by Lee Waldman & Christopher Bagg
Fort Collins, CO – After a fall season full of unseasonably warm temperatures, the riders were finally served a helping of more typical cyclocross weather. The snow that hit Colorado’s front range at the end of the week modified what might have been a smooth, fast course into one that in places was an uphill death march. Under alternately glowering and sunny skies, Katerina Nash (Luna) battled Katie Compton (Planet Bike/Stevens) over 40 minutes in Fort Collins today, eventually prevailing over the American national champion. In the men’s race, Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) ruled most of the day, working off the front with Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain). The two riders swapped the lead several times, with Kabush seemingly biding his time before putting in an attack with a little more than two laps to go and soloing his way to victory from there. The win marked Kabush’s fist USGP victory since a 2005 Gloucester win and, as Kabush would later say, ended his seemingly incessant tendency to finish in fourth, just off the podium.
Official ’Cross Weather Here at Last
It was, as Barry Wicks (Kona) put it, “Finally, a real cyclocross course.” The early morning races presented the challenge of slick off-camber corners and frozen ruts. The bikes of the Junior racers and the lower category men and women bounced and slid through the tricky downhill sections of the course. The following uphills were so slick in places that applying too much power to the pedals resulted in the rear wheel spinning out and a complete loss of traction.
Even though the temperatures remained a bit below seasonal, the sun warmed the course enough to soften the ruts and produce some incredibly “interesting” greasy corners on the tricky descent after the start. The climb to the first pit and following flyover changed from icy to energy-sapping mud. By the time riders reached the double barrier section on the last half of the lap, their bikes had gained at least a pound.
This was a course that put a premium on bike handling skills and smooth, judicious application of power. The winners in both the women’s and men’s fields were the riders who could do both.
Nash and Compton go Head to Head
It was a back-and-forth affair, with Georgia Gould (Luna) taking the hole shot in front of a pile-up, followed closely by Katie Compton (Planet Bike/Stevens) and the rest of the women’s field. Coming off of the paved start/finish straight into the muddy and rutted off-road section, the women in the first half of the field were unfazed by a crash that took Laura van Gilder (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes), currently the UCI’s third-ranked rider, from her start position to 100 meters off the back of the entire field as she struggled to get her thrown chain back on and remount. She would spend the rest of the race making her way back through slower riders, but sadly would never see the front of the race again. Hometown hope Meredith Miller (Cal Giant) also was held up by the crash, but got back on the throttle quickly. Miller would suffer to win a moral victory for her local supporters, racing back into the top 10 and winning the day’s SRAM Most Aggressive Rider award.
A Lessened Field
Nash opened up a gap on the diminished field (about 10 riders made it through the first-turn crash safely) during the first lap, but Compton and Gould rode back up to the Czech national champion, with Amy Dombroski holding onto a distant fourth position. For the first half of the race Compton appeared to be in control, riding smoothly through all of the slick corners, taking her foot out when needed to maintain balance, but never looking stressed or in danger of losing her position. On the uphill power sections she was out of the saddle, putting seconds between herself, Nash and Gould.
As race announcer Richard Fries repeatedly mentioned over the course’s PA system, Compton tends to attack mercilessly on the second lap, and soon she had a gap of about 10 or 15 seconds over the pair of Luna riders. She smoothed through the outside of turns and appeared to be out-riding Nash, who bobbled through several of the off-camber hairpins–the course designers placed one of those puzzles directly after a set of barriers, forcing the less skilled riders off their bikes twice in less than 30 meters. Nash soon left her teammate, though, and made up ground on Compton, and as the two leaders began the fourth lap they were riding together.
Fourth Lap Issues
Two mishaps during this lap probably cost Compton the race, but she was quick to brush off any one mistake as crucial: “We were all making mistakes,” she said later. On the climb back up to the pits, one right turn had been giving riders fits all day: a 90-degree turn with a short ramp one had to ride across diagonally. Compton slipped and had to dismount and lost ground as she tried to re-start up the slick hill. Needing a new bike, she entered the pit, but husband Mark Legg-Compton had placed himself on the pit’s other side. “Mark!” Compton shouted, and he ran her the bike, but she’d lost a big 10 seconds. “I’ve never done that in my life,” a distraught Legg-Compton said after the race; “It was like Sven the other day, standing there with no bike.” Legg-Compton had just rolled to a second-place finish in the 35+ 1-3 Category and the USGP series lead in that competition. “I’ve got to focus on my day job, though,” the self-described “anal” pit chief said, “And racing the mens’ 35+ race isn’t my day job.”
A Sprint Too Far
Compton, bedeviled this year by recovery issues, has often found a way to win from slightly more difficult positions than she’s accustomed, so when she clawed her way back to the diminutive Czech rider, many spectators believed the American would once again assert her domestic dominance. It wasn’t to be, however, as Nash turned the standard sprint script on its head, knocking Compton off her wheel on the slightly uphill finish. “Katerina led it out,” Compton said during the post-race press conference, “and I followed.” She got a big laugh. Not to be outdone, Georgia Gould reveled in her third place finish (and retained series leader jersey) and kept the media entertained with a stand-up worthy retelling of the race. The three women were affable and all smiles, but you can bet all three have different — but equally inspired — reasons for expecting to dominate tomorrow.
Amy Dombroski rode in alone in fourth, almost four minutes in arrears to the leaders. Gould hung on to her USGP series leader jersey, but reportedly has to cook her winning teammate dinner tonight. The victory serves as confirmation of Nash’s fitness after the success she has already had in Europe this season.
The two passed through the finish on the bell lap together, it looked like it would be a two-up sprint for the line. However, Nash caught and passed Compton on the next to last uphill section heading towards the flyover. On the final descent, her gap held and as she negotiated the double barrier section and circled the registration tent on the run-in to the finish, she held a precious two-second lead on Compton. That proved to be enough as she crossed the finish line the clear winner. Compton came across second with Gould, a Fort Collins rider, third and Dombroski a distant fourth.
Notes: Alice Pennington (Team S&M) put a season’s worth of mud races in Oregon to good use and turned in a great performance to claim sixth place, sandwiched between Amanda Miller (Hudz-Subaru) and Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale-CyclocrossWorld.com)
Elite Men’s Race
The weather turned colder for the men’s race, and it seemed that the course was drying out a bit, at least on the flatter sections. The downhill corners were still slick and greasy, and few if any riders even attempted to corner without a foot out. Even with that, there was a crash on the first lap immediately after the start.
Bobbling but Loving It
Series leader Jeremy Powers (Cannondale-CyclocrossWorld.com) fired the first shot taking the lead from the gun, but Kabush was quick to grab it after a bobble by the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com rider. Ryan Trebon (Kona), Tim Johnson (Cannondale-CyclocrossWorld.com) and the rest of the field were bunched behind. By the end of the first lap, much like the women’s race, the course had done its work and selected the riders who would battle for the win. In the mix were Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale-CyclocrossWorld.com), Trebon, Geoff Kabush, Todd Wells (Specialized Factory-Cal Giant), Johnson, Powers and Adam Craig (Rabo-Giant).
“I just had a bad two or three laps, had the wrong pressure, slammed into things, had a mechanical…” said Powers of his off day at the office. Despite his seventh-place finish, he remained upbeat as always, saying, “It was a great course, though, very slimy, very European. The grass is tall and long, then the mud and slime … there’s a good climb in it, it’s dry in some sections. A perfect cyclocross course!”
Two Distance the Rest
Kabush was clearly the strongest rider in the field today with Driscoll almost his equal. The two of them appeared to be much more comfortable on the technical and the power sections of the course, and eventually the race turned into a battle between the two. Trebon, Wells and Johnson chased for the entire race, but were never able to crack the stranglehold that Kabush and Driscoll had on the top steps of the podium.
As the race progressed, the downhill portions of the course continued to slicken and there were numerous bobbles by all of the riders. With five laps to go, the race was down to three riders: Driscoll, Kabush and Trebon. Wells and Johnson continued to chase with Powers and Craig following.
Mad MTB Skills
Kabush attacked Driscoll on the uphill leading to the flyover with three to go, and for the remaining laps he was able to hold off Driscoll despite a crash with a half-lap to go. Luckily, he had space to spare and ultimately rolled across the line high-fiving the crowd, still with a 12-second gap. “Summer cyclocross is over,” announced a pleased Kabush. “When it goes well, it feels easy. Jamey Driscoll went by me, but I really felt in control today, and I was getting pissed off with all of the fourth places lately.”
Meanwhile, behind the two Ryan Trebon continued to ride strongly, maintaining the third place position he had yo-yoed in and out of for much of the race. “My fitness was good, but I kept making small mistake after small mistake,” said Trebon. “I was able to punch it at the end and hold those guys off, which was good. Some days you’re just not that good at [the technical skills].”
Johnson grew stronger as the race progressed and battled with Wells over the closing laps of the race. Wells held him off for fourth and Johnson, with a smile – or perhaps a grimace from the tough day – on his face, rode across in fifth.
Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus) scored a stellar sixth place, and in so doing snagged the SRAM Most Aggressive Rider prize as well as the U23 victory in convincing fashion.
Women’s Photo Gallery:
Men’s Photo Gallery:
Elite Women’s Results:
|9||Maureen BRUNO ROY||USA||36||47:45||2||2|
|13||Laura VAN GILDER||USA||47||49:04|
Elite Men’s Results: