Lea Davison (Specialized) raced to win her first-ever US elite women's cross country national championship on Saturday afternoon at Bear Creek Resort in Macungie, Pennsylvania. US marathon champion Pua Mata (Sho-Air/Specialized) earned the silver medal ahead of Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Stan's NoTubes) in third.
"I am absolutely thrilled. It's a little bit surreal right now. I've been going for this title for years, and I'm so excited," said Davison. "This was a big aim for this season. I had good luck, and it came together on the day."
Chloe Woodruff (Crankbrothers Racing) led the women out during the first half lap. Then Davison took over the lead, followed closely by Gould and Mata.
Defending national champion Georgia Gould (Luna) was with the other favorites and in second place during the first lap when she crashed and flatted. Though she said that she's not sure which happened first, she was far enough from the tech zone that the flat cost her any chance of reclaiming the title.
When Gould went down, a slight gap opened up as Mata and then McConneloug went around her.
"The first lap, I knew something had happened, and I tried to keep it steady," said Davison. "It's too bad when it comes down to bad luck and crashes and flats, but I guess that's all part of it. Georgia is an unbelievable competitor. She is the bronze medallist from the Olympics. She's never to be counted out."
Gould was disappointed, but kept her perspective during what has been a trying post-Olympic season. "That's just part of the game. My flat happened right after I went through the tech zone. It was the beginning of the technical downhill. I don't know if the crash made me flat or if I flatted and that made me crash."
"I was right on Lea's wheel and I don't know what I did. It was a front flat through all that chunky stuff, and then it was slippery dirt on foot. I had to run the whole downhill."
With Gould well out of medal contention, the race was Davison's to lose. She knew it and tried to keep her cool.
"I just kept it smooth from there. I had 20 seconds on the first lap, and I extended it a little on the second lap. You can gain a lot of time on the technical sections," said Davison, who raved about the course.
"The course is unbelievable. I think it did the east coast justice," said Davison. "It was technical, rooty and rocky and it's demanding the entire time. It requires focus the entire time. A few times, I lost focus and would dab. I had to focus on keeping it smooth because the little mistakes add up. It's great to have nationals back on the east coast - my home turf." Davison is from Vermont.
Behind Davison, Mata led the chase. Her body language was not as smooth as Davison's over the rocks.
"After Georgia went down, I was trying to catch back up, but I think Lea and I were riding the same pace. Then I think I got a little too anxious, and I was making stupid mistakes here and there and that was it. She was probably riding perfectly," said Mata, who is the current marathon national champion and is recovering well after breaking her leg earlier this season.
McConneloug rode solo in third place for most of the race.
"I was pretty much in third all day. I knew if I pushed any harder, I'd get woozy," said McConneloug. "I just stayed within myself and really enjoyed the trail. it was a meditation of rocks. To stay smooth on that and it was a power course. Whenever it'd pitch up, I'd lock it out and go. I rode and enjoyed it. I knew I had a little gap in front and behind, and the short track is tomorrow."
Davison crossed the line all smiles in a time of 1:35:00. Mata followed at 2:47.
"On the last lap, I hit a rock and my rear tire burped," said Mata. "I stopped and was trying to figure out whether to put air in it. I didn't know how far back Mary was. I just tried to ride it conservatively on the rocks because I didn't want it to completely lose the air."
"My race was good. Of course, I wished for a different outcome, but I did what I could," said Mata.
McConneloug was also happy to clinch a bronze medal, finish 5:22 after Davison. The former Olympian said, "I'm stoked to be here. It's my 10th national championship. It's cool to turn 42 this year and finish on the podium."
Chloe Woodruff (Crankbrothers) rode in on 650b wheels for an impressive fourth place finish despite struggling during the race.
"It was kind of miserable out there with the heat and the humidity, but the fans on the technical rock garden were awesome. I was thinking I loved them on my way through. Evelyn [Dong] had a strong ride and really pushed me the last lap. We've been back and forth like that through a lot of races."
Evelyn Dong rounded out the top five with a career breakout performance.
"The technical parts were more about grunting it out. It was more like fitness-based technical riding as opposed to pure skill," said Dong who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. "I tried to keep pedaling and not get too negative out there. It was a real different kind of a course. I'm more of a Rocky Mountains kind of a girl, so this was a bit of a change for me. I was just relieved to finish in the top five."
Gould put in an impressive ride to move back up from nearly last after her flat tire to sixth place.
"For me, there is always someone who finishes last. It's not how I want to do it, but I respect everyone who finishes the race, no matter how they do, so I can't be like, 'screw this, I'm not on the podium'. I have to finish," said Gould.
"I made it up to sixth. At one point, someone told me it was six minutes to the leader, and I was thinking, 'Oh, maybe don't tell me that.' I'm disappointed because I think it could have been a good battle, but it's part of racing."
The supporters of the Singlespeed Cyclo-cross World Championships in Philly coming up in December of 2013 started a cheering section which would build into a raucous crowd in the technical rocky downhill section of the course. Drinking beer and cheering and heckling loudly as each rider passed the "Hand-ups are not illegal" banner gave racers extra motivation through that section.
"That cheering section was unbelievable. It was like full on World Cup," said Davison after her win.
Gould said, "In the pre-ride, I put a foot down there half the time, but I cleared it every time in the race in front of that crowd. They make you feel amazing. People were awesome out there. That crowd at the top motivated me. I thought of doing an extra lap just to ride past them again."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Lea Davison (Specialized Factory Racing)||1:35:00|
|2||Pua Mata (Sho-Air/Cannondale)||0:02:48|
|3||Mary Mcconneloug (Kenda/Stans Notubes)||0:05:22|
|6||Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team)||0:09:11|
|7||Judy Freeman (Crankbrothers Race Club)||0:09:41|
|8||Rose Grant (Sportsman & Ski Haus)||0:13:00|
|9||Teal Stetson-Lee (Team Luna Chix)||0:13:24|
|11||Amy Beisel (Griggs Orthopedics)||0:16:47|
|12||Maureen Bruno Roy (Cycle Loft Velo)||0:17:26|
|13||Jamie Busch (Quadzilla Racing)||0:17:59|
|14||Erica Tingey (Team Jamis)||0:19:28|
|15||Kathleen Harding (Team CF)||0:21:19|
|16||Cheryl Sornson (Team CF)||0:24:49|
|-2laps||Sarah Sturm (Durango Devo)|
|-2laps||Rebecca Gross (Tough Girl Cycling)|
|-2laps||Selene Yeager (Team CF)|
|-2laps||Bryna Blanchard (Windham Mountain Cycling Club)|
|-2laps||Nicole Thiemann (Team CF)|
|-2laps||Erica Zaveta (Team Redline)|
|-2laps||Elizabeth Allen (Danielson Adventure Sports)|
|DNF||Erin Huck (Tokyo Joes)|
|DNF||Sarah Kaufmann (Stan's NoTubes Elite Women's)|