BROKEN ARROW, Okla. — In its ninth year, Ruts N’ Guts Presented by Team Air Assurance/AVB Bank returned to Chisolm Trail South Park in Broken Arrow on Saturday.
The opening day of Elite races provided the final installment of seven Category 1 races USA Cycling Professional Cyclocross Calendar (ProCX), the highest level of professional cyclocross racing in the U.S.
Katie Clouse (Park City, Utah/Alpha Bicycle Co.- Groove Subaru) took her second ProCX victory of the season in the Elite Women’s contest.
On the Elite Men’s side, Gage Hecht (Parker, Colo./Alpha Bicycle Co./ Groove Subaru), took his fifth ProCX win of the season. Hecht improved from his third-place finish in this same race last year.
After taking the holeshot, Clouse settled into a front group that separated themselves from the 25-rider field in the first lap of racing in the Elite Women's event. Joining Clouse at the front were Sunny Gilbert (Ellisville, Mo./Van Dessel Factory Team), Courtenay McFadden (Bellingham, Wash./Pivot Maxxis pb Stan's DNA Cycling), Samantha “Sammi” Runnels (Austin, Texas/Squid Squad), Clara Honsinger (Portland, Ore./Team S&M CX), Raylyn Nuss (St. Louis, Mo./Gateway Harley-Davidson Trek) and Caroline Mani (Besancon, France). Mani, who finished third in 2017, lost contact with the lead group after one more turn around the course.
“Too many lead changes to count in the early laps, but I know I did a lot of work at the front to push the pace. With a brisk wind, and near freezing, but dry conditions, a large group stayed together for most of the way through lap three,” said Gilbert.
Halfway through the six-lap contest, Gilbert was leading the front group which was down to five riders after Nuss fell off the pace. Clouse put in the first attack on the sandpit but Gilbert closed it down.
With only two laps of racing, last year's runner-up McFadden was the next rider to drop out of the lead group, leaving the four riders to fight for the top step of the podium. Clouse made another on the barriers going into the final lap but Gilbert immediately closed the slight gap and retook the front of the group.
“It was down to Clara H., Katie, and me exchanging attacks,” Gilbert continued. “Katie built a small gap through the final wooded section, and I got an even smaller gap coming out of the woods. We both held off a hard-charging Clara, and motivated Sammi R. for the podium spots.”
Clouse made one more attack and this one worked. The 18-year old held the gap to the finish line. Clouse's winning time was 43 minutes, 18 seconds. Gilbert took the sprint for second place ahead of Honsinger, crossing the line five seconds behind the winner.
Gilbert concluded, “No bobbles or mechanicals to heighten the drama among the top riders, just sheer riding ability and speed.”
The men’s field of 35 riders started fast with the riders at the front shuffling and re-shuffling in the opening laps. After two laps, Andrew “Drew” Dillman (Fairdale, Ky./SDG Factory Team) was at the front of a five-rider group with Hecht, Curtis White (Delanson, N.Y./Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld), Eric Brunner (Boulder, Colo./Full Cycle Cyclocross Team) and Anthony Clark (Feeding Hills, Mass./Squid Squad) on his wheel. Further back, slowed down by traffic, Jeremy Powers (Southampton, Mass./Aspire Racing) was mounting a big chase.
“Race was very very fast so the gaps were hard to close,” Powers said. “Michael van den Ham hit a pole for the pit at the start and I was behind him. We had to work our way up from 12th, we did that together.”
One lap later, just as Powers had the lead group in sight, Dillman had a mechanical. Hecht took full advantage of the mishap to forge ahead solo. Behind him, Powers caught White and Clark. Powers had managed to move up from 11th place after one lap to second place in three laps.
The situation stayed mostly the same for the next three laps with Clark dropping back. Hecht had 14 seconds on White and Powers who was battling out for second place with one lap to go.
“With two to go Curtis attacked me. I responded, we went back and forth. Gage was holding at 7-10 seconds. In the final lap, we went two up into the logs. I hopped them but wasn’t clean, we hit the pavement and I missed second by a hair. It was a great battle,” Powers continued.
Hecht finished the nine-lap event in 57 minutes, 32 seconds. Six seconds later, White outsprinted Powers for second place. Clark held on for fourth.
Powers was happy with his race. “It’s been such a hard year with injury, third place in the sprint for second with Curtis is a win for me in so many ways. I enjoyed the battle in that group and I'm looking forward to Nationals next.”
Now in its ninth year, Ruts N’ Guts Presented by Team Air Assurance/AVB Bank continues on December 9. Sunday will offer Category 2 races for the pros, as well as the popular Chicken- Waffle-Bourbon Gravel Ride for recreational cyclists.
2018 Ruts 'N' Guts Cyclocross Results: Elite Women - UCI C1
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Age||Result|
2018 Ruts 'N' Guts Cyclocross Results: Elite Men- UCI C1
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Age||Result|
|7||3||VAN DEN HAM||Michael||26||0:58:29|