Katerina Nash (Luna) and Francis Mourey (Francaise Des Jeux) took their second wins in as many days at the Rad Racing GP outside of Seattle, Washington. Held on a new, flat course with a long beach section, the course showed that last night’s StarCrossed wins were no flukes.
In the women’s race, Nash once again outgunned Wendy Simms (Kona) in messy conditions, while Mourey took an early lead and didn’t look back. Behind, Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) and Christian Heule (Team Champion System - LBS) resumed their Rad Racing battle from last year, with a similar result, only this time Page outsprinted Heule for second instead of for the win.
Schizophrenic weather, ranging from warm and sunny to cold torrential downpours, left riders second-guessing both clothing and tire decisions. Although the course was quick to dry out, a steady rain during the Masters 1/2 race made sure the twisty surfaces, off-cambers and rooty sections were treacherous by the time the Elite fields were up. The first of the two long sand sections along Lake Sammamish had been a sloppy run for all earlier categories, but was widened for the Elites, allowing for many of the riders to stay on their rigs – and gum up their drivetrains in the process. The second sand section was a leg-strength-sucking-affair, however, for all challengers.
Sue Butler (Hudz Subaru) would take the holeshot and round the first two turns in the lead but would be quickly passed by Katerina Nash and Wendy Simms, who rode away together to put a big gap on the field. Nash went to the front early, but a determined Simms turned herself inside-out to match the speed of the Czech racer and 2009 Roubaix World Cup winner. The two would remain locked in a tight battle until the last lap, and would cross the finish lines within 15 seconds of one another.
Mical Dyck (Trek Canada) was an early casualty of the fast pace and super-slick course conditions – the Canadian rider slid out midway through the first lap, but was able to regain her composure to eventually finish in sixth. Sue Butler (Hudz-Subaru) pulled out back-to-back podium-worthy performances, and reclaimed her place on the third step, finishing just ahead of a hard-chasing Natasha Elliot (Garneau Club) and Devon Haskell (Bike Station Aptos).
Elliott was pleased with her weekend, adding today’s fourth to yesterday’s fifth, and is hopeful that she’s back on track to regain her top form. “It’s a great way to start the season, the two days of mud,” said Elliott. “I rode with Sue on the last lap until she attacked late and got a gap. It was good; I haven’t raced since last November when I got really sick, so it’s a great comeback to have a good first two days of racing.”
On the front, Simms’ technical prowess was on full display, and the time she’s spent on the mountain bike leading up to cyclocross season – including competing in the Trans-Rockies multi-day race – was evident. “I started on the back row, and tried to move up as fast as possible. I have no UCI points from last year, since I was pregnant, so points won’t kick in until the first World Cup. I’ll have to get used to it until mid-October,” said Simms. “It was super-slick on the corners, so I pulled into the top three the first time we reached the pits and tried to stay with Katerina for the first couple of laps. There were some slip outs, and we all had different lines in the corners and would zig-zag. Katerina got a little gap on the last lap – one of the corners I tried to cut in tight and just lost all momentum and speed. She got a little gap and I couldn’t close it.”
But it was Nash’s unrelenting power, combined with that bobble by Simms on the last lap, that proved to be the deciding factor, as Nash was able to extend her early lead in the NACT series with two victories on the weekend.
“Wendy’s definitely a very smooth racer, and even after taking a break, she hasn’t lost any of that,” said Nash. “And this course today was a lot about technique, and less just hammering and pedaling hard. She was very hard to get rid of.”
Although her performance didn’t show it, Nash echoed other riders’ comments about getting the early season kinks out. “I’m jumping from mountain bikes and disc brakes that work perfectly to the ’cross bike, and I was riding carbon rims, which I usually wouldn’t do on a muddy course like this, but that’s just what I had. I had to be a little more conservative, and am still getting used to the ’cross bike again. I raced MTB Worlds a couple of weeks ago and haven’t really ridden since, and I just built up my ’cross bike on Thursday, so it’s a pretty quick switch.”
The rest of the season represents a shift in priorities for Nash, but the good news is that she’s renewing her commitment to a full cyclocross campaign. “I’m not going for the USGP overall this year, I’ll do some World Cups in Europe which overlap instead, so I’m just picking a few races I want to do well at and hope to get enough points to go back and do the World Championship. I have to redeem myself; I had fun with it last year, and got fourth even without having the best day. So I feel like I have a little bit left in my tank and want to try it one more time.”
The course began drying out as the women continued to churn up the mud, but the rain came back in earnest midway through the race, culminating with an impressive thunderclap just as Nash flew across the barriers for the final time. Although the rain stopped shortly thereafter, and would remain mostly at bay for the men’s race, the water damage had been done and a slip-sliding affair was in store. Mud and slick corners would feature prominently and would keep the pit crew and bike washers busy for the duration of the race.
Francis Mourey was again on fire out of the gate and began building a lead right away. Ryan Trebon (Kona), once again was off to a slow start; although he put together an impressive rally in the closing laps, he allowed himself to drop too far back – falling all the way to 14th – to allow any late-race heroics. Trebon’s late burst of speed rocketed him through the field to fourth, but that was as far as he’d get. With all of the finishers in front of him heading off to Europe for the World Cups, he’s in a good position in the NACT series.
The front of the race quickly became a battle between the ’crossers with the most Euro experience: French champion Mourey, Swiss champ Heule and Page. Mourey hovered about 10 seconds ahead of Page for the first several laps, with Heule trailing by another five seconds, but Mourey had another gear in reserve. The French rider would build his gap to 35 seconds by the final lap, and he stayed in the drops and on the gas throughout to take a comfortable win.
“I tried to stay with Mourey for a bit, but right at the beginning he had more than me,” said Page. “I tried to ease into the race, as much as you can ease into a ’cross race, and hoped that I could make up for a little power with some of my technique, but Mourey’s a very good bike rider.”
The real battle was for second, as Heule and Page both took a ride on the adventurous side early on. “I switched bikes, and I only have one pair of mud tires – so I was squirming around, Heule was squirming around, because he switched at the same time,” said Page. “We both switched back, and I knew Heule was going to try to punch it once he caught back up, since I’m a pretty good sprinter. I got back on his wheel finally with some good technical sections. I could take a few seconds to breathe, then hit him at the end.”
“I changed my bike for the first time on the third lap, and took the spare bike – but that bike didn’t have the mud tires,” said Heule, echoing Page’s report. “I thought it would be OK, but it was really bad. I changed back a lap later, and I think I had to fight for at least three more laps to get back to Page. That might have been part of why I lost the sprint at the end.”
The two riders were together on the penultimate lap, and stayed neck-and-neck until the line, when Page took advantage of the headwind to draft until the final 20 meters, then overtook his competitor by a half bike length at the line.
After Trebon rolled in for fourth, Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) crossed the line shortly after – perhaps the most improved rider of the weekend. “I was happy to get into the points today. Yesterday was a disaster, I crashed in the first corner,” said Kabush. “I didn’t have the right tires on yesterday, I don’t think. I’m coming out here solo, I just have one bike and one set of wheels in the pits. I was hoping it’d be a smoother weekend, but the rain has turned it into a bit of a mess. I was happy to get through it with one bike, it was pretty clumpy out there.”
Side Notes: Only two guys rode the first sand section and then the stairs that ascended from the beach, according to roving Cyclocross Magazine reporter Kenton Berg: Page and Adam Craig. Both received huge ovations from the crew hanging out in the Deschutes Brewery Beer Garden. Speaking of Craig, the Bend-based rider alternated between his A-bike and a singlespeed pit bike running a 42/16, on which he finished the race.
Two up-and-coming Portland-based riders for Team S&M turned in impressive performances – Alice Pennington took ninth in the women’s race, and Sean Babcock scored 13th in the men’s race.
Michael Gallagher (USA) Cyclorossracing.Com p/b Blue
Brue Syvertsen (USA) Murder
Ryan Weaver (USA) River City Bicycles
Kamden Reedy (USA) Web-Op
Sean Worsech (USA) Performance Bike
Alex Work (USA) Bay 101/HRS/Rock Lobster
Jesse Doll (USA) Montanacyclocross.Com
Ryan Iddings (USA) Redline
Tyler Trace (Can) Trek Red Truck
Nathan Bannerman (USA) Wheatland Wheelers
Matthew Fox (USA) Sunnyside Sports
Kyle McGilvray (USA) Old Town Bicycle
Michael Pease (USA) Collision One/Bicycle Centers
Eric Colton (USA) The Team
Derek Yarra (USA) Murder
Alan Adams (USA) Hagens Berman Llp
John Flack (USA) Olympia Orthopaedic Associates
Molly Cameron (USA) Portland Bicycle Studio
Davy Yeater (USA) River City Bicycles/Cannondale
Aaron Tuckerman (NZl) Corsa Concepts
Benjamin Rathkamp (USA) Fanatik
Jonathon Baker (USA) Hudz-Subaru
John Bailey (USA) Bailey Bikes
Troy Wells (USA)
Chris Sheppard (Can) Rocky Mountain/Shimano/Giro
Ryan Miller (USA) Pacific Power – Blue Sky
Nick Berry (Can) Mighty Riders
Mike Gaertner (USA) Vertical Earth
Cory Simpson (USA)
Chris McGovern (USA) Calnorte/Cycleution
Ben Thompson (USA)
Sloane Anderson (USA) Proair/Hfa
I switched a bike and I only have one pair of mud tires – so I was squirming around, he was squirming around, because he switched at the same time. We both switched back, and I knew Heule was going to try to punch it, since I’m a pretty good sprinter. I got back on his wheel finally with some good technical sections. I could take a few seconds to breathe, then hit him at the end.