Sunday’s races brought the best cyclocross racers in the Americas to Joe Creason Park in Louisville, KY for the 2017 Pan-American Championships. Riders were vying for the chance to be crowned the continental champion and wear the champion’s jersey for the next year.
All eyes at the park were on Katie Compton (KFC Racing p/b Trek/Knight Composites). Compton has won the Pan-Am Championship each of the three years it has been contested and she turned in a convincing performance on Saturday after flying back from Europe just for this weekend.
Fans who have watched Compton race in Europe during the past month have likely noticed she has been starting much faster this season, which has almost been a necessity with the fast starts of Maud Kaptheijns and others in those races. Compton said her improved starts are no accident.
“This year I was so tired of having bad starts, I worked on my sprints and on my starts pretty much every time I got on my bike this year,” she said. “I just worked on it. It was there, but obviously it was a matter of being healthy and I needed to practice more. And make sure my cleats and pedals are lined up properly.” She finished, “It’s so much easier if you get a fast start.”
Compton has had the last month to dial in her first lap strategy in Europe and this weekend she brought the re-born skill along with her other arsenal of abilities to contend for a fourth straight Pan-Am title. Her competitors certainly had their work cut out for them.
A Fast Start for Compton
On Sunday, Argentina native Sofia Gomez-Villafane (Pivot Cycles / DNA Cycling) was the hot starter, taking up the lead position into the flyover.
Compton, however, was right there at second wheel. As she did on Saturday, Compton was quickly in the mix at the front of the race.
The three-time Pan Am champion’s fast start meant there would be no wasted time riding back from tenth wheel. When the field hit the first climb into the off-camber, Compton went to the front and attacked. A fast start and an early attack; the race was on just a few minutes in.
As has happened several times this season, Kaitie Keough (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) responded to Compton’s aggression. Behind her, newly-minted Canadian National Champion Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (Sas Macogep Aquisio) did everything in her power to put herself with the two standout Americans. Although she has only been out of retirement for a season and a half, Ferrier-Bruneau has learned that when Compton and Keough go, it is all hands on deck to follow.
Ferrier-Bruneau made the catch, and at the end of the first lap, the lead trio had a massive 16-second gap back to a chase group of six. On a drying course that produced decent-sized groups in the Junior and Elite Men’s races, there would be no large group at the front of the Women’s race.
With three major climbs per lap and several technical sections, the intensity of the racing throughout the day reached a level that matched the unseasonably warm temperatures in Louisville. During the second lap, Ferrier-Bruneau fell off the pace of Compton and Keough on the climbs, and the two were again off the front. The large chase group also began to break up as riders threw everything they had into the climbs.
At the end of the second lap, Ferrier-Bruneau sat a good ten seconds behind Compton and Keough, and the Canadian champion in turn had 20 seconds back to Rebecca Fahringer (Stan’s NoTubes p/b Maxxis/Go Fahr). It was time for riders to dig deep and put it on the line if they wanted to survive the intense racing.
Compton and Keough Again
One of the most technical features on the course was a steep, rooted right-hand turn after the off-camber located in the shadows of the Parks Department mansion. The feature was easier to ride on Sunday—one way to be a mid-pack crowd favorite was to ride the steep incline—but it still required a proper line choice and brief explosion of power.
On the third lap, Compton rode the feature cleanly while Keough, who was right on her wheel, did not. Keough had to dismount and run to remount. Compton had some space.
“We were kind of riding together, and then I rode a section and she bobbled and so I had a little bit of a gap,” she said. “I knew I had to take advantage of that little gap.”
Compton had a gap and she certainly took advantage of it. I went hard and then attacked the descent to open up that gap even more so she had to chase,” she said about pressing her small advantage.
When she exited the last climb out of the valley, her lead on Keough was nearly 15 seconds.
That moment at the steep incline was the bike race. Compton grew her lead over Keough during the last two laps and Keough grew her advantage over Ferrier-Bruneau. With the warm temperatures, the climbs visibly took their toll on the weekend’s second day of racing. The gaps between riders grew quickly.
“The course was so hard with the climbing and the heavy mud and the headwind that you kind of ride it like a time trial,” said Compton. “It was kind of like a mountain-bikey course where there’s not a lot of pace changes, you just put your head down and go. It doesn’t make for close racing, but hard racing.”
Compton coasted to her fourth-consecutive Pan-American Championship. Fast start, fast finish. It was a win for the people on Sunday.
Keough took home her second second of the weekend. Although there is no jersey, she still does have the $12,500 US Cup-CX payout to her name.
Keough said she was pleased with her race. “I’m happy with my ride,” she said. “If I wanted to win that one I had to ride error free. It’s always hard, especially on courses like this, to stay in it and keep fighting. I think i did a decent job on that today but i still could improve on that mental aspect of racing.”
Ferrier-Bruneau rounded out the podium in third. It was her first race in the Canadian National Champion kit and a successful one at that.
An Exciting Battle for Fourth
Although not for a podium spot, the battle for fourth was the best of the race. At the end of the second lap, Fahringer had a small advantage on Maghalie Rochette (Clif Pro Team) and Courtenay McFadden (Pivot Cycles / DNA Cycling), while Ellen Noble (Aspire Racing) lurked nearby.
Noble has had some standout moments during her first year as an Elite racer, including her win last weekend in Cincinnati, and has asserted herself like an Elite veteran throughout the season. On Sunday, Noble used that confidence to try to shake up the chase for fourth. On the last climb of the third lap, Noble dug deep and rode from sixth to Fahringer’s fourth-place wheel.
McFadden and Fahringer opened up a gap on Noble early in the second-to-last lap, but the young Aspire racer again closed it on the climb out of the valley.
At the start of the bell lap, it was McFadden’s turn to mix it up. She opened up a few bike lengths on Fahringer and when the two headed into the technical valley section, the advantage was to McFadden. The Washington native used the last climbs to pad her lead and take fourth. Fahringer rounded out the top five for the afternoon.
Stay tuned for more coverage of the weekend of racing in Louisville.
2017 Pan-American Cyclocross Championships Results - Elite Women
|1||3||Katherine COMPTON||KFC Racing p/b Trek/Knight||46:01:00||9:23||5|
|3||12||Christel FERRIER Bruneau||Sas Macogep Aquisio||47:35:00||9:55||5|
|4||7||Courtenay MCFADDEN||Pivot Cycles pb DNA Cycling||48:22:00||9:49||5|
|5||8||Rebecca FAHRINGER||Stans NoTubes p/b Maxxis / Con||48:35:00||10:00||5|
|6||6||Maghalie ROCHETTE||CLIF Pro Team||48:49:00||9:42||5|
|7||10||Sunny GILBERT||Van Dessel Factory Team||48:56:00||9:49||5|
|8||4||Ellen NOBLE||Aspire Racing||48:57:00||9:50||5|
|9||11||Sofia GOMEZ VILLAFANE||Pivot DNA||49:59:00||10:31||5|
|10||14||Cassandra MAXIMENKO||Van Dessel Factory Team||50:24:00||10:22||5|
|11||20||Lily WILLIAMS||The Pony Shop||51:05:00||10:55||5|
|12||13||Amanda NAUMAN||SDG - Muscle Monster||51:53:00||10:57||5|
|13||17||Hannah FINCHAMP||MTB Pro Team: Clif Pro Team||52:17:00||10:51||5|
|14||22||Emily SHIELDS||Kens Bike Shop||52:30:00||10:48||5|
|15||19||Allison ARENSMAN||J. A. King p/b BRC Womens Cyc||52:54:00||10:51||5|
|16||27||Alexandra BURTON||Point S racing||53:11:00||10:42||5|
|17||15||Rebecca GROSS||Zero D Racing||53:35:00||11:10||5|
|18||39||Carol SEIPP||Orion Racing p/b Kul Chocolate||53:38:00||10:59||5|
|19||24||Christa GHENT||Amy D. Foundation||53:50:00||11:21||5|
|20||36||Erica ZAVETA||Garneau-Easton p/b TLC||54:19:00||10:36||5|
|21||16||Jennifer MALIK||American Classic Pro CX||54:25:00||11:13||5|
|22||26||Heidi FRANZ||Northwest Womens Cyclocross Pro||54:42:00||11:03||5|
|23||25||Corey COOGAN CISEK||Power Fix CX||54:49:00||11:29||5|
|24||38||Gabriella STERNE||Vanderkitten CX (VKCX)||32:40:00||11:11||3|
|25||18||Maria LARKIN||The Meteor p/b Allied||33:01:00||11:27||3|
|26||35||Natascha PICIGA||Giant Toronto/Liv pb Powerwatts||33:11:00||11:26||3|
|27||40||Philicia MARION||American Classic Pro Cyclocross||33:43:00||11:38||3|
|28||37||Emily PAYONK||Ft. Wayne Outfitters||22:29||11:39||2|
|29||21||Daniela Eugenia ROJAS MENESES||phoenix team||24:07:00||12:39||2|
|DNF||9||Crystal ANTHONY||Maxxis-Shimano Pro Cyclocross||11:17||2|
|DNF||23||Beth Ann ORTON||Team S&M CX||11:29||1|