The first big race of the 2011-2012 cyclocross season got underway as the Elite Women blasted off the line at Cross Vegas. Along with the usual contenders – Katerina Nash, Sue Butler, Georgia Gould, Amy Dombroski – were a fresh assortment of European racers hoping to deposit a few UCI points into their start-line accounts. Among them were French National Champion Caroline Mani (CC EtupES Le Doubs Pays De Montbeliard) and Belgian superstar Joyce Vandebeken. Notably missing from the line-up was National Champion and two-time Cross Vegas champ Katie Compton, who has opted for a later start to her season. With the temperatures unusually low and the thick grass soggily damp, many riders were scrambling to swap out their file tread for something with a bit more bite.
Caroline Mani showed how they do it in the old country and took the holeshot against some of America’s best women, but her lead did not last long as first Portland’s Sue Butler took over and then LUNA’s Georgia Gould launched a devastating attack that saw her jet away from the rest.
Not to let her 2010 title go without a fight, Czech National Champion Katerina Nash (LUNA) clawed her way onto her teammate’s wheel, though seemed content to let Gould remain as the motor as the pair finished the first lap with a ten-second lead. Nash was looking fierce on her new Carbon di2 Orbea, however, and it wasn’t long before she took over the pace-making.
Behind them, Nicole Duke – now sporting her new Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com colors – led the chase, with Butler, Amy Dombroski (Crank Brothers), Meredith Miller (Cal Giant-Specialized) and Lea Davison (Specialized) in tow.
Just outside three to go, Nash decided that cyclocross is an individual sport and accelerated away from Gould, immediately establishing a six second gap as Gould struggled to find her pedal after the barriers. With nothing ahead of her but a victory, Nash again proved why she stands on the podiums of World Cup and World Championship ’Cross Races, as she stretched her lead to twenty seconds. Behind her, Kelli Emmet, racing her just-built rig, caught and passed Gould with Dombroski and Miller in tow.
With one lap remaining, it was clear Nash would again be crowned Queen of ’Cross Vegas as her lead expanded to 30 seconds – the race was now decisively for second place. As Nash hit the stairs for the last time, Amy Dombroski made her bid and attacked the small group of chasers, briefly taking Gould with her before establishing a gap. Emmett was not prepared to settle for fourth, however, and quickly bridged to Dombroski as Nash enjoyed a double-armed victory.
Dombroski showed she had the legs tonight and gave one final acceleration, opening up a gap and coming in second, followed by Emmett, Miller, and finally Gould.
Katerina Nash chatted with us after her race, and thanked those of you who tuned in for our live, interactive coverage. Despite a lack of streaming video from any outlet, we certainly tried to keep followers abreast of what was happening on the course, and the racers (and friends and family who couldn’t be at the races) certainly seemed to appreciate it. “Thank you guys for watching and cheering. Just go out there and race cyclocross!”
Katerina opened a gap early on, and we asked her about how she felt when she realized that her race had turned into essentially a time trial. “It’s great to have a gap, but you’re also being chased the rest of the race. But I felt confident, and it worked out.”
“It’s great to win with so many enthusiastic people around.”
Kelli Emmett, who finished in third, told us that this race was her first race on her new bike, but she “felt comfortable on it right away.” She has charity rides and mountain bike events planned for the Fall, so we probably won’t be seeing much of her on the cyclocross fields this season.
Stay tuned and in coming days, we’ll be posting more videos of the race and rider interviews, as well as more pictures. It’s officially Cyclocross Season here in the US!
Full coverage was brought to you by Robbie Carver, Josh Liberles, Joey Mullan, Molly Hurford and Andrew Yee.