Sanne van Paassen (Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team) delivered on her billing as pre-race favourite with a victory in her debut appearance at CrossVegas. The 23-year-old Dutchwoman rode a tactically astute race, biding her time before making a devastating attack from a lead group of six late on the final lap.
Racing for the first time in the United States, as well as making her first appearance in a 'cross race as a member of the Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team, van Paassen dug deep to hold Lea Davison (Specialized) by one second and third-placed Alison Powers (Now And Novartis For MS) by two seconds with a winning effort that resulted in the Rabobank rider sprawled out on the grass parcours after the finish line, gasping for breath.
Gabby Day (Rapha-Focus) finished in fourth place, also at two seconds, while Kelli Emmett (Giant Bicycles) and Meredith Miller (Cal Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) rounded out the lead group of protagonists in fifth and sixth place.
"It's nice to start ['cross season] with a win," van Paassen told Cyclingnews. "It was very much like a road race with so many girls in the front. In Europe I haven't seen that before. It was very hard, although it looked very easy. The grass was very long and heavy."
Van Paassen opted to wait for latter portion of the final lap to seek her fortune, and although Lea Davison launched what appeared to be the winning solo move midway through the penultimate lap, the Rabobank rider's strategy ultimately worked to perfection.
"That was my tactic, but my legs were not feeling that good," said van Paassen. "I had to wait because the course was so heavy with the long grass. I saw that Davison attacked with two laps to go but it was too hard to stay away [from that far out] so I think it was a good tactic for me to wait."
While van Paassen is just starting a 'cross season with her eye on returning to the United States in February to seek a world championship, each of the two other riders on the final podium entered CrossVegas with the minimum of intentions for the pursuing the discipline further this year and were each surprised at the outcome.
"I've only done four 'cross races, but since I was peaking for mountain bike Worlds and the Olympics I thought I could definitely have a good one. This is my one token 'cross race [this season], but maybe I'll change plans after this," runner-up Lea Davison said with a laugh.
In addition to a high level of fitness, it was also Davison's bike handling skills which enabled her to launch her penultimate lap bid for glory as she was able to ride a stair section midway through the lap.
"I planned it. I practiced riding all the stairs but that one was the most smooth every time," said Davison. "I was the only one riding them and sometimes girls would run around me but once they were getting back on I'd just sprint over the top...and that's where I got a gap.
"I was pretty comfortable [in the lead group] up to that point. It seemed there were a lot of games going on. My plan was just to be patient and honestly I wanted to attack on the last lap but these things happen. I saw I had a gap and thought 'I guess I have to go with it for a lap and a half'. I didn't know if I had that in me but you might as well try it."
A rider who was prominent at the front earlier in the race and was instrumental in neutralising Davison's late race gambit was Alison Powers, who was able to parlay her road fitness into a third place result at CrossVegas.
"It's very out of the blue," Powers said of her finish in the 2012 edition. "I've come here before and got eighth place twice.
"I don't race 'cross, I'm a roadie. I'm real bad when the weather gets bad but when it's a grass crit and it's not very technical it's good for me. But I'm really surprised."
Regarding her early efforts at the head of the race Powers said, "I honestly thought I wasn't going to get top three, so I thought 'why not?' - you get press when you lead the race and I'm going to get after it to make these other people work to catch me. It was fun, I can't believe it!"
And it was her road experience that enabled Powers to bring back Davison on the final lap, but still remain in contention.
"I didn't hammer, though, I knew that they were sitting on me and would need to save something for the end. I just went hard enough to bring her back and then recover and go for the sprint."
Despite her podium placing in the first UCI C1-ranked 'cross race of the US season, Powers, too, has no further ambitions for the remaining events on the 'cross calendar.
"I'm done. The road season was long, I'm tired and I've got no ['cross] plans. It's fun, I'll race in Colorado, but I have no plans to travel."
The sixth edition of CrossVegas had the riders race a slightly longer lap, featuring a new section of stairs plus the first-ever appearance of a fly-over situated late in the lap, and the predominantly grass parcours would render a race featuring steady attrition.
At the beginning of the second lap 25 riders were still in contact with each other at the head of the race while midway through the next lap the lead pack had been trimmed to approximately half that size.
Olympic and world championship mountain bike bronze medalist Georgia Gould (Luna) would make a powerful attack at the beginning of the penultimate lap which further cut the front group in size , but it would reform containing all the expected contenders: Davison, van Paassen, Day, Gould, Amy Dombroski (Telenet-Fidea), Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (Béziers Méditerrané Cyclisme), Meredith Miller (Cal Giant Berry Farms/Specialized), Judy Freeman (Crankbrothers), Julie Krasniak (Rapha-Focus) and Mary McConneloug (Team Kenda/Seven/NoTubes).
It would be from this group that Davison attacked later in the lap on a section of stairs, but van Paassen was lurking and once the Specialized rider was caught the Dutchwoman launched an attack for which her competitors ultimately had no answer.
|1||Sanne van Paassen (Ned) Rabobank Giant Off - Road Team||0:44:10|
|2||Lea Davison (USA) Specialized||0:00:01|
|3||Alison Powers (USA) Now And Novartis For MS||0:00:02|
|4||Gabriella Day (GBr) Rapha-Focus|
|5||Kelli Emmett (USA) Giant Bicycles||0:00:03|
|6||Meredith Miller (USA) Cal Giant Berry Farms/Specialized||0:00:06|
|7||Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (Fra) Béziers Méditerrané Cyclisme||0:00:24|
|8||Judy Freeman (USA) Crankbrothers Race Club||0:00:26|
|9||Amy Dombroski (USA) Young Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:00:31|
|10||Mary McConneloug (USA) Team Kenda/Seven/Notubes||0:00:39|
|11||Georgia Gould (USA) Luna Pro Team||0:00:50|
|12||Teal Stetson-Lee (USA) Luna Pro Team||0:01:01|
|13||Courtenay McFadden (USA) Voler/Bicycle Centres||0:01:06|
|14||Julie Krasniak (Fra) Rapha-Focus|
|15||Mical Dyck (Can) Stan's NoTubes Elite Cyclocross Team||0:01:33|
|16||Jessica Cutler (USA) Cyclocrossracing.com p/b Blue Compe USA||0:01:39|
|17||Elle Anderson (USA) Ladies First||0:02:06|
|18||Andrea Smith (USA) Ladies First||0:02:37|
|19||Robin Farina (USA) Uptown Cycles||0:02:38|
|20||Chloe Woodruff (USA) Crankbrothers Race Club||0:02:49|
|21||Nicole Duke (USA) Raleigh-Clement||0:03:20|
|22||Emily Thurston (USA) Team Rambuski Law||0:03:23|
|23||Kate Powlison (USA) The Service Course | World Bicycle Relief||0:03:24|
|24||Ellen Sherrill (USA) Bicycle Bluebook/HRS/Rock Lobster||0:03:30|
|25||Jean Ann Berkenpas (Can) Secret Cycles/Xprezo||0:03:50|
|26||Rebecca Gross (USA) KCCX||0:04:14|
|27||Carolin Schiff (Ger) Felt-SDG Factory Team||0:04:18|
|28||Lisa Hudson (USA) Feedback Sports||0:04:28|
|29||Rebecca Much (USA) The Service Course | World Bicycle Relief||0:05:18|
|30||Caroline Mani (Fra) Raleigh-Clement||0:05:26|
|31||Alexandra Burton (USA) Upper Echelon Fitness||0:05:27|
|32||Sydney Fox (USA) Summit Velo||0:05:29|
|33||Katie Arnold (USA) Bob's Red Mill||0:05:39|
|34||Anna Dingman (USA) Real Wheels Bicycle Studio||0:05:45|
|35||Sonya Looney (USA) Team Super Awesome||0:06:09|
|36||Ellen Noble (USA) Trek Cyclocross Collective||0:06:20|
|37||Linda Sone (USA) Crossniacs p/b Wesley Cycles||0:06:22|
|38||Cara Applegate (USA) Pepper Palace/Spin-Tech Training Pb A USA||0:07:12|
|39||Elizabeth So (USA) Les Petites Victoires||0:07:37|
|40||Shannon Gibson (USA) Stan's NoTubes Elite Cyclocross Team||0:08:11|
|41||Suzanne Johnson (USA) Michelob Ultra Big Shark Racing||0:09:11|
|42||Sofia Gomez Villafane (Arg)||0:09:48|
|43||Cristina Begy (USA) Gates Carbon Drive|