BREINIGSVILLE, PENN.—After a one-year absence from the USA Cycling Professional Cyclocross Calendar (ProCX), the Nittany Lion Cross returned for Category 2 races in eastern Penn. Held on the grounds outside the popular velodrome at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in the Lehigh Valley, the Nittany Lion Cross has been held for 13 years and also featured two days of racing for Mid-Atlantic Cyclocross series.
In both the Pro Women’s and Men’s races, childhood familiarity with Eastern Pennsylvania riding proved invaluable.
Erica Zaveta (Garneau-Easton Cycling), currently sixth in the ProCX women’s standings, lives in North Carolina but grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania. Zaveta would fight among veterans with Pennsylvania connections to take her first win this season for the Elite Women.
Men’s ProCX points leader Kerry Werner (Birdsboro, Penn./Kona Maxxis Shimano) would take the victory for Elite Men just minutes from his home turf.
Keystone Connections Key to Women’s Podium
Pennsylvania veterans in the Elite Women’s ProCX race were in the mix for podium spots on Saturday, with 2016 Nittany Lion winner Arley Kemmerer (Palmerton, Penn./Fearless Femme Racing) and six-time Nittany Lion champ Laura Van Gilder (Cresco, Penn./Mello Mushroom/Van Dessel) battling with Zaveta.
Kemmerer took the holeshot and the early lead on the first of six laps. Van Gilder would have to work her way into the lead group a few circuits later.
“I feel very comfortable on this course. There’s also a lot of pressure that comes with that,” said 54-year-old Van Gilder about six wins and other podiums at Nittany Lion Cross since the race started 13 years ago. “I think today’s field was one of the most competitive depth-wise. Today, when I looked at the start list, it was like ‘wow, a Top 10 here would be good result.’ I knew Erica was really gunning for the ’cross season season, and I saw her results from Rochester. She’s on form. So, I had her picked definitely for a potential win.”
Kemmerer rode at the front with Regina Legge (Salem, N.H./Green Line Velo Driven By Zipcar) and Zaveta for the first half of the race. With three laps to go, the early leaders were joined by Van Gilder, Emily Shields Werner (Advance, N.C./Amy D. Foundation)and Rachel Rubino (Philadelphia, Penn/Fearless Femme Racing).
With two and a half laps to go, the 27-rider field had fractured and it was down to three riders to battle for the final podium spots: Zaveta, Van Gilder and Kemmerer. The threesome would battle into the bell lap, with Van Gilder and Kemmerer trying attacks.
”When it was the three of us, we just maintained it as a group. Everyone was being tactical,” said Zaveta, who grew up in eastern Pennsylvania but had never raced in Breinigsville. “It was windy out there. And we were trying to race it smart. Laura is really strong. Arley is riding really smooth on the technical parts. I was just seeing where I fit in, and try to make better lines each time. Then with two to go there were a few moves. Laura attacked, Arley attacked. I attacked right at the stairs, it was a running attack. I was running from my fears of losing. It worked out.”
Zaveta, a former D2 Collegiate Cyclocross National Champion who had two fifth-place finishes at Rochester Cyclocross last weekend, took the win in a time of 49:41. Just four seconds back was Van Gilder for second, and Kemmerer would take third, 16 seconds behind Zaveta. Legge would finish fourth, followed by Shields Werner in fifth and Rubino in sixth.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Van Gilder added about bicycle racing. She finished second on Friday night at the New Haven Grand Prix in New Haven, Conn., arriving back in Penn. after midnight. “I work hard, but I don’t focus on ’cross season. I love it and I want to do well. I’m in crit season until last night at 8:20 I finished (New Haven). I don’t take a break. I respect that these girls put all their eggs in the ’cross season basket. I like to do both. I want to support bike racing. Because if people are putting on good events, I’m obligated to attend and show my support. I love the sport that much.”
Werner Holds Off Fresh Arrivals from France, China
Thirty elite men vaulted through the holeshot in Breinigsville on a mild late summer afternoon. Curtis White (Delanson, N.Y./Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld) took the lead, racing aggressively in his first cyclocross race of the season after returning from China to race Tour of Xingtai with Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis. White, who finished fourth in the PRT overall standings, was soon joined by Werner for the early lead.
On the second of eight laps, Frenchman Matthieu Boulo (Saint-Guyomard, France/Team Pays de Dinan) closed the gap to the two leaders. Three laps later, Werner would attack off the front, but could not gain a significant gap over Boulo. The rest of the field began to splinter.
“Today was about seeing how the legs felt after a couple days of training during the week,” said Werner, who grew up 27 miles from the course. His parents still live in Birdsboro. “I always like working on technique out there, so I was really trying to push the corners and take a few risks here and there. And that’s kind of where I attacked, kind of did it on a turn. I tried to push the pace. It worked out.”
It became a two-man race between Werner and Boulo for three laps. Boulo, who finished eighth at the C1 race in Rochester, would gain the lead for two laps when Werner slid out on a muddy off-camber section. The final attack from Werner was on the bell lap, giving him the win in 58:07, 21 seconds over Boulo.
“The woods were a bit turny and slick, and there were roots. I think for as good as I felt everywhere else, I struggled there the most,” Werner said about the off-camber obstacle that was in the final technical stretch before the finish. “I think I only rode it three laps clean. I dabbed one lap, had to get off another lap, actually leaned it over another lap and put the bar on the ground. I was struggling a bit.”
White would fall back from the charging duo with four laps to go, but never gave up his position. He finished third, 1 minute 48 seconds off the winning time.
“The trip (to China) was short enough that I didn’t leave my U.S. schedule and I felt like I did everything I could to adjust quickly,” White said about his first cyclocross race of the season. “In training and everything, I felt rested and recovered. I think it was just the first ’cross season race of the year. Tomorrow hope I’ll be a bit sharper, and certainly next weekend I will be.”
Racing continues at Nittany Lion Cross on Sunday, 1:30 p.m. ET start time for the Elite Women and 2:30 p.m. ET start time for the Elite Men.
Women's Results: 2018 Nittany Lion Cross Day 1
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Result|
Men's Results: 2018 Nittany Lion Cross Day 1
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Result|