exploded out of the start blocks to take the holeshot down the pavement, and it was with that ferocity that Nicole Duke then powered past her to drive the pace heading into the first technical corners of the race.
The Queen Reasserts Her Reign
As the racers hit the first pass up Badger Hill, Compton attempted to pass Duke, but tangled with a stake and hit the frozen ground as announcer Richard Fries set the park echoing with his exclamations, “Compton is down! Compton is down!” Undeterred by the crash or the announcer, the seasoned pro got back up and began to run the hill as Duke rode ahead of her. “I’m pretty good at regrouping,” said Compton after the race. “I have a tendency to slip out and crash frequently enough that it doesn’t faze me.”
The Fight For The Podium
And what a battle it was, as Duke, Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) and Miller stormed across the course in tight formation, with Teal Stetson-Lee (Luna), Georgia Gould, Crystal Anthony and Mo Bruno-Roy (Bob’s Red Mill) following closely behind.
As the women snaked their way across the course, former teammates Antonneau and Duke, last year’s bronze and silver medalists, began to separate themselves from the rest of the chasers before both crashed at different places. Antonneau suffered the worse, dropping out of the top five and never regaining her position at the front. “I was trying my best to stay relaxed and ride a clean race,” she said. “I was doing a good job with that for two laps; I think I was in third, and then on the back side of the course, I crashed. My chain fell off and I had trouble getting it back on, and I think five girls passed me and I never came back. I don’t know what I finished but I won U23 and that’s good.”
Duke, too, had difficulties, breaking a shifter and then flatting her second bike. For a brief moment, her podium hopes and Words-team dreams looked to be in jeopardy as riders passed her as she screamed to her pit crew for a new bike. It took several pits to get her gear in working order, but Duke fought like a cornered dog and never lost her position in the front chase, regaining second place and looking to ride away with the silver. “I didn’t have a rear brake or a shifter for a lap,” Duke said. “It was one thing after another. But I knew the course was sketchy, so I knew I needed to stay steady and be consistent even though I was having issues. I talked to Ben [Berden] today and he told me to ride like I only had one lap, so I had that in my head and it worked.”
The Unexpected Upset
With Antonneau gone, Miller falling away and Gould making gains but none too quickly, Duke had to be happy with where she sat, alone in second chasing the already-settled dust of Compton’s wheels, and one spot higher than her 2012 placing. But Duke – nor few others, for that matter – didn’t account for roadie Jade Wilcoxson, who started in 18th place and had swum through the field and had now motored past all but the Alchemy rider and Compton.
“I decided when I was pre-riding that I was just going to race my own race,” said Wilcoxson, “and not care about who passed me. They might end up crashing anyway, going too fast and taking chances. So I did my own thing and tried to pick people off one by one.”
Perhaps that unassuming attitude is why