By Cindy Berhtram
On a course lauded as the best in New England, the first day of the NBX Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross got underway in Warwick, Rhode Island's Goddard Park today. Round Five of the Verge New England Cyclo-cross Series presented by Stan's NoTubes and Cycle-Smart, each one of the day's races was action-packed as racers fought for Series points in this final weekend of the 2015 Series.
In addition to its place as a favorite among racers, NBX is a quintessential New England race course. The race carves its way through challenging, rugged terrain against the scenic backdrop of Greenwich Bay. A successful race in Warwick today required finesse through rooty turns, skill in sand, and the fitness to sprint through the long sand runs the NBX course is famous for.
In the Elite Women's race, fans anticipated a duel between Ellen Noble (JAM Fund/NCC/Vittoria) and Emma White (Cyclocrossworld.com) — both U23 racers, and both among the best in the country. Noble wears the Series leader's jersey in both the U23 and overall women's categories, and hopes to end the weekend with the Series win, while White hopes to overtake the crown.
The two opened a gap almost immediately, leaving Arley Kemmerer (Level Eleven Racing p/b PB2) and Jena Greaser (JAM Fund/NCC/Vittoria) to chase. White launched an early attack and shook Noble, eventually gaining a gap of almost twenty seconds. Greaser shook Kemmerer and was alone in the chase, closing in on Noble, when White suffered a mechanical and had to pit. Noble caught and passed White, reversing the roles of the hunter and the hunted. Kemmerer surged from her fourth-place spot to catch Greaser, the two working together to reel in the two leaders, but the young racers were just too strong.
Noble took the win, solidifying her Series lead, with White hot on her heels for second. A battle for third resulted in Kemmerer outsprinting Greaser in the final stretch.
The Elite Men were up next. The overall men's leader's jersey was up for grabs, since Raphael Gagne has now set his sights on next year's World Cup mountain bike season. Next in line for the crown were Anthony Clark (Squid Bikes) and Curtis White (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com), and both were ready to throw down to claim the jersey today.
U23 Series leader Scott Smith (JAM Fund/NCC/Vittoria) led the charge onto the course, with Clark, White, Jeremy Martin (Louis Garneau), and Dylan McNicholas (Polartec) in tow. Clark raced determinedly, working to open a gap with Martin and White. McNicholas caught on, but the course claimed another victim in the White family: Curtis was forced to the pit for a new bike, falling back to a chase group just as the lead group was snapping into action.
White was unable to bridge back in the short time remaining. In the final few corners, with the group still together, McNicholas went down in a corner with Clark behind him, allowing Martin to escape. Martin claimed the win, with Clark second. Jack Kisseberth broke away from the chase group to claim the final podium spot.
Clark's finish earned him the Series leader's jersey, and Smith held onto his lead in the U23 men's category. Clark will work to retain his Series lead tomorrow, the final day of the 2015 Verge New England Cyclo-cross Series presented by Stan's NoTubes and Cycle-Smart.