Ethan Thompson, far left, placed fourth at the USA Cycling Cross-Country Nationals event in Pennsylvania earlier this month and kept him at the top of the regional points standing. (photo by Erin Thompson)
Ethan Thompson, far left, placed fourth at the USA Cycling Cross-Country Nationals event in Pennsylvania earlier this month and kept him at the top of the regional points standing. (photo by Erin Thompson)

Thompson fourth in USA Cycling Cross-Country Nationals

Published 10:31pm Monday, July 29, 2013

Fourth place at the recent USA Cycling Cross-Country Nationals in eastern Pennsylvania, got Polk County’s Ethan Thompson on the podium and kept him regional points leader in the 15-18 age group.

The race also continued his focus on earning a bicycling scholarship to college.

While Thompson had already defeated the event’s frontrunners in previous competition, starting and passing circumstances probably cost the young Green Creek/Mill Springs resident at least one spot in the event, but “it was a good, solid race,” he said.

Overcoming a clogged start, which gave him seventh place early on, “I made a couple of passes,” said Thompson. Close to race’s end, he was in third place, when the rider ahead of him fell. To avoid a collision, Thompson had to slow down, and unclip (his shoes from his pedals). That allowed the next rider to pass him, putting Thompson in fourth place, where he finished. Some 20 riders competed in the race. The first five finishers were called to the podium, where they were awarded medals.

Because the trail through the woods is often little more than a foot wide, such situations are demanding on skill and equipment, and present random advantages and disadvantages to riders. In this case, Thompson did the best he could, but could not overcome all the obstacles.

In spite of his having defeated many of these riders on different occasions, Thompson was still somewhat nervous at the start. He said his initial strategy was like that of most of the riders – to not take an early lead.

“Nobody goes first into the woods,” said Thompson. Trying to maintain a lead can be wearing on a race of some 8 miles. Instead, he said, most riders try to maintain the leader’s pace, and try to pass their way to first.

In spite of three riders finishing ahead of him, Thompson noted that only one minute separated first and fourth places. Thompson finished just nine seconds behind the second and third-place winners, who crossed the finish line together.

“I think it’s good,” Thompson summarized, although he expressed some disappointment at not finishing faster. “Not every race lines up the way you want it to.”

During the recent event, Thompson also got to meet some professional racers,and their very expensive equipment.

“It was crazy,” he reported.

What’s next? This weekend, Thompson will stay in the 15-18 age (Junior) class in another cross-country race. He’s maintaining his weekly training routine of some 100 miles on his bike, along with weight training.

After this week, he’ll move to the Men’s (age 19-29) class, and after that, to the Men’s 19-29 Category 2 class, with longer races. Though the competition will be more difficult, Thompson has raced against adults earlier, and defeated many of those riders.

He currently enjoys a 100-point lead in the 15-18 age group, in nationwide competition.

“We’re just trying to get on the podium,” said Thompson, whose parents, Cory and Erin Thompson, have both been highly supportive of his bicycle racing.

While bicycle racing scholarships – and colleges with such programs – are hardly common, nearby Brevard College is one. Thompson likes Brevard, which has cross-country and downhill racing programs.

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