With CrossVegas sandwiched between the two U.S. World Cups and only having C1 status this year, the field at the 2017 event was a pared-down version of what fans have seen in previous years. Although Iowa City's Jingle Cross World Cup and World Cup Waterloo have a record number of European racers on start lists, the midweek CrossVegas found itself coming up short on interntional riders, as many remained in the Midwest and opted out of racing for UCI C1 points.
Even Elvis skipped this year's event, perhaps making his slow way to Reno to welcome the 2018 Interbike and CrossVegas next year.
International Stars Top Vegas Odds
European-based racers and sideburned anthem singers or not, two of the top favorites on Wednesday night still were Europeans, albeit ones who have made the States their home. Clif Pro Team's Katerina Nash, a Czech based in California, came in as the favorite after winning the Jingle Cross World Cup on Sunday. "This is a cool event, I wanted to support it," Nash told Cyclocross Magazine. Instead of driving to Wisconsin and staying in a hotel, Nash enjoyed a day and a half at home in Truckee, California to hang out with her dog and briefly recharge her batteries. Nash landed in Vegas just hours before the race.
French star Caroline Mani, riding for Van Dessel and hailing from her adopted home of Colorado, lined up as a likely podium finisher after finishing sixth at the World Cup and third on Friday night at Jingle Cross.
Also in town for her annual cyclocross season opener (and often closer) was Nash's teammate, former mountain bike world champion, Canadian Catharine Pendrel. Pendrel has never finished worse than seventh since 2013 and would be starting and ending her cyclocross season on Wednesday night. "I'm here because I come here with my team, Clif Bar is behind the event, and it's a really fun event," Pendrel told Cyclocross Magazine. "It's a bonus when you have mountain bike fitness to carry through. This is it, unless I do one at home [in Canada]. The fall is my chance to explore and get in touch with the passion of why I really do it, and that gives me the energy for the race season."
Nash came into the Desert Breeze Soccer Complex as the odds-on favorite, looking for her fifth career CrossVegas victory in just 11 runnings of promoter Brook Watts' event. In a city where luck is everything, would five prove lucky for Nash, or would her teammate Pendrel, Mani, Worlds U23 silver medalist Ellen Noble (Aspire) or another rider be able to beat the odds and defeat Nash on a course that seems to tilt in her favor?
Before call-ups, Laurel Rathbun (Donnelly) put in extra practice time to try to perfect her approach to the sand pit, perhaps in hopes that her ability to ride it could be a decisive advantage.
No Big Rollers Early On
With the thick grass at Desert Breeze and long laps that pushed over eight minutes, no riders were really keen on attacking early in the race. Cassie Maximenko (Van Dessel Factory Racing) went to the front after the opening sprint, but as often happens on the CrossVegas turf, her early effort was swallowed up. At the end of the first lap, a large group hit the finishing straight together and Chloe Woodruff (Stans-Pivot Pro Team) tried her hand with an attack to mix things up.
Woodruff's effort signaled the first-lap preliminaries were over and it was time for the large group at the front to start racing. Despite efforts from Woodruff and others, the large pack at the front lasted well into the second lap.
The pace finally started to speed up late in the second of five laps and Crystal Anthony (Maxxis-Shimano), Noble and Nash opened up a small gap on the others. Their effort broke things up, and the front of the race began to spread out entering lap three.
Clif Pro Team Defends Clif CrossVegas Home Turf
Clif Pro Team teammates Nash and Catharine Pendrel (Clif Pro Team) took advantage of the increasing pace. Pendrel put in a big effort, Anthony bobbled and Nash went around.
"I jumped on one of the fastest wheels in the world, so we teamed up, we worked together," Nash recalled of the key attack.
The pair quickly extended the gap to 10 seconds and sent the message to the other riders that third place was that was left to fight for, barring disaster.
Anthony and Woodruff initially tried to close the gap, but soon were reeled back in by Caroline Mani (Van Dessel Factory Racing), Noble and the story of Saturday night's race at Jingle Cross, Clara Honsinger (Team S&M CX).
Nash and Pendrel put together a two-woman team time trial for a lap. "We don't really have to talk, we've been teammates for a long time," Nash said of her effort with Pendrel. "We traded the pace, it worked out, it was really nice to have a teammate."
Nash enjoyed her time with Pendrel, but not that much.
The next time the pair hit the uphill sand pit, Nash powered through, both pedaling and running, and by the time the two exited the pit, had a seven-second gap on Pendrel.
"I used a little bit of my running skills," Nash admited. "I had a little bit more time to prepare [than Pendrel] for ’cross-specific stuff, so I pinned it through the sand and tried to bring it to the finish."
Nash was not challenged the rest of the race. The win was her fifth at CrossVegas.
The second place is yet another impressive CrossVegas result for Pendrel, who typically makes CrossVegas her one U.S. cyclocross race of the year (not counting CykelScramble).
A Battle for Third Among Many
The action during the last two laps was in the chase for third. Five riders had a shot for the podium: Noble, Mani, Woodruff, Anthony and Honsinger. Riders traded turns driving the pace, but none of the five could open up a gap heading into the last lap.
The group rode together deep into the last trip around the Desert Breeze circuit. Noble hit the final turn first, and sprinted to grab the third spot on the podium, celebrating with a raised fist.
Mani beat Woodruff in a sprint to take fourth, and the young Honsinger completed her successful road trip with a sixth-place finish against the experienced field.
Nash was happy to win in front of her sponsors, but had to rush off to pack up her bike and head to Waterloo. When asked how she would celebrate, there was no time to party. "I'll have some water, and then some more water, and some pizza maybe."
Nash holds the World Cup leader's jersey, and plans to head to Europe for more World Cup competition but won't head over there until November.
See our photo gallery below the results.
Zachary Schuster and Andrew Yee contributed to this report. Photos by Andrew Yee.
Women's Results - 2017 Clif CrossVegas
|1||1||Katerina NASH||Clif Pro Team||43:08|
|2||5||Catharine PENDREL||Clif Pro Team||43:19|
|3||2||Ellen NOBLE||Aspire Racing||43:52|
|4||3||Caroline MANI||Van Dessel/ atom composites||43:54|
|5||39||Chloe WOODRUFF||Stans-Pivot Pro Team||43:54|
|6||9||Clara HONSINGER||Team S&M CX||43:57|
|8||16||Meredith MILLER||Rapha Canyon||44:28|
|9||6||Cassandra MAXIMENKO||Van Dessel/Atom Composites||44:48|
|10||35||Heidi FRANZ||NWCX Project||45:11|
|11||19||Hannah FINCHAMP||Clif Pro Team||45:11|
|12||11||Courtney PATTON||Freddie Fu Cycling Team||45:23|
|13||7||Rebecca GROSS||Zero D Racing - Sped Precision||45:51|
|14||14||Laurel RATHBUN||Donnelly Sports||46:12|
|15||15||Shannon MALLORY||NWCX Project||46:27|
|16||33||Alexandra BURTON||Point S Racing||46:40|
|17||18||Brittlee BOWMAN||HOUSE IND/NOKIA HEALTH/SIMPLEHU||46:49|
|18||41||Taylor KUYK-WHITE||Philly Bike Expo||47:12|
|19||12||Katherine SANTOS||Amy D Foundation||47:16|
|20||22||Caitlin BERNSTIEN||Vive La Tarte||47:19|
|21||29||Chelsea WEIDINGER||Mash SF||47;39|
|22||17||Heidi WOOD||HiFi CX||47;42|
|23||8||Jennifer MALIK||American Classic Pro Cyclocross||48;24|
|24||13||Christa GHENT||Amy D Foundation||48;32|
|25||21||Nicole DORINZI||Pro Mountain Outfitter||48;40|
|26||37||Lisa CORDOVA||Cyclesport Specialized p/b Musc||49;03|
|27||40||Petra SCHMIDTMANN||Van Dessel factory Cycling||49;14|
|28||10||Allison ARENSMAN||J.A. King p/b BRC||49;52|
|30||31||Terra KIER||Square1/Helens Cycles||51:21|
|31||36||Lindsay WETZEL POLIN||SK Racing||51:57|
|DNF||20||Beth Ann ORTON||Team S&M CX|
|DNF||30||Tricia FLEISCHER||Monument Wheelworks/Hammerquist|
|DNF||32||Mckenzie MELCHER||SoCal Cross|