Our annual Fantasy Cyclocross Nationals contest has become a favorite around our office and hopefully with those who entered this year. It provides a chance to see what the ’cross community at large thinks about riders’ chances and admittedly, a chance for some bragging rights among ourselves.
This year we threw a little twist into the contest, going seven deep and adding some primes for the holeshot and Lap 1 lead, kind of like what you might see at your local race or say, the DVV Trofee series with its mid-Lap 2 sprint points.
Before we jump into the results, we are going to take a little dive into the numbers—you can take the journalist out of the engineering degree, but you can’t take the engineering degree out of the journalist … yeah, that’s it.
Before we start, we also wanted to give a thank you to Feedback Sports, Easton Cycling, PrestaCycle and Kenda Tires for providing this year’s prizes.
Elite Women, by the Numbers
This year, we received a total of 338 Fantasy Cyclocross entries. For both the Elite Women and Elite Men, there were odds-on favorites among our entrants.
For the Elite Women, it was Ellen Noble (Trek Factory Racing CX), whom 46 percent of entrants picked to win the race. Sunday’s winner Katie Compton (KFC Racing p/b Trek Knight) was the pick of 28% of entrants and Kaitie Keough (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) got 24 percent of the picks to take home the Louisville gold.
Interestingly, once the conditions turned sloppy on Friday, there was a shift in top picks.
Of those who entered on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, 42 percent picked Keough to win versus 34 percent and 22 percent for Noble and Compton, respectively. It was hard not to forget Keough’s win in the mud at Jingle Cross in September.
Noble certainly deserved her status as the top pick after her monster domestic calendar, but the graveyard of fantasy entries is littered with those brave enough to bet against Katie Fn Compton at U.S. Cyclocross Nationals.
If you’re doing the math, yes, 97.6 percent of entries picked one of Compton, Noble or Keough to win. The most popular non-Compton/Noble/Keough picks were Caitlin Bernstein and Sammi Runnels each with two. Seventy-eight percent of entries had a Compton/Noble/Keough podium.
This year’s bracket buster was the Run4Funner herself Sunny Gilbert, who Ran2Silver in Louisville.
Gilbert rode and galloped to a second-place finish. Only two people picked Gilbert in second and nine overall had her on the podium.
There were actually that many?! 😂👍👋
— Sunny Gilbert (@run4funner) December 18, 2018
The 5th through 10th spots are often where we see riders have breakout afternoons, and the Elite Women’s race was no different. Regina Legge (Green Line Velo p/b ZipCar) finished sixth and Lily Williams (The Pony Shop p/b KPMG) took seventh. Twenty-one people picked Legge in 6th or 7th and 11 had Williams in 7th.
As for the primes, Noble has excelled at holeshots all year, and Sunday was no different. Seventy-six percent of entries had Noble taking the holeshot, so that was almost five free points.
Folks predicted Noble’s hot start would carry through the first lap, with 57 percent of entries taking her to lead one lap in. The 28 percent of entries that thought Compton would win dropped to just 12 percent who predicted she would lead one lap into the race. Compton is known for coming on strong in races, so it is not that surprising to see such a discrepancy.
Finally, for the winning margin, after last year’s narrow win over Noble, who could have predicted Compton would win by 2 minutes and 12 seconds?
According to our contest, no one.
The highest winning time gap entry was 108 seconds.
Elite Men, by the Numbers
The Elite Men’s race also had a prohibitive favorite, according to the Fantasy Cyclocross entries.
Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) got the winning nod from 56 percent of entrants. In second was the wunderkind Gage Hecht (Alpha Bicycle – Groove Subaru), who was the pick of 25 percent of folks.
In our pre-Nats interview, Curtis White (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) said he has been motivated by being overlooked this season, so perhaps subconsciously he knew that only 17 people picked him to win the race on Sunday.
Seventy-one entries had him in second and 105 in third, meaning that only 57 percent of the contest entrants had him on the podium despite winning the Vittoria Series and Pan-Ams this season.
Whereas there was an overwhelming agreement that Compton, Noble and Keough would be on the Elite Women’s podium, the Men’s was a bit more uncertain.
Hyde was at the odds-on favorite to finish in the top three, with 94 percent of entries picking him to score a medal. Hecht followed in second with 64 percent, then White with 57 percent, Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano) with 47 percent and Jeremy Powers (Pactimo / Fuji / SRAM) with 25 percent.
The Elite Men’s big bracket buster was local hero Drew Dillman (SDG – Muscle Monster) who followed in his teammate Amanda Nauman’s steps from Reno by jumping into the top five and shocking the prognosticators. Exactly 8 people had Dillman finishing in his fourth spot and 105 had him in one of first through seventh.
Figuring out the Elite Men’s holeshot was a bit dicey because White went inside while Hyde and Hecht went around to the outside after making it through the Creason bog right off the pavement. We are going to give the holeshot to White since he was the first into the bog and the first to the big sweeping turn.
White and Hyde were the top holeshot picks, with 84 going with White and 82 going with Hyde. Hecht was the third top pick with 57.
As for the Lap 1 leader, Hyde and White were off the front, with Hyde crossing the line first to take the prime. Interestingly, the numbers suggest this is what fans expected, with 27 percent picking Hyde to lead and 25 percent picking White. Hecht and Werner were both above 16 percent as well, also suggesting fans were expecting another group affair at the front similar to Reno Nationals and the 2018 Pan-American Championships.
The most interesting of the primes was the final time gap. In our rules, we said we were going to use the official time per USA Cycling and One2Go.
One of the coolest moments of the entire weekend was when Hyde waited at the finish line to give White a round of applause and a hug after their incredible battle at the front of the race.
The hug slowed White’s finish time down by, let’s say, three seconds. Also, Hyde crossed the line at 1:07:09 and White appears to cross at 1:07:32, although the official time gives him 1:07:36.
Per the rules, 44 people got the winning gap within 5 seconds. However, if White had finished 3 seconds earlier, an additional 13 entries would have gotten the 5-point bonus and 3 people would have lost it.
Fortunately, there will be no time-gate for our contest because the winning gap, whether it be 23 seconds, 24 seconds or 27 seconds, did not affect our prizes.
Speaking of, on to the prizes.
At the top of the field was Scott Birdsey of New York with 115 points. Scott nailed the Men’s podium and had Compton winning and Noble on the podium to net 95 of his total points.
Then, a whopping 11 entrants tied with 105 points! 11!
The thing most of the 11 had in common, not surprisingly, was picking Compton and Hyde to win.
Since 11 tied for second and we only have four prizes to give away, we next went to the total time gap. Thanks to Compton’s dominance, the tiebreaker went to those with the highest total time gap for the two races.
Taking second, with a predicted total gap of 54 seconds was Spencer Whittier of Tennessee.
Then for third, we had another tie!
Marc Bertucco of New York and Joshua Carroll of Missouri both had a total time gap of 30 seconds. Since Carroll picked both Compton and Hyde to win, we are going to give him the nod for third. Bertucco takes home our final prize after the other three have had their choice.
Nine entries tied for the top Elite Women’s score with 55 total points and 4 had the top Elite Men’s score with 75.
If you’re wondering who won among our Cyclocross Magazine team (you’re probably not), it was moi, your humble editor despite foolishly picking against KFC at U.S. Cyclocross Nationals.
Thanks for Playing!
Thank you to everyone who entered our Fantasy Cyclocross Contest and a giant thank you to Feedback Sports, Easton Cycling and PrestaCycle for providing swag to give away to our winners.
We will hopefully be back at the World Championships with another chance to put your cyclocross knowledge on display.
For more from Louisville, see our 2018 Cyclocross Nationals archive.