by Anne Rock
Nikki Thiemann felt so good winning her first UCI race at Saturday’s Beacon Cross, she went out and did it again on Sunday at HPCX.
Bizarre weather plagued both races where conditions changed hourly. At Beacon, wind and rain whipped racers, and turned a usually fast, dry course into a sloppy, peanut butter and puddle trail of pain. During the Elite men’s race, a massive dark cloud encroached from the north as gusts of 40+ mph pummeled racers and spectators, destroyed umbrellas and lifted a few tents into the air.
But the biggest force of nature was Philadelphia’s Nikki Thiemann, winning what would be her first UCI race of two.
“Two Time” Thiemann played cat and mouse with Laura Van Gilder (C3 Athletes Serving Athletes) for the entire Beacon race, besting her by millimeters in a photo-finish sprint. Theimann’s Team CF teammate and third place finisher Kristin Gavin fought to bridge a close gap, but couldn’t match the punishing pace set by Thiemann and Van Gilder.
Beacon’s unmarked finish line created confusion for sprinters. Thiemann explains: “Laura Van Gilder and I traded places on and off throughout the race and she took a spill at the top of the amphitheater on the last lap. When we hit the pavement, she went and then I went. I realized I was gaining on her but couldn’t find the finish line, so sprinted until I was well past where the line had to be. I didn’t know if I’d pulled it off until she told me I’d won … I won by an inch or so!”
A night of snow, sleet and other early winter nastiness, left the HPCX course a surreal picture of autumn leaves amid winter white. Thiemann again would best Van Gilder at the line, but this time Thiemann’s Team CF teammate Carolyn Popovic. Thiemann deftly avoided a bottle neck when racers first transitioned to the grass by running, a tactic that put her in front of the group where she remained until the final effort.
While Beacon’s sprint was somewhat contested, HPCX played out a little differently. Thiemann reports being for most of the race through the final turn onto the pavement leading toward the slight uphill finish. “I lead for most of the race and opened up a gap coming onto the pavement. I heard I had eight or ten bikes lengths coming onto the pavement for the finish, but Laura closed it down and almost got me. I think I won by a bike length or less.”
Thiemann, a favorite among Mid-Atlantic Cross Series racers, thanked all her friends and supporters. “I knew I had a shot and winning and I could hear everyone cheering for me.” She’s particularly grateful to wife Mara Cooper and best friend and teammate Kristin Gavin.
Beacon’s apocalyptic weather prevented Thiemann from getting a podium photo with teammate and best friend Kristin Gavin. The way they’re racing, they will surely have another shot at it.
Stay tuned for a video interview with Thiemann.