What a difference a year makes. In 2016, the Friday night racing at Jingle Cross greeted cyclocross racers with fresh mud, UCI C2 points, and for some racers, tired legs from racing the CrossVegas World Cup just two nights before.
This year the course was rock hard and dry and UCI C1 points were up for grabs at the Midwest UCI season opener under the lights. Although some top racers skipped Friday’s race, an impressive international field took to the start, including 13-time U.S. National Champion and former World Cup overall winner Katie Compton, Dutch star Ellen van Loy (Telenet Fidea), France’s Caroline Mani (Van Dessel) and Britain’s Helen Wyman (Kona) and National Champion Nikki Brammeier.
In 2016, in heavy mud, Brit Helen Wyman took the Friday night win under the lights, but on a dry, hot and humid night this year, might some familiarity with such Midwest conditions be beneficial?
Fast Start on a Warm September Night
Many of the top stars were out to prove racing experience, not Midwest experience, would be key to winning the most UCI C1 points on Friday night. Katie Compton, winner of the 2016 Jingle Cross World Cup, took to the front with holeshot queen Van Loy sprinting to retain her crown and lead the 43-strong field up the infamous Mt. Krumpit run-up. Instead, Brammeier squeezed by before the flyover to spread her wings and soar up the steep, rutted climb.
What goes up must come down, however, and on the first descent, Van Loy and Compton were back at the front, racing to find clean lines in the long sand pit. The two were the first to descend Mt. Krumpit, and Van Loy led the group through the sand. Behind, hot on their wheels, was U23 Worlds silver medalist Ellen Noble (Aspire).
Noble was having an inspired ride and looked determined to ride what others ran. She rode the Mt. Krumpit stairs and hopped the barriers, but a first lap spill sent her chances of a podium crashing down.
Kaitie and Katie Break Free from the Field
Behind 26-year-old Jingle Cross veteran Kaitlin Keough (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld), was on the move. Keough, who has raced Jingle Cross since she was 15, was at home in Iowa City, just a few hours from her native Wisconsin. “I’ve raced here since I was 15,” Keough said about the Johnson County Fairgrounds course featuring Mt. Krumpit. “I excel at courses like this, the harder the better.”
Keough set about granting her own wish after a crowded first lap. She soon connected with Compton and drew out Canadian National Champion Maghalie Rochette (Clif Bar) to put pressure on the rest of the field.
Keough hit the front with Compton, and within a lap the two dropped Rochette. Noble and Rochette took up the chase, and behind them, two Europeans, French National Champion Mani, who finished second at the 2016 Jingle Cross World Cup, and Wyman were roaring back to defend their Iowa City podium honors.
Keough and Compton traded turns at the front, opening up their gap over the others as each of the seven laps went by, leaving the others to fight for third. Keough was already studying her former coach. “She’s a bit better than me on the downhill,” Keough said of Compton. As the end drew closer, Keough believed her best chance for the win was for it to come down to a sprint, but wanted to avoid Compton opening up a gap on the descent.
“I tried to lead going into [the run-up], and then I noticed I had a little gap, I wasn’t really trying to attack,” Keough explained.
Intentional or not, it felt like an attack to an at-the-limit Compton. “She attacked going over the run-up, and then I had trouble in the sand,” Compton explained. “I kind of got off line and lost a bit of time there.”
An International Battle for Third
While the two Ka(i)ties battled for the win, behind, there was a suspenseful battle for third. While Noble and Brammeier faded and Mani and Wyman surged forward, former XCO mountain bike world champion Annika Langvad was out to show her mountain bike skills would be an advantage on Mt. Krumpit. She raced past more accomplished cyclocrossers and sat as high as fourth, before finishing sixth just behind a sprinting Ellen van Loy.
Mani had a strong fifth lap to surge into third, and when she made her move, the all-Colorado Springs podium was set.
“I think it’s a good race for me,” said Mani. “It’s a lot of running. I think climbing and all that fits me really well. With the World Cup podium last year, it was the same podium again, so that’s cool. We’re all friends. I had a good start and then ended up in the back, top fifteen and I was like, oh my gosh it’s going to be a tough day. I just kept going and tried to be consistent because I am still learning about my new bikes. I have new equipment. Everything is new, so it’s a bit challenging. It’s a lot of changes, but I’m super excited and I think a podium at a C1 today is a good sign. I was a little worried after last week, but I am confident now, so it’s good.”
Keough rolled home in front of her Midwest fans, with a big boost of confidence heading into Sunday’s World Cup.
Compton rolled in relaxed and content. “I did what I could, so I just tried to relax, and not bury myself too much,” Compton explained. “I like racing under the lights, it’s a C1, I need to get an effort on the course. It’s good, I want to race, it’s fun racing, it’s a great atmosphere. I want to try to race as I can, but I need to make sure I recover for the World Cup.”
Cyclocross Racing Returns Saturday Night Under the Lights
The three-day Jingle Cross Festival continues Saturday night at the Johnson County Fairgrounds. Saturday night’s race is a UCI C2 event, so many riders are expected to rest ahead of Sunday’s World Cup. The Telenet UCI World Cup race is Sunday afternoon. The women start at 2:00 p.m. Central and the men at 3:30 p.m. Central.
2017 Jingle Cross Friday UCI C1 Women's Results - Day 1