If you were to propose hosting a winter sporting event in the middle of summer in near-90 degree weather, at over 7000 feet of altitude, in a sparsely-populated town, on a brand new, never-been-raced course in the middle of the week, you would likely be fired from your job at most companies. Your boss might even let you go on the spot, and if not then, you might just be escorted out very soon after, when the inevitable backlash occurs after an attempt to execute such a crazy idea. Apparently, this is not the way Raleigh thinks.
The challenges in putting on the Raleigh Midsummer Night cyclocross race are numerous. Many professional cyclocross racers are in the middle of road season. Others are contesting mountain bike races. Not many amateurs can afford to take the time off work to the travel to a mid-week, fairly remote cyclocross race, even if a contract is on the line. And then there’s the weather.
“I like [cyclocross] in the fall and winter,” says Nicole Duke, bronze medalist at the 2011 Cyclocross National Championships. “It’s too hot in the summer—too hot, too dry.”
Yet one by one, the big cyclocross stars started to warm and commit to Raleigh’s idea, and dozens of local amateurs took time off work and signed up as well. Soon, some of the world’s best talents were making the trip out to Utah.
Just one week before the race, Duke decided to give it a try, and booked her flight to Salt Lake City to contest the second-annual Raleigh Midsummer Night cyclocross race, presented by Dealer Camp. Needing a contract for the 2012/2013 season, Duke thought it was worth a shot.
“I’m not in cyclocross shape,” she told Cyclocross Magazine shortly before her start. “I just heard about this event two weekends ago. At least the course is technical, that should help me.”
Duke is Smoothest Over the Bumps
Last year, third place finisher Jenni Gaertner crossed the finish line not knowing she would be the winner of the Raleigh contract. Gaertner returned to defend said contract, fighting through bruised ribs and stiffer competition, in order to keep the Raleigh jersey on her back. Also toeing the line was last year’s top two, Kathy Sherwin (NoTubes) and Kari Studley (Redline), along with new Raleigh-Clement signee Caroline Mani, and of course, Nicole Duke.
From the gun, Duke showed her motivation by taking an early holeshot to the first barriers and never looking back. Behind, Sherwin led the chase of Duke, with Studley taking over the chase after a few laps (but the gap was never closed, subsequently). Sherwin and Mani would battle back and forth, until a late surge by Mani allowed her to close down the gap to Studley.
Up front, Duke sailed around the course in complete control, and looked particularly fast through the barriers. Duke had plenty of time to celebrate in the finishing straight, and after crossing the line with a beer in hand, she sang her praises, especially in light of participating in a cyclocross race at the wrong time of year, in the wrong weather.
As for her potential contract with Raleigh, Duke said, “We need talk about that and see if it works out, but I’m excited to have options, and I think it’ll be a great team dynamic.” Reflecting on the possibilities, she confides, “Some of my favorite people on the circuit are Mani and Berden, so I think it’ll be a powerful team.”
Duke and Mani compare their dollar hand-up haul. @Cyclocross Magazine
Nicole Duke interview:
Trebon Emerges from the Battle of Three-Time National Champions
For several of the top contenders, this race almost didn’t happen. On race day, Jonathan Page still needed cyclocross bikes to race, and Blue put some last-minute production models together with available parts, including road cranksets.
Ryan Trebon (Cannondale-Clement) had his new SuperX cyclocross bikes in Oregon for over a month, but they got delayed in transit, showing up at 5 p.m. (just a few hours before his start).
Meanwhile, Jamey Driscoll, a recent transplant to Provo, Utah, was without his normal SuperX cyclocross bike. He instead dusted off an old Fiordifrutta aluminum Cannondale cyclocross bike to contest the day’s race.
The bike problems might suggest that these racers weren’t taking the Midsummer Race very seriously, but once the gun went off, it was clear the stars were playing for keeps.
Allen Krughoff had heard about the race more than a month prior, and was training specifically for this event in hopes of winning the contract. That month of anticipation helped the 28-year-old Boulder-based racer and photographer secure the holeshot and hit both sets of barriers ahead of a slew of highly decorated racers, including Johnson, Trebon, and Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement).
Meanwhile, three-time national champion Jonathan Page (Blue/Enve) had a slow start and got stuck in traffic. He came through the barriers already 10 seconds behind the leaders, and although he would move up dramatically in placing, he was never quite able to close the gap to the front.
Before long, Krughoff would pay for his early efforts, and new teammates Johnson and Trebon would surge to the front. Were Dealer Camp attendees about to get a taste of the one-two punch Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld.com would be showcasing this season? Both three-time national champions would trade pulls, until Trebon punched it over the top of the rideable run-up, and gapped Johnson for good.
“There’s a steep little ride-up, and I had a bit more gear over the top of it. I started going and I was like, ‘Tim’s pretty strong, and I don’t wanna get beat by him,’ so I kept pushing my advantage when I could,” Trebon explained. With his season goal being to “win everything,” perhaps we won’t see as much team tactics as we saw under the Powers-Johnson-Driscoll era. Only time will tell.
Ryan Trebon Interview:
The battle for the contract ended up being between Page and Krughoff, and as the top finisher, Page has first right of refusal and mentioned he would at least explore the possibilities with Clement and Raleigh, despite being under contract with Blue Competition Cycles for at least another season.
Talking with Cyclocross Magazine, the part-time resident appeared torn on the possibility of doing a more domestic season, either with his current sponsors or Raleigh-Clement. “I really don’t know [about the contract], it is all new to me … we will talk tomorrow and decide to see if it is a possibility,” Page explained. “If it is not a possibility, I hope to give it to someone else to use. It is exciting, it’s fun. I did not even know about [the contract prize] until after the race!”
It’s clear Page didn’t enter the race hoping to win a contract. “To be honest I want to give it one more time in Belgium, but I can see the greatness of just living in the United States.”