Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) uncorked her best-ever weekend of elite-level cyclo-cross at Saturday and Sunday's Exergy US Gran Prix of Cyclocross Derby City Cup, notching a third place finish on Saturday behind the top-two ranked 'cross riders in the world, Katie Compton (Rabobank-Giant-Off-Road Team) and Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team), followed on Sunday by an even better performance in which she outsprinted Nash for second.
The podium celebrations were even more poignant for Antonneau and Compton as the talented 19-year-old is coached by Compton. The Rabobank-Giant star soloed to victory each day in Louisville, Kentucky, and was beaming as she awaited the finish of her pupil on both Saturday and Sunday.
Compton was modest in her assessment of the role she played in Antonneau's performance.
"I give her guidance, but it's all her," said Compton. "She's the one that's putting the hard work into it, doing everything she needs to and she has the talent to be here. It's kind of like my guidance but she's pedalling the bike."
Antonneau was ecstatic with her podium finishes at the Eva Bandman Park venue in Louisville which will host the cyclo-cross world championships in 2013.
"I'm so excited. Having Worlds here in 2013 makes it extra-motivating," said Antonneau.
Antonneau showed remarkable tenacity on both days as she rode herself into contention after missing the initial selections.
"I made a few mistakes on the first lap that separated me from the lead group," Antonneau said regarding Saturday's race. "I kept chasing, except I kept making mistakes, I think because it was so fast and I was on the whole time.
"I kind of got my act together around the middle of the second lap and I just kept picking people off, pushing and chasing as hard as I could."
Antonneau was only seconds behind the duo of Nash and French champion Caroline Mani (CC Etupes) on the final lap, and a crash by Mani provided the opportunity to claim third, 10 seconds behind a relieved Nash.
"Kaitlin was coming, she was catching up, and I was glad we were done when we were done," said Nash.
On Sunday Antonneau learned from her mistakes from the previous day and this time made contact with a trio, Nash, Meredith Miller (California Gian-Specialized) and her Cannondale p/b Cyclocross teammate Nicole Duke, battling for second behind Compton.
On the final lap the race for second came down to a dual between Antonneau and Nash with the ever-modest 19-year-old outsprinting the Czech champion and Exergy USGP series leader.
"When I got onto the pavement I just sprinted as fast as I could," said Antonneau.
Antonneau, the reigning US U23 cyclo-cross champion, has been a consistent top-10 performer all season in the elite women's races and has steadily improved her results as the season's progressed. She opened her Exergy USGP account with 11th and 8th place finishes at the Planet Bike Cup in late September, both won by Nash.
On the first weekend in October Antonneau notched back-to-back fourth place finishes in the NEPCX-Gran Prix of Gloucester, won both days by British champion Helen Wyman (Kona).
The next weekend Antonneau returned to Exergy USGP competition where she placed seventh and eighth place in rounds three and four at the New Belgium Cup, won by Nash and Compton respectively.
Prior to her consecutive podium finishes in Louisville, Kentucky, Antonneau again showed remarkable consistency at the Cincy3 trifecta of races, where she finished third on the opening Darkhorse Cyclo-Stampede International, followed by fourth place finishes at the Java Johnny's-Lionheart International and Harbin Park International, all won by Compton.
"She's getting stronger every season, just a great bike racer and she's learning a ton," said Compton. "It's about making sure she's doing everything right. She's easy to coach. I just tell her what she needs to do and she does it. She works hard and she's talented, so she makes my job easy. I'm really excited to see how she progresses."
"She's the best in the world," said Antonneau of her coach. "I learn a lot from her and she helps me so much."