Last year’s winner Samantha “Sammi” Runnels (Squid Squad) took the WSCXGP crown for the women Saturday during the opening day in Sacramento.
Racing started at River Walk Park in West Sacramento under sunny skies, warm temperatures and gusty winds. The windy conditions added an extra challenge to the tight 2.7-km course with deep grass, pavement, dirt, gravel, and off-camber sections.
“It’s super sandy and fun. The sand is roller-coastery, you really have to pump into it, it’s real weird. I just found the right lines, and I think being here last year definitely helped with that,” she said of the course. Runnels won both WSCXGP races in 2017.
Runnels followed her pre-race strategy by setting a fast tempo early in the race. “I just wanted to start hard because I was worried about Clara [Honsinger] and I had noticed that she doesn’t start as hard so I just need to start as hard as I can and get the gap on her because it seems that the way she races that she’s a diesel,” she said.“I just went out there and tried to go as hard as I could from the start.”
Runnels had a small gap to a group of chasers after one lap. Behind her, Clara Honsinger (Team S&M CX) , Amanda Nauman (SDG - Muscle Monster), and Caroline Nolan (/Voler/Easton/HRS/Rock Lobster) who took the holeshot, joined together in a short-lived chase group.
“She [Samantha Runnels] caught me at the end of lap 1 and she put in a really strong attack. The headwind had gotten to me and so she was able to put in a little time on me after that lap,” Nolan said. “Sammi had gotten a little gap on three of us, me, Amanda and Clara were together at one point.”
Meanwhile, at the front, Runnels was racing smooth and keeping the gap steady. “Keeping it steady towards the middle of the race so I didn’t blow up, and picking the spots where I could recover for just a little bit at a time and just really going hard until I get to that point.”
With less than three laps to Nolan was able to get away from the other riders. “At that point, it was just dig as deep as I could and stay consistent, and stay on my bike. I always have a mantra in my head when I’m riding that ‘smooth is fast’,” she said. “So making sure I’m not crashing especially on that course where it was pretty easy to slip out on some of the grassy off-caber sections. It was a little bit unnerving because I couldn’t really tell on a lot of sections how far back they were but at the end of the day is riding your own race and doing whatever you can to stay in front of other people.”
The battle for the third spot on the podium heated up in the final two laps. Honsinger suffered a mechanical leaving Nauman in third place with Raylyn Nuss (Lake Saint Louis, Mo./Gateway Harley-Davidson Trek) closing in fast.
“I kind of got jammed out at the start and right after the first pit, I got taken in into the tape so I got taken out and wrecked there. So the gap got extended there and then the first time through the sand pit, the same thing happened, where it had gotten really jammed up and the woman in front of me got off and then the gap continued to get larger and larger,” said Nuss. “So for me, the whole race was fighting back to catch on to the top three women. I had little rabbits and I’m out there hammering to try to catch them.”
Nuss caught Nauman going over the sandpit with two laps to go in the six-lap race. The pair continued to battle it out until Nuss got away in the final lap.
Runnels had plenty of time to celebrate her victory when she crossed the finish line with a time of 45 minutes and 10 seconds. Nolan crossed the line 19 seconds later for second place. Nuss took third place, 33 seconds back.
“I know this course pretty well from last year, I’ve been doing a lot of riding in the sand because where I was living this summer was super sandy so I think it worked out really well for me. I’m really glad to take the win especially since it’s my team Squid Squad’s race so that makes it extra sweet,” said Runnels.
Nolan was all smiles at the finish. “It’s my best place finish so far at a UCI race. I was really happy, I felt really proud of how I rode today and what I’m capable of. It was cool to come back and get second place. Racing in California, being a California native and being that this is sort of my hometown race, I was really happy.”
WSCXGP is the only cyclocross race in the nation with live music on the course both days. A fact that Nuss enjoyed. “This course, the atmosphere, it’s sick out here. Super West Coast feel with live bands, music and the course is really fun, it’s flowy, a few little puncher hills, I had a blast, really,” she said.
Racing continues on Sunday, for day two of the West Sacramento Cyclocross Grand Prix presented by Kaiser Permanente.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Samantha Runnels (Squidbikes)||45:10:00|
|2||Caroline Nolan (Voler/Easton/HRS/Rock Lobster)||00:00:19|
|3||Raylyn Nuss (Gateway Harley-Davidson Trek)||00:00:33|
|4||Amanda Nauman (SDG - Muscle Monster)||00:00:39|
|5||Emily Kachorek (Squid)||00:00::45|
|7||Clara Honsinger (Team S&M CX)||00:01:43|
|8||Bethan Norton (Team S&M CX)||00:02:09|
|9||Terra Kier (Square 1)||00:02:26|
|10||Meghan Newlin (Full Cycle Boulder)||00:02:38|
|11||Natalie Smith (Bicycle Heaven)||00:04:18|
|12||Heidi Wood (HiFi Sound Cycling Components)||00:04:25|
|13||Rebecca Gross (Zero D Racing)||00:04:36|
|15||Leslie Ethridge (ORNOT)||00:06:52|
|16||Juliann Vander Haegen (NWCX Project)||00:07:07|
|17||Barb Blakley (Velo Club La Grange)||00:07:24|
|18||Hayden Gizinski (NWCX Project)|
|19||Brooke Lyman (Exhale Bikes)|
|dns||Courtenay Mcfadden (American Classic/Zones)|
|dns||Gabriella Sterne (Vanderkitten Entourage Racing)|