US champion Katie Compton signaled her continued dominance in the North American cyclo-cross season with a command performance under lights at CrossVegas. She may have had a new team and new sponsors, but she was back to the same business of soloing away from the competition in the marquee event of the US season.
Thousands of fans enjoyed the mild Nevada temperatures, but riders endured extremely arid conditions at the aptly named Desert Sands soccer complex. It made breathing difficult for those not used to coping with humidity in the single digits, and was a far cry from the familiar atmosphere of hole-shot winner Helen Wyman (Kona).
Compton sat back at first to let the eager Wyman attack the first lap, then waited to pounce with Luna Chix' Katerina Nash mid-way through the first lap as the Briton began to fade.
"Helen always starts fast, and I knew that. She opened up a gap on the first small loop, and I pulled that back. Then on the back side, she began to yo-yo a bit on the group so Katerina and I kept the pressure on," said Compton.
The trio became a duo as Nash and Compton powered away from Wyman heading up the hill to the end of the first lap, leaving the peloton decimated in their wake. It looked as if the race would be a tight battle between Compton and her Czech companion, but a crash by Nash after the run-up left Compton no choice but to solo to victory over the next 30 minutes.
"I was looking forward to a solid race with Katerina because she's really strong, but I couldn't wait for her and take the risk of a crash or leaving it to a sprint."
Compton had already put the pressure on Nash with a powerful surge at the barriers, but the slip put an end to what could have been an exciting battle for the victory.
The side show becomes a main attraction
Nash was able to maintain a steady gap to Compton of 20-30 seconds, but behind her a constantly-changing chase group stole the show from the two leaders, with a heated battle for the final podium spot.
Wyman held third position until lap three when she was caught and left behind by Georgia Gould (Luna Chix). A fast-charging Kelli Emmett (Giant) bridged up to Gould after becoming detached during the first lap's aggression, and the two put on a brilliant display of tenacious racing, attacking each other constantly over the final three laps.
"I had a pretty slow start, I guess I wasn't warmed up enough, and wasn't able to follow the accelerations on the first lap," said Gould. "I had just resigned myself to riding alone, but then Kelli caught up and it just turned into a full-on drag race and cat fight for the last three laps!
"I was a little faster on the barriers, I wasn't afraid, and was more of a kamikaze after tripping over them last year," Gould joked, recalling the fumble that cost her a shot at the win in last year's event.
Emmett, who fractured her hand seven weeks ago, just had her cast removed last week but wasn't slowed by the injury; however, the lack of intensity over the past month eventually cost Emmett and Gould was able to power away on the final lap to take home the third spot.
Emmett was surprised that she was even up with the front group, having come into the event with a top 15 as the goal in her first race back from injury.
"I broke my hand in a training race in between the Mont Saint Anne and Bromont [mountain bike] World Cups at the end of July," explained Emmett. "I was just doing a training race and slid on the wet grass and put my hand down... I just got the cast off last week, so I wasn't sure if I would have the form."
"I did a lot of riding with my cast on, so I had the fitness, but the only intensity I've had came in the past week."
Emmett had a devious plan to deal with Gould, who just had just finished a full mountain bike season followed by a two-week break. "I watched where she was strong, and looked for a weakness. I knew she was faster than me on the barriers, so I tried to get in front to slow her down a bit," said Emmett.
"She threw in a bunch of attacks, but I was able to cover them - we knew it would come down to the last lap. She just put in one attack that I wasn't able to close."
The battle for honour
While the fight for third unfolded ahead, Wyman was struggling with the warm, arid conditions which were quite unfamiliar to her British lungs.
"I've never ridden in these conditions - never in my life. It was unreal. After the first lap it just got harder and harder to breathe," she explained.
Her throat and lungs burning, Wyman put in a valiant effort to stay with Gould and Emmett as they passed, but eventually faded to fifth position on the fourth lap, then was caught and passed by another exciting duel on the final lap.
Monavie-Cannondale's Sue Butler looked likely to contend for the podium on the first lap, but fatigue from racing the past weekend's NACT events caught up with her on the second lap when she came unglued from Emmett and a hard-charging Mary McConneloug.
McConneloug overcame a last-row starting position, powering through the field to catch Butler and then solo away for fifth place.
Behind, Butler was caught by the US National (road) Racing Calendar champion Alison Powers, a cyclo-cross rookie who until tonight had only raced 'cross on a single speed.
"It was my first race on a geared bike, and you can really go a lot faster!" said Powers. "I didn't know I was going to do this race until about two weeks ago when Fuji stepped in and sponsored myself and [Team Type 1 road teammate] Kori Seehafer. I had to hurry up and train - I hadn't raced since my break after road nationals in July."
Powers stuck with Butler until the last lap when the more experienced 'crosser left her behind.
"I knew this was going to be a hard race, so I knew I couldn't go out to fast. I picked it back up a little later," said Butler.
She cruised in for sixth place, while Wyman found a late burst to claim seventh ahead of Powers.
|1||Katherine Compton (USA) Planet Bike||0:40:45|
|2||Katerina Nash (Cze) Luna Chix||0:00:59|
|3||Georgia Gould (USA) Luna Chix||0:01:10|
|4||Kelli Emmett (USA) Giant Bicycles||0:01:14|
|5||Mary McConneloug (USA) Team KENDA/Seven/NoTubes||0:02:17|
|6||Susan Butler (USA) Monavie-Cannondale.com||0:02:20|
|7||Helen Wyman (GBr) Kona||0:02:21|
|8||Alison Powers (USA) Team Fuji||0:02:35|
|9||Amy Dombroski (USA) RGM Watches - Richard Sachs - Radix||0:03:26|
|10||Laura Van Gilder (USA) C3 Athletes Serving Athletes||0:03:28|
|11||Alison Sydor (Can) Rocky Mountain - Maxxis|
|12||Barbara Howe (USA)||0:03:32|
|13||Kristin Wentworth (USA) Planet Bike||0:03:41|
|14||Kari Studley (USA) Velo Bella||0:03:56|
|15||Devon Haskell (USA) Velo Bella||0:04:12|
|16||Wendy Williams (USA) Hudz/Subaru||0:04:17|
|17||Jean Ann McKirdy (Can) Local Ride Racing||0:04:28|
|18||Emily Van Meter (USA) Hudz/Subaru||0:04:30|
|19||Coryn Rivera (USA) Proman Hit Squad||0:04:53|
|20||Kori Kelley Seehafer (USA) Team Type 1||0:05:13|
|21||Rebecca Blay (USA) Mafia Racing||0:05:28|
|22||Rebecca Much (USA) Hudz-Subaru Cyclocross Team||0:05:38|
|23||Lisa Curry (USA) GAS/Intrinsik Cycling Team||0:06:03|
|24||Marne Smiley (USA)||0:06:54|
|25||Kendall Ryan (USA) Team C.I.C.L.E. / Voler||0:07:00|
|26||Julie Kuliecza (USA) Alan North America Cycling||0:07:03|
|27||Tiffany Pezzulo (USA) DFT p/b Treads|
|28||Lana Atchley (USA)|
|29||Kate Scheider (USA) Mafia Racing|
|30||Sarah Kaufmann (USA) Titus/Roaring Mouse||0:07:16|
|31||Cristina Begy (USA) Gates/Spot||0:07:31|
|32||Kris Walker (USA) Ice/Rocky Mountain Surgery||0:07:48|
|33||Dorothy Wong (USA) Team CICLE / Voler|
|34||Marian Jamison (USA) Sinclair/Stevens|
|35||Lynn Bush (USA) Tough Girl / Scott|
|36||Michele Bliss (USA) Chipotle-Titus|
|DNF||Lea Davison (USA) Maxxis/Rocky Mountain|
|DNS||Anna Young (USA) Pioneer Racing|
|DNS||Alison Dunlap (USA) Luna Chix|