by Chance Noble
On an uncharacteristically cool Vegas evening, a relatively small field of 38 women lined up to bring the heat to Desert Breeze park in Las Vegas.
With a wide-open World Cup cyclocross course on a mostly grass surface, nailing the start seemed less important than on a typical, muddy UCI Cyclocross World Cup.
After the start gun, Eva Lechner (Luna), determined to improve upon her second place at CrossVegas in 2015, led into and rode the first set of stairs. Through the flyover, small splits began to occur as the lead group of nearly 20 passed over.
Ellen Van Loy (Telenet-Fidea) led into the first sandpit, which proved to be unrideable. Van Loy then bobbled as Lechner led up the stairs, allowing her to open a small gap. Amanda Miller (Boulder Cycle Sport/ Yogaglo) then led the chase with Lechner’s teammate, Katerina Nash (Luna), on her wheel. All were back together by the second pass of the flyover.
Experiments and Note Taking
Going into the third lap, an aggressive Catherine Pendrel (Luna) was the main instigator of what became the final break by making a brief solo attack. She was quickly opened up a small gap, drawing out Katie Compton (Trek Factory Racing), Sophie de Boer (Kalas-H.Essers-NNOF), and Nash. Miller and Caroline Mani (Raleigh-Clement ) chased behind.
With three laps to go, the leading four’s gap grew to eight seconds. De Boer attacked after the sand, dropped Pendrel from the front group, and opened an eight second gap. While Compton and Nash would rejoin her, de Boer was taking notes that would turn into the ideal cheat sheet for the final exam on lap six.
At this point, the lead three had a ten second gap on chasers Miller, Rebecca Fahringer (Amy D Foundation), Mani and Pendrel.
Pencils Down, Time’s Up
Going into an action-packed last lap, Compton was demonstrating she did her homework this summer. Head down, speed up, Compton looked ready to drop her study group mates, not with an acute attack, but rather with a brutal, sustained effort.
Compton rode the first staircase, stretching the elastic a bit, but Nash chased back on. Nash counter-attacked on the steep climb after the second set of stairs, dropping de Boer, but the Dutch racer didn’t panic.
“I think we were all pretty tired because of the heat…when Katherine Compton attacked, I dropped, but I knew I was better at the sand section, and I could close the gap again, and I thought I just have to give it a try,” de Boer told Cyclocross Magazine.
“I knew I was better at the sand section, and I could close the gap again, and I thought I just have to give it a try.” -Sophie de Boer [see the full interview here]
De Boer used her sand skills to reconnect, only to have Nash make an aggressive pass just before the wooden berm.
“Be the first one up the stairs,” de Boer kept telling herself. She was confident in her sprint, but didn’t want to have to come around one or both of the U.S.-based racers.
After dangling on and off the group for most of the last lap, de Boer unexpectedly and dramatically attacked through the barriers, putting Compton on the ropes. Compton and Nash fought for position with de Boer, even passing over the flyover three-wide, shoulder-to-shoulder-to-shoulder.
“The only thing in the last meters I was thinking, I have to be the first one up the stairs,” de Boer recalled. “I sprinted…”
Nash, in position to repeat her 2015 CrossVegas win, had her work cut out for her, with one competitor on each of her shoulders. The Olympian cross country skier and mountain bike racer also wanted to get to the steps first, needing every advantage possible to finish at the head of the class.
“I haven’t done a lot of sprinting I gotta say, I don’t do that on the mountain bike,” Nash explained. “I figured if I get to the steps first, I would be advantaged, and so I tried to kind of go for that, but Sophie had a little bit more on the pavement section and zipped by me.”
De Boer hit the steps first, with Nash and Compton chasing. After summitting the stairs, De Boer, with her hands on the hoods, took a tight line through the last corner, and unleashed her sprint.
Compton went wide, hands also on the hoods, powered away, determined to pass de Boer. Nash, the self-proclaimed non-sprinter, slid her hands into the drops, and looked the most prepared to finish the exam on top.
The Biggest Reward to the Biggest Investment
“[Sophie] has a great sprint; there was no coming around,” Nash admitted after her finish. “I’m not even sure if I entered the sprint first if I could it, you know?”
De Boer didn’t see it that way. Perhaps enamored with the experience and success of Nash and Compton. “I didn’t expect to win to be honest,” de Boer revealed after her win.
Making the trip to compete in the 2016 CrossVegas and Jingle Cross World Cups was expensive and presented risks for de Boer and other European racers, and may have resulted in fewer overseas-based racers.
“I think because of the money, for your health [because] it’s quite a long trip,” de Boer theorized why numbers were down. “A lot of the riders, they don’t want to take too much risk.”
De boer took on the risk, and made a risky investment pay off in spades with a World Cup win and World Cup leader’s jersey.
“This victory already made the trip worth it!” -Sophie de Boer
The investment didn’t have the same pay day for 2015 contenders Sanne Cant and Eva Lechner, who would finish 9th and 16th. Belgian Ellen van Loy finished 17th, while the largely-North American field also generated its share of surprises, with Rebecca Fahringer continuing her breakout season, finishing in sixth. Amanda Miller had a strong ride to finish fourth, with Ellen Noble in eighth and Courtenay McFadded in tenth.
See our full interview with Sophie de Boer here.
Stay tuned for a full photo gallery, video interviews, bike profiles and more. See our ever-growing ClifBar CrossVegas coverage here.
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2016 CrossVegas Elite Women's Results
|1||Sophie DE BOER||NED||26||47:11:00||200|
|17||Ellen VAN LOY||BEL||36||49:31:00||46|
|24||Sofia GOMEZ VILLAFANE||ARG||22||51:30:00||36|