Lea Davison (Specialized) raced to a win in the Missoula XC, the final round of the US Pro XCT in Missoula, Montana, on Saturday afternoon. Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Trek) earned second place ahead of Katerina Nash (Luna).
It was Davison's first US Pro XCT cross country victory and it gave her the victory in the overall series as the previous series leader Georgia Gould (Luna) was absent.
"It's incredible to win the series," said Davison. "I'm disappointed Georgia didn't come because I wanted to battle for the series, but it was great that Katerina, Heather and Emily were here. They are some of the best riders in the world."
"My legs were feeling good today and I did the best that I could and that happened to be better than the rest of the girls. I'm so happy coming off that year off (due to injury). This is a dream come true," said Davison.
Davison, Irmiger and Nash formed the lead group on the first lap of four total laps. The three stayed near each other for the first lap.
On the second lap, Nash earned a small gap on Davison and Irmiger, but that changed. "I bridged back up to Katerina on the second lap," said Davison. "She made a mistake and rode off the singletrack and I got a few seconds on her and went from there."
Davison emerged during the race as the strongest climber and a fast descender and grew her advantage lap by lap. By the end of lap three, with one to go, Davison had stretched her lead to a comfortable 1:15 and Irmiger and Nash were left to battle for second place.
Davison stopped the clock in 1:13:47.
Nash looked visibly more exhausted than Irimger, who found herself getting some advantage on the climbs.
"We were pretty close together and then Katerina was slowing down on the climbs a bit while Lea was speeding up," said Irmiger, "so I sandwiched myself in the middle. I'm glad I was climbing well because my descending is not soo good right now."
"Halfway through the third lap, I got a gap on Katerina," said Irmiger, "but she shut it down on the descent, but on the final lap when we started climbing again."
Finally, the elastic snapped, and Irmiger rode away from Nash for good with one lap to go.
Irimiger took second at 1:56 while Nash hung on for third place at 2:57.
"The second lap up the hill, Lea was flying," said Nash. "She got away quickly from me and there was no coming back. I had to maintain my own pace. I wasn't feeling great, I'll admit that, but both girls who beat me had excellent races today. I gave it my best and that's all you can ask at the end of day." Nash, from Czech, but living in California, was the only woman in the top five who did not contest her national championship last weekend.
Emily Batty (Subaru-Trek) and Judy Freeman (Kenda/Felt) rounded out the top five.
"It was not my day," said Batty, who noted that she was on week six in a row of racing. "I look forward to getting some actual training weeks in and then look forward to busting it out at the next World Cups. My focus is still there and I'm feeling good for what's coming."
"It was such a fun course, and the crowd was at all the steep sections cheering you on," said Freeman. "I felt pretty good, like I was maintaing. I was feeling it on the last lap though."
In fact, the course drew rave reviews from all the women interviewed after the finish. This is the first time Missoula has hosted US Pro XCT race, and a brand new course was cut into Marshall Mountain for the event, but it was done far enough in advance that locals had worn it in during a series of mid-week, evening races.
The course featured mostly wooded singletrack and doubletrack on property formally used as a local ski hill. While the first half of the lap was generally uphill and the second half was generally downhill, the race had a feeling of going up and down throughout. With tight turns and plenty of sidehill singletrack, good knowledge of the course was an advantage when it came to how to carry speed and what gears to use.
The course included a gap jump that none of the elite women rode. Earlier in the day, just three men pulled off the jump in the Cat. 1 race.
"All of us wanted to do it," said Freeman. "It wasn't for lack of wanting to, it was just being smart." Most women reported that the jump was at the edge of their capabilities and not worth taking the risk given the important upcoming objectives like additional World Cups and the Worlds.
In the US Pro XCT final standings, Davison jumped ahead of the absent Gould, while Batty locked up third place.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Lea Davison (USA) Specialized Factory Racing||1:13:47|
|2||Heather Irmiger (USA) Subaru-Trek||0:01:56|
|3||Katerina Nash (Cze) Luna Pro Team||0:02:57|
|4||Emily Batty (Can) Subaru/TREK||0:03:58|
|5||Judy Freeman (USA) Kenda / Felt Mountain Bike Team||0:05:00|
|6||Chloe Forsman (USA) BMC Mountainbike Development Team USA||0:08:57|
|7||Krista Park (USA) Cannondale/NoTubes||0:09:04|
|8||Nina Baum (USA) NoTubes Elite Women's Team||0:10:22|
|9||Zephanie Blasi (USA) NoTubes Elite Women's Team||0:11:47|
|10||Katherine Sherwin (USA) NoTubes Elite Women's Team||0:12:36|
|11||Teal Stetson-Lee (USA) Sweet Elite Rocky Mountain Chocolate Fac||0:13:01|
|12||Kelli Emmett (USA) Giant Bicycles||0:14:04|
|13||Sarah Kaufmann (USA) Team Roaring Mouse||0:17:10|
|14||Heidi Rentz (USA) Vermont Bicycle Tours||0:19:23|
|15||Shannon Gibson (USA) NoTubes Elite Women's Team||0:22:46|
|-1lap||Lisa Curry (USA) Gallatin Alpine Sports/Intrinsik Archite|
|-1lap||Erica Zaveta (USA) BMC Mountainbike Development Team USA|
|DNS||Elizabeth English (USA) Northstar Tahoe Resort|
|DNS||Erica Tingey (USA)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Lea Davison (Specialized)|
|2||Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team)|
|3||Emily Batty (Subaru-Trek)|