Caroline Nolan (Voler / Easton / HRS / Rock Lobster) and Caitlin Bernstein (Easton / Velocio / McGovern Cycles) both live in Reno, Nevada, and when they are not traveling the country racing UCI cyclocross, they spend a good amount of time training together.
The western duo wrapped up an East Coast trip last weekend at the Verge Northampton International, and as friends and training partners, they had a pretty straightforward goal for the weekend.
“My biggest goal was to make sure Caitlin stayed on the podium with me,” Nolan said. “We do a lot of our training together at home, and we pre-ride together, and we travel together. It was kind of a big deal for this weekend to get Caitlin your first UCI podium.”
On Saturday, the two Reno riders came close to achieving their goal, with Nolan taking the win and Bernstein finishing fourth. Sunday, it proved to be mission accomplished, as Nolan again won in the race’s final few corners and Bernstein reached the podium in third.
Cyclocross Magazine contributor Taylor Jones sat down and chatted with Nolan and Bernstein after Sunday’s race at NoHo. You can read a transcript of their conversation below.
Interview: Caroline Nolan and Caitlin Bernstein, 2019 Verge NoHo Day 2
Cyclocross Magazine: How did the race go today? Obviously yesterday Caroline, you had a really strong race, so what was your mindset going into Day 2?
Caroline Nolan: This is my first time being in a leader’s jersey, so it was a big race. Obviously I was on a high from winning my first UCI race yesterday. Basically I just didn’t want to screw up today. I actually went in really calm and excited, and my biggest goal was to make sure Caitlin stayed on the podium with me. We do a lot of our training together at home, and we pre-ride together, and we travel together. It was kind of a big deal for this weekend to get Caitlin your first UCI podium.
CXM: Caitlin, on Saturday you were fourth, which I believe was your best UCI result before today. You had a bunch of sixth places before this weekend. So good weekend for you, huh?
Caitlin Bernstein: All year leading up to this race, I’ve felt like I’ve been close to the front group or in the front group in a lot of races at the beginning or even well into the race, but it’s felt like I’ve been able to spend more time at the front. Then this weekend was a good opportunity to try and stay at the front the whole race. Yesterday, some gaps started opening up, and I was yo-yoing a little bit and expending more energy than I probably needed to while trying to chase back on. And I made a few mistakes, but was able to chase back onto Arley Kemmerer, who was third. I sprinted it out with her, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take that one.
So today I was really focused on staying even closer to the front and making sure I was right on the wheels in front of me. I even spent some time leading, but not too much. I also wanted to stay calm and ride smooth when I was on the front and leading. It was super fun to ride with Caroline up there. People ask me about that dynamic of us racing together since we’re good friends and competitors, but it’s just super fun to have a race where we had a chance to ride with each other and control the race together.
CXM: On Saturday, Caroline you were able to open up a pretty sizable gap and ride your own tempo, whereas today, it was a bit more group racing, especially for the first few laps before it started to splinter. What was different?
CN: The course today had a little bit more flow, and I think we were racing during the windiest part of the day, so we had pretty severe headwinds and crosswinds on the course when we were on the grass. I think that made it a little harder to break away. Arley had really good legs today, Caitlin had good legs today, and I felt like I still had good legs today.
The first couple of laps I tried to hit some sections hard where I thought we might be able to split things up, but everyone stayed together. So then it was like, “Okay, stay calm, stay within yourself.” It was fun because we were kind of rotating through and trading pulls, and that allowed us to get the group of six down to a group of three by the third or fourth lap.
Caitlin and I know each other’s riding styles knew that in the woods, for example, we wouldn’t be comfortable and confident taking those lines, so staying on each other’s wheels helped us. I think that was a good thing because it allowed us to push ourselves while still feeling a little bit more in control because we trust each other and we’re comfortable racing on each other’s wheels.
CXM: We could see that. Despite the fact you got a pretty decent gap toward the end, Jane Rossi started to come back to your group, and she did catch up with one to go. What was the thought process for both of you going into that last lap? Was there a plan to try and split the group apart, or were you content to see what shakes out?
CB: I think it was pretty clear we were going to be together for most of the last lap. Caroline was mostly in front that last lap, and she did a good job keeping the pressure on. It seemed like it was going to be really hard to make any separation between the three of us. Jane did an amazing job catching back on, but I think she was pretty gassed from that big effort.
Arley passed me, I think, on the run-up on the last lap, which is not necessarily a strength of mine.
CN: You have had three knee surgeries…
CB: I kind of had to punch it on the flat sections going into the last corners to bridge a small gap up to her and Caroline going up to the finish. I try to be confident in my sprinting and did the best I could, but I knew both of them would be quick and that coming from the back would be hard going into that sprint finish.
CN: I took a gamble on the last couple of laps. In the fourth lap, I hit a corner a little too hard and I burped my tubeless tire. It burped down to maybe the mid-teens. I was like, okay I can ride this, the ground is soft enough. I just needed to make sure I didn’t weight my front tire too much. Then in Lap 5, I kind of tested it to see if I was bottoming out.
I knew if I pitted I was going to lose the race because Caitlin and Arley were putting the pressure on, and I didn’t know if I could catch back on if I went to the pits, especially that late in the race. So going into Lap 6, I just knew I had to stay in front and control the pace and the dynamic in the group. I knew as long as I stayed in front, especially on the flats and straights, I knew with how short of a finish straight it was, I’d be okay.
Lo and behold, on the last lap, Arley said she punctured her front tire too, so we were both on tires with low pressures, which I think neither of us realized. That was a fortunate accident for me because we were both being a little more delicate in our turning.
CXM: Coming back off the upper deck, the higher section, you come back down into the last corner, do you think it was the case where if you won the sprint to the last left-hand corner, you would win the final kick?
CN: The last two minutes of the race were flat. There was pavement, and then you make a left turn onto grass and then you have one more 15-second grass section before going into 4 corners that are really tight together. I knew if no one was going to come around me on the pavement and no one was going to come around me on the first grass section, then I was golden.
I was trying to keep the intensity up, and Tobin [Ortenblad] was on the side of the course at that point screaming at me and Caitlin. I think that helped a lot because I got out of the saddle and put on my pain face and pushed it out as fast as I could. It was good.
CXM: Caitlin, for you, it came down to a photo finish with you and Arley, huh?
CB: It was a close one, I did my best. I was on third wheel, and I had just caught on going into those last corners before the finish. I didn’t really feel like there was a safe way to make a pass in there. The corners were pretty tight, and it’s pretty hard to get around people in that situation. I did watch Tobin do it pretty well in the men’s race, but he has some skill.
I just tried to hang on as close as I could and then come around the side of Arley to the left. I threw my bike, but it wasn’t quite enough to get the sprint for second. It was a fun finish right ’til the end.
CXM: Really good rides for both of you and cap to the weekend to end up on the podium today. What’s next for each of you?
CB: Going home to Reno. I’m really hoping to get in a nice big training block before Nationals. I did that before my best Nationals; I think people underestimate the stress and toll on your body that travel takes. I think spending some time at home and getting some good training and resting in will be good. I might do one more UCI weekend, but we’ll see. I’ll definitely do some local racing during those training blocks. That’s a nice way to go out and use it as a workout racing on tired legs and having some fun connecting with the local community. I’m looking forward to being home for a bit.
CN: I’m also heading home to get some time in with the family and dogs and cat. I’ll do some training with Caitlin. Then I’ll come out to North Carolina for one more UCI race, do one more training block and then head on to Nationals.
CXM: Thus far, it’s been a pretty successful season for both of you. Right now, what do you look for to come out of Nationals and think it was a successful day? Or are you still taking it day by day and that’s a ways off still?
CB: I think that’s a hard one because there are so many people who riding so strong this year, which has made it really fun. The racing has been really exciting. I think I try not to think too much about the result, especially when it’s just a one-day championship. Obviously I would love to be close to the front of the race and battling for some of those top 10 spots, but a lot of things have to go right on that day for that to happen.
I’m just looking forward to getting a little stronger and seeing what I can do for training in the next couple of weeks. I want to get the legs ready to go, and hopefully everything goes smoothly. I’ll be happy with going there and being able to put in my best effort.
CN: I think Caitlin summed that up well.
CXM: I know that’s a hard question to ask because in the abstract it seems like it’s a long way away, but in reality, it’s not. It’s always interesting to try and understand the different mindsets people take into races like that.
Congrats on your great racing out here on the East Coast.
CN: Thank you.
CB: Yeah, thank you very much.