by Jim Lentfer and Cyclocross Magazine
Early arrivals were greeted by cloudy skies and green grass. A festive crowd of hardy hecklers lined the upper parts of the course, braving the cold temperatures as eastern Iowa experienced its first taste of winter weather, with temps slowly climbing back up into the mid 30’s by race time. Course conditions on the flats were dry as the pre-Thanksgiving rains had been cleared out by Thursday’s and Friday’s blustery winds.
A full slate of races fired off starting at 4pm in the afternoon, with most races including the elite riders relying on full course lighting. The starting grid lined racers up on the paved parking lot, with the winners of the holeshot gaining the advantage under the flyover before slicing between (and sometimes through) the agricultural barns of the Johnson County Fairgrounds. After the gravel corners near the SRAM pit, the racers were challenged to a taste of the slick climbs and descents of Mt. Krumpit, well known by locals as the home of the Grinch. After a testy off-camber switchback descent that had many upper category riders (and even some Elites) on foot, the course wound though the finish straight and into the grass swirly, the Whoville Whirly and over the Summit Plummet flyover.
Racers and spectators came out for the nighttime party, and those who could not, followed Cyclocross Magazine’s community-based Jingle Cross live coverage feed.
A Race for Climbers or Downhillers?
In the women’s race, the season’s revelation Nicole Duke (Hudz – Subaru) continued her fast starts and used her past background as a downhill racer to quickly gap the field, including last year’s one-two finishers of Meredith Miller (Cal Giant) and Kaitlin Antonneau (Planet Bike). But Miller, an accomplished road racer and no slouch on hills, attacked the climbs to remain close to Duke, while staying cautious on the downhills. Duke would keep her lead until a disastrous pit exchange, or lack thereof. Duke entered the pit lane to grab a new bike after what she thought was a softening rear tire, only to find no bike waiting for her. It’s happened to the best riders this year, after Sven Nys (see video here) and Katie Compton had similar experiences earlier this month. The big difference is that Duke, after realizing no bike was ready, tried to continue through the pit without dismounting or putting a foot down. This forced UCI officials to hold the rider until Meredith Miller and Duke’s teammate Amanda Miller came past.
The women descend Mt. Krumpit
Duke tried in vain to regain her lead, but the damage was done, and entering the last lap, Meredith Miller attacked the climb and let loose on the descent to take another UCI win in her impressive season. Duke finished in second, and promises to contend for the Masters 35+ national championship in hopes of stealing it from her friend and defending champion Kerry Barnholt. Amanda Miller, after crashing hard late in the race finished in third, with Antonneau in fourth.
The women on the first lap
Twin Towers Resurface, Driscoll Soars
It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Kona twin towers of Ryan Trebon and Barry Wicks tower above everyone on the podium, and for a brief moment, it looked as if the two lanky riders would regain their dominance. Trebon and Wicks took to the front early, forcing defending Day 1 winner Todd Wells (Specialized / Cal Giant) and lone Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld rider Jamey Driscoll to chase. With the numbers in Kona’s favor, it was perfect opportunity to put Driscoll on the ropes with a one-two punch and after Wicks flew up the opening climb up Mt. Krumpit and descended with a gap, it looked like a Kona plan was in place. But nobody had planned for Trebon to crash badly on the descent, and the rider would pull out of the race citing a painful wrist and hopes of a better showing for Saturday’s C2 event and Sunday’s C1 race.
Behind Wicks, Driscoll, Clif Bar’s Troy Wells, Cal-Giant teammates Todd Wells and Nick Weighall and the Rapha – Focus teammates of Chris Jones and Zach MacDonald gave chase, and Driscoll soon showed he was the strongest of the group and floated up the climb to bring back Wells. Meanwhile, the youngsters of Weighall, Troy Wells and MacDonald were impressive, and appeared to use their youth to their advantage to descend Mt. Krumpit with reckless abandon. MacDonald and Weighall have competed in Super D, and their skills were put to good use on the slippery, steep descent.
Driscoll would leave Wicks behind to take his first UCI win of the season and cement the top two podium positions, but a surprising Jones would catch and pass a fading Weighall in the final laps for the final podium spot.
Saturday and Sunday promise even more action as almost 1200 total registered racers gather for three days of Seuss-themed racing to benefit the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. Warmer temps Sunday will be a welcome relief for the Single Speed Speedos who will be sure to bring out the ornery Grinch from his restful lair for even more ‘cross mischief.
If you can’t attend the fun, stay tuned to our live community-based coverage of Jingle Cross Day 2 and 3.