MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA – The start line at the short track races this morning in sunny Monterey almost seemed like the starting lineup for the cyclocross races that will take place tomorrow. In the women’s race, fans were ecstatic to see current World Champion (for cyclocross and road) and gold medalist Marianne Vos towing the line, surrounded by familiar faces such as Georgia Gould and Katerina Nash, as well as Caroline Mani and Mical Dyck.
In the women’s race, Annika Langvad jumped off the start line, followed by three Luna Chicks, including Gould and Nash. Vos sat in the lead group, hovering around sixth through eighth spot for the first lap. After three four-minute laps, Nash, Langvad and Vos has begun to establish a gap on the field and started to work together to break away from the group.
As the race wound down, the three still sat together, with Langvad trying to pull away but making no progress. Meanwhile, Vos waited. With two to go, Vos attacked on the pavement, hitting the first corner at full speed and powering up the hill, leaving the rest in her wake.
There was no contest as to who would take the win, and when the announcer yelled that the race was Vos’s to lose, several spectators could be heard muttering, “We knew that.”
Vos sailed in for the win, while Nash and Langvad duked it out for second. Nash took Langvad in the sprint for second.
Vos, when asked if she’d like to add MTB World Champion to her list of palmares, responded “Well, yes.” She added that this season, she’ll be doing two World Cup races, and that while she has high goals for herself, she’s aware that it is her first year back in elite MTB racing, and she feels like she has a lot to learn.
We’re betting the rest of the women on the course think she’s progressing just fine.
In the men’s race, the field was just as stacked with pro MTBers and cyclocrossers alike. Gold medalist Jaroslav Kulhavý was the first call-up, followed by cyclocrossing MTBers including Todd Wells, Geoff Kabush, Justin Lindine, Adam Craig, Ben Berden and Lukas Fluckinger.
Their race played out much differently than the women’s, with a large main pack sticking together. The lead group, including Kabush, raced around the course, constantly shedding and adding riders. Lindine made contact, only to lose it almost immediately when a small crash in front of him in the gravel section slowed him down. Berden held his wheel for several laps, but faded to the third chase group by the end. Lindine continued to lead the charge in the second chase group, while Kabush slowly moved up in the lead group until he was sitting comfortably in the top three, along with Fluckinger. Announcer Richard Fries could be heard shouting from across the venue, excitedly narrating the events as they played out.
Finally, the last lap in the short race. The pack was still together, 12 men sprinting into one-to-go. Then there were eight. The wind-up to the finish, and the racers were still together. Volunteers implored photographers to “get the hell out of the way for the sprint,” or be prepared to tuck and get run over by out of control racers.
They came into sight, Kabush in the lead. Could he hold the sprint?
“This is a huge event for North Americans,” the winner told Fries. “To come and race and win is awesome.”
Check out what the winners had to say here, and keep checking back for our exclusive interviews with the winners later.