When the skies opened up on Thursday night with torrential downpours, visiting European racers, especially the Belgian and Dutch racers who typically race in heavy mud, must have been counting their blessings. Gone was the hot, dry air and dry grass that left racers gasping and coughing after the CrossVegas World Cup.
It would have been a good bet for racers both foreign and domestic to think Jingle Cross in Iowa City would be a much cooler affair than Vegas. Even though this year’s CrossVegas was unseasonably cool, average temperatures for Iowa City are 18 degrees F cooler than in Vegas for late September (73 vs. 91 degrees).
However, when the sun came out and started to dry the muddy course, racers were in store for an unexpected sauna session—one that lasted a relatively short 37 minutes for Katie Compton (KFC Racing p/b Trek-Panache) and quite a bit longer for other racers.
In the Mind, Not the Mud
Racing a heavy course with a lot of running and hills in such conditions, the key to doing well wasn't mud skills but rather being relaxed, comfortable and without stress. It’s an area where the North American-based racers had an advantage, according to Compton.
An example of this was Compton's approach to racing on Saturday. When the Thursday night rains arrived, nobody was happier than Compton. She loves the mud, but because she was familiar with the course and had all her bikes, wheels and tires with her, she knew she was well prepared and skipped Friday course pre-rides or racing and just relaxed. “Yesterday when it was raining all day, I was hanging out in the hotel room, resting, napping, and relaxing and wasn’t going to ride my bike.” There was no nervousness about the course, conditions or equipment, and she didn't need to get wet or muddy pre-riding the course.
The relaxed approach worked, up until she put on her shoes for the start. She had never done a start in her new red Bontrager kicks, and started practicing her starts off the line to make sure she could clip in quickly until an amused observing Nash said, “C’mon Katie, you’ve done this a hundred times.” Compton explained she hadn’t use raced the shoes before, and Nash reassured her competitor, “Stop thinking about it, you’ll be fine.”
Compton thought about the comment and concluded “she was probably right....we’ve both done this hundreds of times, you just gotta go, and go by feel, and it will work out.”
Winning by Feel
Work out it did. The 12-time National Champion, typically self-deprecating in her describing her ability to start fast, showed everyone that she was in Iowa City to win and was leaving nothing to chance. She closely followed Sanne Cant off the pavement on the muddy grass.
Moving to the front past early leader Amanda Miller by the top of the run-up, Compton led the descent the first time down Mt. Krumpit with Katerina Nash in tow. Nowhere to be seen was their fellow CrossVegas escapee, Dutch star and 2016 CrossVegas winner Sophie de Boer. Instead, the head of affairs looked like a domestic cyclocross race, with Compton and Nash joined by North American-based racers in Caroline Mani (Raleigh Clement) and Nash’s teammate Pendrel.
The selection was made, but Compton was motivated to narrow it further. “I was at the front pushing the pace I could sense it all stringing out behind me,” Compton told Cyclocross Magazine. “This kind of course, the harder you go, it’s not like you’re getting a lot of draft, and then I heard Katerina had a mechanical, and so I started pushing a little harder, and then it got strung out even more.”
Nash ripped her derailleur off after getting it clogged with mud, and was forced to run. Thankfully she was near the pits, but the gap was made. Compton was off the front.
Securing Second on Saturday
With Compton pushing the pace, the race to secure second was on.
Team tactics were even at play. Mani looked around for help to chase Compton and Nash before Nash's derailleur problem, but then realized Pendrel wouldn’t help her chase down another Luna rider. So Mani decided it was time to go, and took off in pursuit of Compton.
“I did all I can to try to stay close to Katie, but she was really strong,” Mani told Cyclocross Magazine. I did all I [could] to keep my second place because Kaitie Antonneau was chasing behind. The last lap was like, oh my gosh, I just want to be done. After what happened in [Waterloo] I am not going to make a mistake again to just lose the second place.”
Antonneau also remembered Mani’s crash in Waterloo, and was hoping something similar might happen to help her move up a place after a slow start. “I had a bit of a rough lap, the first lap, wasn’t as fast as some of the other women,” Antonneau recalled. “Towards the end of the first lap, I kind of got it together and kept moving forward. I think I heard Stu Thorne, and he said I was in fourth or third…and then it kind of registered. I was fighting like mad to come up to Caroline, but just came up a little short, but I’m super happy with my ride today."
While Colorado-based Mani, California-based Nash, American Antonneau and Canadian Pendrel focused on securing a podium spot, the Europe-based stars including Sanne Cant, Ellen van Loy, Helen Wyman and Eva Lechner along with de Boer were left wondering why cyclocross felt so different in America. The heavy heavy mud was here, the course was technical, filled with off-cambers and tough descents, and as an added bonus, the crowds were more supportive than the partisan crowds typical of Belgium. But the legs and their position in the race didn’t feel the same.
Had the travel, flights, foreign beds, foreign food and different time zones caught up to them?
Compton wasn’t surprised to not see the Europeans at the front, as she’s typically traveled many times a year over to Europe to contest the World Cup and World Championships. “[Flying to a race] is a little different. [The front group today has] all raced this course, we know how hard it is, we’re used to racing each other," Compton explained. "The Europeans have jet lag and travel, and can’t bring ten sets of wheels, they’re limited to tire selection, bikes, it’s a hard. They get to experience what we experience. We go to their race, we’ve never done the course before, we have to decide what tires to bring, what bikes to bring, disc or canti maybe, and it’s a taste of what we go through three or four times a year if we’re going to do the World Cups."
A Win, World Cup Leader's Jersey and Overall Title Chase
"Oh my God, it feels awesome!" Compton told Cyclocross Magazine. This is my 23rd win, and it's super special. I always wanted to win a World Cup in the States. I was really disappointed in my finish [in Vegas] so today I really wanted to go out there, put a good race in, not make mistakes, and race up to my ability, and I feel like I did that today."
With her win and third place in Vegas, Compton earned the UCI Cyclocross World Cup leader’s jersey. But the victory and jersey aren’t impacting her season's plans. She’ll only race five of the nine stops of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup this year, and instead will stay true to her domestic-centered season in hopes of having a great World Championships.
“I’ve chased the jersey before in years past, when I wasn’t planning to, and it hasn’t worked out for me,” said Compton. “I want to have a good World Championships and there’s not money that’s going to magically appear for me to travel.”
Compton’s absence could be Mani’s gift, as the French racer plans to chase the title and is happy with her form. “It’s a good sign for the next round of World Cup—I think I’m going to place pretty well," said Mani about her World Cup ambitions and knowledge that Compton and Nash won't make the full series.
Ellen Noble (Aspire) not only finished an impressive fifth on the day, but landed herself a U23 World Cup leader's jersey as well.
Noble finished seventh in CrossVegas, and looks well on her way to being an overall Elite Women's contender for the World Cup while already leading the U23 category.
Photo gallery below the results. Stay tuned for our ever-growing Jingle Cross coverage.
2016 JingleCross UCI Cyclocross World Cup Women's Results
|7||Sophie DE BOER||NED||26||38:43:00||90|
|14||Ellen VAN LOY||BEL||36||39:53:00||52|
|21||Sofia GOMEZ VILLAFANE||ARG||22||41:56:00||39|