VERONA, WISCONSIN – To kick off the championship racing at Nationals, the 15-person deep women’s singlespeed field hit the chilly, cloudy course in Verona at 2 PM. There were few spectators, but the music, beer and food were flowing, and the announcers were injecting energy into even the warm up laps. In the earlier races, riders found the ground frozen in some spots, greasy in others, and just muddy enough to render kits dirty by the end of the races.
Gaertner took the holeshot, going immediately into “racer mode,” as one announcer put it. The racers were all spinning their one gear madly through the start/finish as they entered the course on a slight downhill.
Within the first lap, the racers had spread out over the course: with the single-speed race open to all categories, racers of all abilities started so it was no surprise that the race quickly broke up. The first lap took the leaders just over 10 minutes, with Kari Studley (Team Redline) in the lead, and Jennifer Gaertner relegated to third behind Meghan Korol (Bob’s Red Mill). The leaders were strung out, all battling the course obstacles and steadily dropping temperatures alone, as the wind picked up and the cloud coverage grew denser.
By the mid-way point, Korol had moved 22 seconds back from race leader Studley, who cooly crossed through the finish in a lap time rivaling her first lap. Gaertner, using a Gates Carbon Belt drivetrain rather than the traditional chain, had dropped back from third, replaced by Lauri Webber. She was followed by Julie Lewis-Sroka (Lake Effect Cycling Team).
With one to go in the four lap race, Studley rolled through the finish grinning, with a large gap to second place, Korol, and Webber over a minute back in third. The bell for the “one to go” lap broke after ringing in Studley, causing announcers to frantically yell for any and all “bell repairmen” to make their way to the finish line. Luckily, Shimano neutral support was well-prepared with a spare bell, though that didn’t stop the announcer from snarking, “Right now someone in Switzerland is cringing at UCI Headquarters, thinking ‘Can the US ever get it right?’”
Studley cruised into the finish with a comfortable lead, followed by Korol and Webber.
Cyclocross Magazine caught up with a proud Studley post-race, before she ran off to cool-down. Since Studley races in the Master’s race on Friday and again on Sunday, post-race routine is more important than ever for the Redline rider. She told us, “Last year was pretty heartbreaking because I separated my shoulder a minute into the race, so I wanted it this year. I was pretty excited to make it past the second turn.”
When we asked if she had any tips for the course, Studley replied, “You just have to respect it. You can’t get cocky.”
Stay tuned for more video interviews. Full results below the photos.