Bart Wellens has his eyes intently on the prize. ©Janet Hill
by Josh Liberles
CrossVegas winner Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) has doubled down and taken the win in StarCrossed, and former world champ Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) claimed his first victory on American soil by shedding the rest of the front group with three laps to go and powering the remaining distance alone.
StarCrossed, ordinarily held at the Maymoor Velodrome, relocated this year to Lake Sammamish State Park and was not held under the lights. Lake Sammamish will also host Sunday’s Rapha-Focus GP (previously the Rad Racing GP). The course is notorious for its power-sapping run on the beach, this year dubbed the “Lazer helmets beach party,” which comes soon after a rideable packed sand section, and its fast grass; twists, turns and berms; and roots.
Nash Sprints the Sand ©Janet Hill
Mical Dyck (Pro City Racing) launched off the start line, down the pavement and around the first gravel corner to claim an impressive holeshot as the filed strung out on the fast, flat course. French national champion Caroline Mani (CC Etupes) and fast starter Sue Butler were close behind, with Nash sitting comfortably in the wings. Alice Pennington (Team S&M) and Mo Bruno Roy (Bob’s Red Mill) clung to the lead group early on, but would soon fade back and become part of the chase group.
“My first 25 seconds are awesome,” said Dyck. “I’m still working on the next 35 minutes!” Despite her modesty, the Canadian followed Nash’s acceleration on the second lap, and a gap quickly stretched out behind the duo.
“I felt a little tired in the beginning. My start was a little bit slower today, but I was where I needed to be,” said Nash. “By the end of the second lap, I just started to warm up and felt better. I didn’t really attack, I just got a little gap on the run – which was surprising, because it definitely was hurting me. I already feel the hip flexors getting a little bit stiff.”
Alarm bells were ringing loudly in the chase group as Nash, one of the world’s top ’crossers, won both StarCrossed and the Rad Racing GP last year, and she’s coming off a victory in CrossVegas as well. Mani and Butler led the chasers, with Pepper Harlton (Juventus Cycling Club), Bruno Roy, Pennington, Devon Gorry (Rambuski Law), Kathy Sherwin (Stan’s NoTubes) and Jenni Gaertner (Raleigh) all clamoring for wheels in the group.
Nash’s pace would open a slim gap in the third lap, but Dyck hung tough and looked to be en route to a sensational early season result. Dyck’s saddle slipped, however, and she soon wiped out in a corner and twisted her shifter just past the first entrance to the pits. “I must have lost a minute there, whacking the shifter and then banging on the saddle — the fans didn’t know what I was doing and told me to chill out and get back on the bike,” said Dyck. “Then I managed to get the saddle nose down!”
Butler and Mani had linked up behind and put space between themselves and the rest of the chasers. They went into a two-woman rotation and continued to pull away, but couldn’t close on the streaking Nash.
“Mical had a mechanical, so we used that to our advantage,” said Butler. “Caroline and I were working really well together. I’m sucking at cornering right now since I haven’t ridden my ’cross bike at speed enough yet this season. And Caroline was just so smooth and so awesome to follow. I’d slow her down in the corners and she’d go around, and I’d pull her on some of the straights.”
“Mical definitely had a super strong beginning of the race, then suddenly [when she mechanicaled], she dropped way back,” said Nash. “I felt good for the rest of the race, but I didn’t really back off – I wanted to keep a hard pace and get my mind back into cyclocross. Corners come up quickly and I’m on a different bike, so I was working on my skills and trying to take corners faster and faster as the race progressed and really testing out my new bike – I have a new Orbea frame with Di2 that I got right before CrossVegas,so there’s a lot of things to deal with.”
By the finish, Nash had plenty of time to celebrate the decisive victory. Mani and Butler battled ferociously for the final spot, and they both were gritting their teeth and showing the efforts. But it was Mani, with her mouth agape, jersey partially unzipped and sprinting out of every corner on the last lap that proved to be the difference. Both riders were psyched by the results, however, as they showed marked improvements over their recent outings in Vegas.
Left to right: Caroline Mani, Katerina Nash, Sue Butler. ©Janet Hill
“She knew she could corner so much faster than me, and she took advantage of it on that last lap. I was hoping to stay with her and get her on the sprint, but she made a few good moves around corners and I couldn’t quite get there as fast,” said Butler “I had an asthma attack in Vegas, so I was apprehensive going into this. I didn’t know how my lungs would feel since they were still kind of sore. I didn’t get the holeshot; I played it smart, just stayed with that group. I’m pretty satisfied with third – I know I should never say that out loud, but considering how Vegas went, this brings my confidence back a little and makes me feel better about my fitness.
“I had a really bad race in Vegas, and I’m feeling exhausted,” said Mani. “I’m working for SRAM [Mani has a nine-month internship in the US], and I was on my feet working all week and arrived really late yesterday. I need some rest and I didn’t train and haven’t raced the last eight months… So it’s pretty good without training and in my second race. I had good feelings, good sensations today, and I was going really well in the technical sections. I think I have some power – I was really worried this week that I just wouldn’t be going fast any more. I think that if I can train a little, I will be going really fast.”
Ryan Trebon was a consistent hammer, and took second. ©Janet Hill
A deep international field lined up for today’s men’s race, with Bart Wellens, Rob Peeters and Ben Berden (Belgium), Fabio Ursi (Italy), a gaggle of Canadians led by national champ Chris Sheppard, Masashi Matsui (Japan) and a Kiwi (Aaron Tuckerman).
Although there had been light showers and mist in the early morning, the course was dry enough by race time that the hard-charging men’s field kicked up huge clouds of dust as they stormed off the pavement to start the race. When the dust settled, an early group of 10 took shape with Wellens leading the way, followed by Ryan Trebon (LTS-Felt), Peeters (Telenet-Fidea), Jonathan Page (Planet Bike), Ursi (CS Escerito), US national champ Todd Wells (Specialized), Berden (Ops Ale-Stoemper Bikes), Sheppard (Rocky Mountain – Shimano) and Tuckerman (Corsa Concepts) – who started in the fourth row and quickly made his way towards the heads of state.
Trebon was not one to be intimidated by the international talent that surrounded him – he attacked hard several times to loosen things up, and had a series of forays off the front of the race. “Bart was the only one who could match me running through the sand – everybody else we could put five seconds on,” said Trebon. “That felt really good, and I haven’t really done any running training yet this year. It wasn’t an advantage to ride it since it was so hard to maintain your speed through there.”
Todd Wells leads the chase. ©Kenton Berg
Wells, too, rode aggressively and also put in digs at the front, but a spectacular crash would send him ass over bottom bracket in the sand pit and leave him chasing the front runners by himself for the rest of the race. His brother Troy would suffer a similar fate in the chase group.
It was a strong move by Trebon on the fifth lap that largely led to the final sorting of positions. “I don’t like sitting in and waiting, waiting, waiting … so I just keep punching it,” said Trebon. “I went hard one time through the sand, and Ben [Berden] rode the sand really well that lap. We got a little gap going there, then Page and Wellens bridged up to us.”
That foursome would fight out the podium positions, but there was plenty of position jockeying to come. Wellens put in a hard drive of his own with three laps to go which proved too much for the rest, and it was a two-man battle for the win from there. “Because it was not raining, I thought it was going to be a sprint at the end, but my legs were feeling very, very good,” said Wellens. “In the beginning I had a little bit of trouble with my bike and had to make two stops in the pits, and I lost a little bit of energy in the first three or four laps. But then I sat on wheels for two laps of resting. Riding in the first sand section, I think I was the best – I got a gap there, then it was three laps full gas. If you see Trebon’s legs compared to my legs, he runs so much faster, so I needed to take the gap in the little piece before the running part. Then I just expanded the gap a little bit more, five six, seven seconds … Three laps is a long way to ride alone on this track, especially with a strong Ryan Trebon. For two laps he stayed at seven or eight seconds, so I thought maybe I gambled and went too early just like in Vegas, but I kept the gap until the finish.”
Bart Wellens out to an early lead. ©Kenton Berg
Wellens wasn’t the only one impressed by Trebon’s running prowess. “Wellens and Trebon had me against the ropes coming through the sand. I came out of the sand and I had one bobble, lost my front wheel sideways at a hard point, and that’s where they separated from me,” said Page. “They were running way faster than me – Trebon came past me like a freight train with those long legs.”
Berden, who before coming to the States was racing as an Elite without contract, had an impressive ride to mix it up with some of the world’s best. He and Page formed the chase group, and the two worked together to keep a chasing Rob Peeters at bay. Page led onto the pavement and held that position to the line, with Berden rolling in just behind for fourth.
Trebon and Nash claimed the Cross After Dark series leader jerseys.
Rain, Rain, Go Away?
With rain in the forecast, we took a quick survey of some of our podium winners.
Page: “Why not – we had the really dry one today, so why not go for slippery tomorrow?”
Trebon: “No, I’m here solo, Dusty (my mechanic) isn’t here this weekend. I don’t want the rain just because I don’t want to have to worry about cleaning my bikes. That’s the only reason, I don’t want to deal with that, but I like racing in the wet otherwise. Last year it was hard – it was so muddy and greasy, slick on the roots.”
Nash: “I like it when things change, and it’d be good to get some practice in different conditons since we had it all perfectly dry today.”
Butler: Pray for rain!
Fun Fact: The Telenet-Fidea squad got the chance to hit a Seattle Mariners game the night before the race, and a local news station interviewed them on the air [We're looking for the YouTube video – send us the link if you find it!] Wellens had this to say: “Normally when I race in Europe I don’t go out the day before a race, but I had the chance to go and it was amazing. We had two and a half hours just being amazed by all the fans there, the ambiance, and everything was cool over there.”
Photo Galleries After Results
|16||Aaron Barry TUCKERMAN||NZL||29||59:12|
|7||Maureen BRUNO ROY||USA||37||43:52||6||6|
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Photo Gallery by Kenton Berg:
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