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Before the opening gun of Cross Vegas, all eyes were on the European talent who hopped across the pond to try to show the cream of America’s crop who was boss. When the winner crossed the finish line, it was the same Europeans who will return to Europe with their tail between their legs, soundly beaten by their American counterparts. Only the top two Americans were not the riders most expected. Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com) and Chris Jones (Champion System) put on an astounding show of force to keep such legendary European stars as Erwin Vervecken, Ben Berden (Revor-Bobaco) and Christian Heule (Rendementhypo) at bay, with Driscoll distancing Jones with only meters to go to take home his biggest cyclocross result to date.
With bone dry conditions, the course laid out for the 2009 edition of Cross Vegas promised extreme speeds and highly tactical racing. This is exactly what happened as the men hit the course. Immediately after the gun, an elite group formed at the front of the race that included suchcyclocross superstars as Driscoll, Jones, Vervecken, Berden, Heule, Driscoll’s teammates Jeremy Powers and Tim Johnson, Trebon’s teammate Barry Wicks, Heule’s teammate Tim Van Nuffel , Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) and Todd Wells (Specialized). At the front, the heads of state attacked continually to try to shed some of the hangers on, while Chris Jones took the first major initiative, flying off the front and quickly distancing himself from the lead group. Tim Johnson had the first major response of the night, trying to close the gap to Jones, but the chase group had none of it, bringing Johnson back and keeping the chase group together.
The chasers felt, however, that Driscoll posed less of a threat to their win, and when the young Vermont native attacked, no one was inclined to go with him. Driscoll quickly crossed the gap to Jones, and once he made contact, settled in to help Jones extend the lead over the chasers. Drawing from their extensive knowledge of road racing, Jones andDriscoll traded pulls, never attacking each other, concentrating only on holding off the field. Behind, Johnson and Powers were hard at work blocking attacks that came from the other chasers, including those of RyanTrebon, Christian Heule and Erwin Vervecken . Johnson, who was still suffering from a shoulder injury suffered at Star Crossed seemed to pull up awkwardly on his bar at about the 30 minute mark, and would drop out as he crossed the finish line, leaving Powers to control things on his own.
Heule and Vervecken seemed to be the most determined to chase down Driscoll and Jones, but their constant attacks were followed by lulls in the pace, allowing whatever damage they had done to the leaders’ advantage to be undone.Driscoll and Jones remained smooth and steady at the front, and with 2 laps to go, their lead was hovering at about the 20 second mark. Jonathan Page and ErwinVervecken continued their assaults through the closing laps, with the occasional attack by Ryan Trebon mixing things up, but by the time the bell lap rang, it was clear that the race was between Driscoll and Jones.
On the final lap, the lead group came apart in ways that were less than desirable. Christian Heule was taken out of the mix when a lapped rider deviated into this path, sending him to the ground and out of the running for third place. Todd Wells, who had ridden quietly at the back of the lead group for much of the race, was slowed down byHeule’s spill and had to burn a match to hold on to the leaders. The race for third was down to Page, Trebon, Powers and Vervecken. Ahead, Driscoll was steadily applying pressure to Jones, and with only a few meters left to run, Driscoll had enough of a gap on Jones that he only needed a small attack to take home victory. Behind, the chasing group was led into the final meters by Jonathan Page who sprinted home to take the bronze medal, followed by Powers,Vervecken, Trebon, Wells and Heule. Despite losing Johnson to injury, the Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com team had a wildly successful race thanks to a powerful display by the young Driscoll and great team tactics by Powers.
On the women’s side of things, the race was a clear open and shut case for current Women’s National Cyclocross Champion Katie Compton (Planet Bike) who took a commanding win over the Luna duo of Katerina Nash and Georgia Gould. Compton defended the title she won in 2008, winning by just under a minute over Nash. Early favorite Helen Wyman (Kona ) got off to a hot start, but the dry desert air stole her power and she faded to finish in seventh place. The surprise of the day was fourth placed Kelli Emmett (Giant Bicycles), who shook off a broken wrist that she suffered just seven weeks ago, to narrowly miss out on the podium.
As the gun sounded, it was the British National Champion Wyman who grabbed the holeshot, charging off the front, as Compton and Nash tried to close down the gap. Once Compton and Nash got on board, they set off to open up their gap. Wyman was clearly struggling with the lack of humidity and with the pace at the front, and dropped off the front of the race shortly after being passed by Compton. This left Nash trying to hold on to Compton’s wheel for the second year in a row, while Wyman faded back to Georgia Gould and Sue Butler, who were chasing in the second group.
Nash looked an equal match for Compton, until a bobble saw Nash lose Compton’s wheel, a fatal mistake that spelled doom for the rest of her race. While Compton was head and shoulders above the rest, Nash was at least shoulders above the rest, and was opening up time on the chaser in third place, her teammate Georgia Gould. Gould, however, had her hands full with a charging Kelli Emmett, who was carrying hot form off a stellar mountain bike season with her new Giant team. Gould, having seen second place escape up the road, was content to ride with Emmett, confident to rider her off her wheel as the race progressed.
Compton continued to extend her lead, despite the appearance that the race was already decided. Another surprise came from Team Kenda/Seven/NoTubes rider Mary McConneloug, who had a last row start but was able to work her way up through the field and slot into fifth. Wyman had faded back through the field, getting caught by McConneloug and Sue Butler but fought through her wall to hold on to seventh place. Alison Powers, the current NRC women’s champion, who got a last minute ride with Fuji Bicycles, was also in the group that contained McConneloug and Butler, had her sights set on Wyman as well, but ran out of room to make the catch and finished eighth, an impressive rookie ride ahead of Amy Dombroski (RGM Watches – Richard Sachs – Radix) and Laura Van Gilder (C3 Athletes Serving Athletes).
Compton easily sewed up her second consecutive CrossVegas title, with Nash crossing the line 56 seconds back. Gould proved to be too strong for Emmett, who lacked fitness due to her injury break, and cracked the Giant rider with only half a lap left to race. Emmett would be happy with fourth, easily a career day for her. McConneloug had arguably the most impressive ride to round out the top five.