by Kyle Moore
Nothing has changed in the results of the U.S. Women’s Cyclocross Nationals, but for Katie Compton (KFC Racing p/b Trek/Knight Composites), one thing has been changing: “They get harder,” she said.
Compton got one of the toughest challenges in her 14-year reign from Ellen Noble (Aspire Racing) today in Reno. Noble took the holeshot and then led the way through a blistering first lap. From the start, it was clear Noble came to make Compton work for her 14th-straight national championship.
Noble led the way for the first third of the race before Compton finally got to the front. She opened up a gap on Noble and worked to extend it. Although Compton had a lead, it never went from being tenuous to solid.
As the race progressed, Noble methodically closed the gap. The tenuous nature of Compton’s lead became manifest on the last trip through the technical series of off-cambers and descents. Compton bobbled after missing her line and had to dismount and run while Noble closed the gap. Fortunately for her, her lead was large enough to hold off the charging Noble.
Compton got her 14th-straight title and Noble got an impressive second-place finish in her first try with the Elites. For Compton it was another addition to her legend, and for Noble, it may be a race fans look back on as the prelude to year of National Championships of her own.
Noble Brings the Heat Early On
Noble wasted little time letting the competition know she came to win on Sunday. She took the holeshot and then led the field out onto the course. Compton briefly took control, but then Noble regained her position at the front. Another of the race favorites, Keough, slotted into the third spot. “I knew I had to get a good start and if got on Ellen’s wheel, I knew she sets a really good pace in the first half a lap, so that worked out really well,” Compton said about Noble’s fast start.
The pro-only Shimano hill was unveiled on Sunday and its steepness forced a majority of the day’s riders to run up the hill. Noble took charge with her running on the first climb and moved to the front, but was then passed when Compton passed her with an inside line on the descent popular with the Reno crowd. One lap in, Noble and Compton already had ten seconds on Keough, and they were showing race position would not come easy.
After the race, Compton remembered the moment. “I made that pass on Ellen mainly because I took the inside line and if you braked too much you lose your front end, so it was one of those where I just had to commit to taking the inside line and she left the door open. It’s bike racing.”
During the second lap, Compton started to get an advantage on Noble. After riding the sand, she slid out on a tight turn, and her shake of the head indicated she had not yet mastered the feel of the course. Chasing some time, Noble stalled a bit on the hill and after two laps, Compton had 15 seconds on her younger rival.
Compton Takes Charge and Then Has a Late Scare
By the third lap, a status quo had established. Compton had a lead of about 15 to 20 seconds while Noble kept her eyes focusing on bringing Compton back. Keough wasn’t hiding in her lime green Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld kit, but she also was not bridging back up to Noble. Midway through the race, the gap from Noble to Compton was bigger than the gap from Noble to Keough.
With two laps to go, Noble was hanging on, but Keough, seemingly, was not. Noble could see Compton on the horizon in the finish stretch, so she had successfully kept pace with the American champ throughout the lap, but Keough appeared to be laboring and losing ground.
Compton’s dominance was firmly on display on the penultimate lap, if only because of the determination that Noble displayed. The younger American went deep into her pain cave in order to keep Compton close, and her face belied a determination to catch Compton and take a shot at the Stars-and-Stripes. Noble slowly closed brought back some seconds on Compton and when she hit the line at the bell, she was only 15 seconds back. The gap was about the length of the pit, but it was by no means decisive.
The Women’s race received a jolt of late race excitement on the Shimano hill during the last lap. Compton went for the low line and lost her front wheel. The mistake forced her to run to the top of the following hill while Noble hit the off-camber on her bike. The raucous crowd on the hill got even more amped up as Noble closed the gap. Would this finally be the year her reign ends?
It would not. Compton called on some of the experience she has earned over the course of winning 14-straight American titles. She drove hard into the final turn and celebrated the win.
“The little mountain bikey downhill I had dialed in and then of course made the mistake in the last lap,” Compton said. “I just missed the little shelf you had to hit by about an inch, and if you missed it, it kind of put you into the tape. I was kind of bummed about that. But yeah, I was able to recover okay and get to the finish.”
Noble followed close behind and celebrated her impressive ride. Hers was one of the toughest Compton has received at Nationals.
“It feels amazing,” said Noble about her ride. “To put up such a good fight feels really really good to me. It’s been a tough season so be on the podium here feels so amazing. I was never in contention at Pan-Ams, so to get a big podium like this really really great. To be so close to Katie at the end is insane.”
Keough finished well back of Noble in third. Behind her, Courtenay McFadden (Pivot Cycles p/b DNA Cycling) took fourth and Amanda Nauman (SDG-Muscle Monster) turned in a solid fifth after missing Nationals last year in Hartford.
Elite Women's Results: 2018 Reno Cyclocross Nationals
|1||1||COMPTON||Katherine||Trek Cyclocross Collective||49:51|
|4||4||MCFADDEN||Courtenay||Pivot Cycles p/b DNA Cycling||53:08||3:17|
|6||5||FAHRINGER||Rebecca||Amy D. Foundation||53:34||3:43|
|8||14||WILLIAMS||Lily||The Pony Shop||54:43||4:52|
|10||24||BERNSTEIN||Caitlin||Vive La Tarte||55:13||5:22|
|11||8||KEMMERER||Arley||Fearless Femme Racing||55:29||5:38|
|14||20||ORTON||Beth Ann||Team S&M CX||55:50||5:59|
|15||13||MALIK||Jennifer||American Classic Pro Cyclocross||55:53||6:02|
|16||29||NUSS||Raylyn||Maplewood Bicycle St. Louis||56:01||6:10|
|17||6||ANTHONY||Crystal||Maxxis-Shimano Pro Cyclocross||56:13||6:22|
|18||10||MAXIMENKO||Cassandra||Van Dessel Factory Team||56:24||6:33|
|20||7||GILBERT||Sunny||Van Dessel Factory Team||56:37||6:46|
|22||27||ZAVETA||Erica||Garneau-Easton p/b Transitions||57:12||7:21|
|23||31||LEGAN||Kristen||EVOL DevoElite Racing||57:13||s.t.|
|24||19||SHIELDS||Emily||Hearts Racing Club||57:17||7:26|
|25||26||GHENT||Christa||Amy D. Foundation||57:51||8:00|
|27||18||LEGGE||Regina||Trek Cyclocross Collective||@1Lap|
|32||21||FACCONE||Erin||B2C2 Cycling Club||@2Lap|
|33||45||STERNE||Gabriella||Vanderkitten CX VKCX||@2Lap|
|34||43||LUPIEN||Leslie||B2C2 Cycling Club||@2Lap|
|35||44||ETHRIDGE||Leslie||Topo Designs Cycling Club||@3Lap|
|DNF||30||FRANZ||Heidi||UCI WPT: Rally Cycling|
For more from Reno, see our continuing coverage of the 2018 Reno Cyclocross Nationals on our dedicated Nationals page.
Photos from the races and reports are available to license here, with more to be added throughout the next week.