by Molly Hurford
Jeremy Powers (Rapha Focus) and Helen Wyman (Kona) opened the 2011/2012 cyclocross seasons with wins at the 2011 Nittany Lion Cross in Breinigsville, Pennsylvania.
With a mostly-grass, undulating course drenched from all the recent wet weather that has pounded the East Coast, the early season muddy conditions left no doubt that cyclocross racing is already here. Racers weaved their way around the Lehigh Valley Velodrome, but did not race on the track as is done at the former Star Crossed venue and at the Roubaix World Cup.
The visiting Europeans (see our profiles in the upcoming Issue 14) made their presence felt, while Powers celebrated his first race wearing the new Rapha-Focus kit with a win, Brit Ian Field took second, while his compatriot, British National Champion Helen Wyman, took a commanding win in the women’s race. Wyman excelled in the muddy conditions, leaving no question she’s come back to the States motivated to earn UCI points and impress for her US-based sponsor.
Wyman took an early and uncontested lead in the women’s race, with Belgian racer Joyce Vanderbeeken and Laura Van Gilder close behind. Wyman’s gap only increased as the race wore on, though the Belgian impressed the crowds by being the only one of the elite women (or men) to ride through the 100 meter mud pit on the back stretch of the course. Wyman was the only woman who elected to run one of the short, steep hills, and clearly that was working for her.
Within just a lap, the women were strung out around the course: this is an interesting year for the MAC series elite women, as a lot of the regulars in the 3/4 field recently upgraded and are now racing with the elites.
In the men’s race, Jeremy Powers started strong in the front, with Ian Field on his heels. Field surprised spectators by taking the lead with a slight gap on Powers after the first lap. Fabio Ursi was a surprise contender, as he wasn’t on the BikeReg sign up, and he quickly became one of the racers to follow, catching up with Powers and Field. Luke Keough was also in the front group, though after a lap and a half, he had fallen back into the first chase group.
The barriers were fast, even with a short, steep run up immediately after:
After 25 minutes, the three racers had a 25 second gap on the chase group and the rest of the field was strung out across the course. The course was muddy but extremely hot, so elite men were allowed feeds. Many racers elected to change bikes because of the mud, though quite a few chose not to do so.
Halfway through the race, Powers and Field had created a gap on Ursi, though he maintained his third place spot. By the halfway point, Field and Powers had gapped the field by a full minute.
With one to go, Powers had a 13 second lead on Field. Coming into the finish, Powers pedaled casually, attempting to wipe some of the mud off of his white Rapha-Focus skinsuit as he crossed the line.
ELITE MEN RESULTS
|4||Tom VAN DEN BOSCH||BEL||59:46:00|
ELITE WOMEN RESULTS
|3||Laura VAN GILDER||USA||47:53:00|
For photos of the Elite Men and Women’s Races, check out the gallery below: