ‘He’s doing something really well, how do I do it better?’ And this race, I knew what he was going to do, and I knew what he’s capable of. I know he’s been putting a lot of work into the technical side. But when he got the gap with maybe three or four to go, I also knew anything could happen.”
Even sweeter, White won the race just two hours away from his hometown of Schenectady, NY. White was surrounded by friends, family, and a strong contingent of fans. The experience, beneath falling snowflakes, felt like a dream.
“I can’t put words to it,” White said. “I mean, the amount of people I heard screaming my name — the motivation, the nerves, the stress — but I mean, it means the world.”
Maddie Munro wins collegiate AND U23 titles
Maddie Munro continues to clean up at U.S. national championships. On Sunday, she won the U23 women’s national title by 27 seconds over Katie Clouse, just three days after winning the collegiate title by more than two minutes with Colorado Mesa University.
Munro has won four national titles in total in 2022, including her collegiate and U23 titles in cross country mountain biking earlier this year. And she’s not just cleaning up on the domestic scene — Munro also took third in Snowshoe and second in Mont-Sainte-Anne for her first two career U23 World Cup podiums.
At just 20 years old, Munro has already established herself as one of the strongest and savviest American riders of any discipline. Two dominant performances on a cold weekend in Hartford confirmed that.