After a blistering start to the 2018/19 season with two wins in Rochester, Maghalie Rochette (CX Fever p/b Specialized) headed to RenoCross for a chance to gain even more momentum heading into the U.S. World Cups and a potential showdown against her former teammate Katerina Nash (Clif Pro Team)
Although the annual C1 race in the desert moved from Las Vegas to Reno along with Interbike this year, one had to figure that all-time CrossVegas wins leader Nash's success would translate to the grassy course at Rancho San Rafael Park.
From the whistle, it was clear that if Nash wanted to begin a new legacy in Reno, she would have to take the win away from Rochette.
The Canadian ripped out to the holeshot and then powered through the first half kilometer of the course.
A Nash mishap at the barriers early in the first lap gave Rochette space on the rest of the field.
With an unexpected gap, Rochette attacked and then never looked back. Nash tried to recover after dropping out of the top 10, but she was never able to come closer than 10 seconds to Rochette.
When all was said and done, Rochette had another impressive win heading into the Waterloo and Jingle Cross World Cups
Rochette Rips in Reno
Maghalie Rochette stamped her authority on her two wins in Rochester, and on Wednesday night under the lights, she appeared ready to do so again from the opening whistle.
Rochette took the holeshot and then led the field out onto the twisting, grassy course at the venue that hosted the 2018 Cyclocross Nationals. Nash quickly got on Rochette's wheel, and it appeared a battle between the two former Clif Pro Team teammates might be in order.
Shortly after the start of the race, Nash got held up at the barriers, and when Rochette hopped back on her bike, she saw she had daylight (or in this case, artificial night light) between her and the other riders. Knowing the strength of the other riders behind her, Rochette doubled down on her big effort.
Rochette's effort paid off, and halfway into the opening lap, she had a good 10 seconds on Sammi Runnels (Squid Squad), Nash and four other riders. Nash eventually dropped the others in the chase group, and after one lap, Rochette had nine seconds on the five-time CrossVegas winner.
Rochette had not planned to lead from start to finish. “I know Katerina really, really well and I know she’s a fighter, I know she’s strong and I know that she’s one of the best riders in the world. I was expecting a really tough battle against her, and I knew that I had to bring my A game if I wanted to have a chance against her,” she said. “I think something happened to her at the start and that’s how I got away.”
Nash tripped on the barrier right after the start. “So that was not only very embarrassing because it was right in front of everybody but definitely not a good start to a race. I went way back and I had to work my way up. I think I tried a little too hard and just had to settle in a manageable pace,” she said. Nash made her way through the field and was chasing solo after one lap, but saw her gap to Rochette grow each lap.
During the second of six laps, Rochette's lead held steady around 10 seconds as Nash tried her best to close the gap. Nash came within half a sand pit during the second lap, but when the race entered its middle third, Rochette still held a 10-second lead.
Behind them, Sofia Gomez-Villafañe (Pivot Cycles/Maxxis p/b Stan's/DNA Cycling), Crystal Anthony (Liv Cycling), Runnels and Clara Honsinger (Team S&M CX) gave chase, 25 seconds back.
Rochette Pulls Away
After two trips around the course at Rancho San Rafael Park, it looked like Nash might close the gap to Rochette and turn the race into a duel between the mentor and mentee.
After three laps, it was clear that the night belonged to Rochette. The young Canadian doubled her lead in the third lap and added another 12 seconds in the fourth.
Midway through the race, it was clear Nash's biggest concern was not catching Rochette but rather getting caught by the riders behind her.
Rochette coasted the rest of the race while expanding her lead each lap. Her win kept her perfect on the season (including a local race in Montreal) heading into the U.S. World Cups that start on Sunday in Waterloo, Wisconsin.
Once Rochette asserted her dominance on the race, the biggest action was in the chase group for third. Heading into the fourth of six laps, it was still Gomez-Villafañe, Anthony, Runnels and Honsinger together.
With the race half over, Gomez-Villafañe stepped up to shake the chase group up. Her effort initially pulled out Anthony, but her pace was too much for Anthony to handle, and when the dust settled from Lap 4, Gomez-Villafañe was solo chasing Nash for second.
“I think when we made it into four, I wanted to split it, and then I just wanted to go a little bit faster, see if we could catch Katerina, the race had just started and I didn’t want to settle already for third,” said Gomez Villafane. “I ended just riding off the front. I rode my own race, pedaled my little butt out on the flats and got to recover on the turns.”
Nash had enough left in the tank to hold off Gomez-Villafañe to take second. The U.S. resident and Argentinian Gomez-Villfañe held on to grab the third podium spot.
Rochette said that her third win gave her confidence for the rest of the cyclocross season. “I’m happy about the start of my season and it helps me to know that my training is on the right path. I’m happy about it, I’m excited.”
"The atmosphere was awesome," Rochette said. "People were cheering, there was loud music. There's a special feeling to racing in the dark and this race totally had that. It was great."
Honsinger recovered from a slow start and emerged from the Honsinger-Runnels-Anthony group to take fourth.
Nash was impressed by the first-time event that was close to her hometown of Truckee, Calif.
“There are tons of spectators, it had a really good feel to it. This is my cycling community, I’ve done everything, little events, big events, everything around here. It always fun to see a successful event. I think these guys did a really job and I had a lot of friends out here,” she said.
- Katerina Nash broke her carbon handlebar during her crash at the barriers but did not pit because her pit bike has a different fork (stock Orbea Terra) on it, while her race bike had a carbon ENVE CX fork.
- Gomez Villafane just got her bike the day before, and raced to third on tubeless Maxxis Speed Terrane tires at 19psi on NoTubes Grail CB7 carbon wheels. Runnels also raced tubeless, on IRC Serac cyclocross tires.
- Promoter Coby Rowe originally wanted to have the women race for 60 minutes and had a press release out to advertise both duration and prize money equality. However, the UCI did not approve Rowe's request to increase the race to 60 minutes. At the start line, racers asked if they were racing for 50 or 60 minutes. Rochette's finish time was 44:30.
- There was a final lap prize that awarded an additional $1000 to the women, increasing the women's purse to $1000 more than the men. Rochette won an additional $500 due to this prize.
- Courtnay McFadden skipped racing RenoCross due to a recent mountain bike crash but was in attendance, cheering on her teammate Gomez Villafane. She plans to race the World Cup Waterloo.
Full results are below the photo gallery. Check back soon for quotes from the racers.
Zachary Schuster, Andrew Yee and Peloton Sports contributed to this report.
Next up on the Pro CX calendar is the Trek CX Cup in Wisconsin on Friday. Stay tuned for full coverage from Trek headquarters.