The blizzard cleared and the sun and blue skies emerged for the Blue Sky Cup in Longmont Colorado. With 18 inches of snow on the ground and above-freezing temperatures, Mother Nature created the perfect recipe for sloppy conditions that put a premium on bike handling.
Seeing the course conditions, most gamblers would have put money on Tim Johnson (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com) and Katie Compton (Planet Bike), and if they did, they were either smart or lucky. Both riders showcased their power and finesse in the slop, and stretched out early gaps into big leads extending well over a minute, and in Compton’s case, more than two minutes.
Behind Compton, the women’s field was blown apart, with Georgia Gould (Luna) chasing Compton but losing ground with every lap. The race for third was closer, but Gould’s teammate Dunlap continued her rise up the ranks, holding off her younger competitors in Amy Dombroski, Meredith Miller (Cal Giant Berry) and Kelli Emmett (Giant). It became a race of who made fewer mistakes, and Miller was the best of the rest, outlasting Emmett for fourth.
Compton never planned to have such a fast start, and husband Mark Legg-Compton said she was planning on sitting in for a couple laps, in part because her debilitating leg cramping problem reared its ugly head before the race.
“I was hoping Georgia and Alison would give more of a fight in the first two laps, but it’s cross racing and sometimes you’re fighting the course more than anything,” the five-time National Champion explained.
So she took the gap she was given, extended it to twenty-five seconds by the end of lap one, and never looked back. “You never know when something goes wrong, flat tire or mechanical. I just wanted to gave a good race, stay smooth, work on the technical part with the mud and bike changes,” Compton explained.
Dunlap conceded that there was no use in staying with Compton. “Katie just disappeared down the mud…I couldn’t go any faster and I just watched her go away,” Dunlap revealed. But, still, despite basically admitting that overtaking Compton and defending exclusive record of six National Championship in Bend will be difficult, she was happy. “I’m pretty psyched to be on the podium.”
In the men’s race, it was yet another podium sweep for Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com, but Troy Wells (Clif Bar), mountain biker Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Gary Fisher / Subaru) and Adam Craig (Giant) all were in contention to break up the sweep. But Horgan-Kobelski suffered a late mechanical and dropped back, and Craig left it too late as he surged past riders but would only make it up to fourth. Troy Wells benefited from JHK’s misfortune, to take fifth.
So the race for the second was left to Powers and Driscoll, and it was Powers that slid through the mess to take home second. “I thought I was first because I didn’t see the guy that was in first all day,” Powers joked. “This time I could do some work, James didn’t have to pull me around the whole race [unlike last week], so that was good.”
Perhaps the ride of the day was by Classic Cycle’s Zach McDonald, as the reigning Junior National Champ took a break from beating up his elders in Seattle to beat all but eight other riders in the Elite Men’s race. McDonald was happy with his result, gaining more UCI points. “The course was sweet, the mud was nice, I took a bit of a digger…but it was a lot of fun,” McDonald explained.