Lily Williams (The Pony Shop) took her first USA Cycling ProCX win of the season in the Elite women’s contest at the North Carolina Grand Prix Saturday in Hendersonville.
The temperatures hovered just above freezing Saturday afternoon, with dry conditions for the course pre-rides. At 2,200 feet above sea level, snow began to fall about one hour before 23 Elite Women took the course, making the track greasy.
“It was cold and snowy and the conditions deteriorated throughout the race,” explained 21-year-old Emma Swartz (Trek Factory Racing CX), who has finished in the Top 10 the last two years in Hendersonville. “Compared to past years, they added a section near the finish line so that it goes through the woods. It’s muddy and has some rooty downhills and then a little sandy going onto the cement again. That was pretty technical. I think that made a difference for some people.”
On the first spin through Jackson Park, changes in the course conditions were evident from pre-ride when several riders at the front crashed, including Erica Zaveta (Renewed Cyclocross) and Hannah Arensman. Williams was able to gain distance at the front by lap two.
“I got out of the traffic pretty quickly. It was getting slippery as the race went on. There was a little group of us at the beginning of the first lap. We were just working together,” said Williams, who finished second in this same race last year. “I think in the woods is where I got separation. I don’t really know how it happened, but I just kind of rolled with it. Just being able to go one speed the whole race is really good for me. And staying upright. I didn’t go down once! That was very nice. Not falling was definitely a plus.”
Williams extended her lead with two laps to go. Behind her, Zaveta would work her way back into contention, passing Swartz and Arensman.
“I had a good start, then I crashed immediately once I got onto the dirt, the second turn,” Zaveta explained. “My body was just sliding away for a long time. I got back up and it took me maybe a minute to sort out. Everything seemed to be fine. Then I just had to work my way up [to the front]. As the laps went on, I was taking better lines and more relaxed.”
Zaveta said the new Wall section of the course was a decisive feature of the race. She was able to make up time in the woods and on the Wall.
“Every time I was riding it [the Wall]. I think Lily was running it. I definitely moved up with Hannah and Emma because I was riding it.”
Williams would take a solo victory in 47 minutes, 11 seconds. Zaveta would take second, 30 seconds back.
“I was hoping to win, because I live near here. I always wanted to win this race,” said Zaveta, who had two wins early in the ProCX season, both at Nittany Lion Cross in Pennsylvania. “Mostly, I’m really happy that I feel like I’m competitive and I’m racing. I feel like I rode a good race, minus crashing. That’s always the best feeling, I had fun.”
Third place was taken by Swartz, 57 seconds off the pace. She would finish 17 seconds ahead of a charging Arensman, who would take fourth.
“We were slipping, and [Williams] was faster through some of the technical parts. The gap went from there,” said Swartz. “I was having trouble over the run-up hill, the one near the finish line. A lot of people were able to ride it. My tires weren’t quite gripping as well as the course got icier. I was having to dismount and run while Erica and Hannah were both able to ride it to the top.”
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Lily Williams (USA) The Pony Shop-KPMG||0:47:11|
|2||Erica Zaveta (USA) Garneau-Easton||0:00:30|
|3||Emma Swartz (USA) Trek Factory Racing CX||0:00:57|
|4||Hannah Arensman (USA)||0:01:13|
|5||Emily Curley (USA)||0:02:50|
|6||Carla Williams (USA)||0:03:12|
|7||Dana Gilligan (Can)||0:03:27|
|8||Anne Usher (USA)||0:04:02|
|9||Taylor Kuyk-White (USA)||0:04:20|
|10||Elizabeth Sheldon (USA)||0:04:49|
|11||Philicia Marion (USA)||0:05:11|
|12||Allison Mrugal (USA)||0:05:24|
|13||Molly Russell (USA)||0:05:26|
|14||Chelsea Weidinger (USA)||0:06:06|
|15||Molly Lohry (USA)||0:06:40|
|16||Madeline Bemis (USA)||0:06:43|
|17||Laura Rice (USA)||0:07:11|
|18||Avanell Scales (USA)||0:07:54|
|19||Kimberly Flynn (USA)||0:08:36|
|20||Evie Edwards (USA)||0:10:01|
|21||Katherine Shields (USA)||0:11:30|
|1 lap||Anna Savage (USA)|
|DNF||Emily Werner (USA)|
|DNS||Natalie Tapias (USA)|