FREMONT, Neb. — Brad Auen took the lead out of the chute Saturday at the Calvin Crest Crankfest cross-country mountain bike race and never looked back.
If he had, he probably wouldn't have seen anyone.
After the first lap, Auen had opened up a 40-second lead on Steve Jarrett of Bellevue. He had doubled the lead by the end of the second lap. He won the five-lap race by more than four minutes.
Riding alone, Auen was disciplined enough to keep pressing hard with the competition well behind him in the woods.
“It's easy to stay motivated,” Auen said after the race. “I just think about Mark Savery being out there, and it keeps me going.”
Savery, of Omaha, has been on Auen's back tire all season in the Psycowpath Mountain Bike Series. Savery has quite the resume, winning his age class, 40-44, at the world cyclocross event a year ago and finishing second at nationals.
“He's the hero around here,” Auen said.
Auen, of Council Bluffs, has been riding for only three years but has become the rider to beat in the 2013 Psycowpath series.
“Auen has really come on strong and has a lot of natural talent,” said Ryan Feagan, organizer of Saturday's race.
The course at Calvin Crest is a hidden gem for mountain biking. Just south of Fremont on County Road 13 at the Calvin Crest Retreat on the banks of the Platte River, the 5-mile loop is mostly technical single track trails winding through the woods along the river.
“It's not going to be much of a secret after this race,” Auen said.
Perhaps the word soon will be getting out on Auen, too.
Only 26, he started racing mountain bikes after a stint racing four-wheelers. As a mountain bike racer, he's been at the top of the 19-29 Cat 1 division all year.
Racing for the Lincoln Industries/Flatwater Cycling team, Auen hopes to build on local wins to start racing nationally. He has traveled through the Midwest getting experience in larger races and hopes to turn pro next year.
“That's the goal,” he said as his competition began crossing the finish line.
Auen is a bike mechanic at The Bike Way in Omaha. The job allows him to stay focused on racing. To turn pro, he will have to attract sponsors to help pay for travel and the equipment it takes to compete on a national level.
“His bike cost $7,500,” said Auen's mother, Debbie. “That's a car to me.”
In other action, Roxzanne Feagan won the women's marathon race, a four-hour endurance event. Feagan has competed nationally for the past two seasons and made the podium earlier this year with a second-place finish at the Crested Butte Big Mountain Enduro near Gunnison, Colo.
On Saturday, Feagan fought off the challenge of Omaha's Carly Thomsen for the first three hours before opening a five-minute lead in the final few laps.
Cat 1: 1, Brad Auen, Lincoln Industries/Flatwater Cycling; 2, Stephen Jarrett, Trek Stores of Omaha; 3, Travis Anderson, The Bike Way
Marathon: Men's 1, Matt Gersib, Singular Cycles/Cycle Works; 2, Dale Pinkelman, Monkey Wrench Cycles; 3, Todd Eyberg, Greenstreet Cycles. Women's 1, Roxzanne Feagan, Trek Stores of Omaha; 2, Carly Thomsen, Greenstreet Cycles; 3, Emily Horsley, Greenstreet Cycles.