If Thursday's Collegiate Club Women's race at Lakewood Nationals is any indication, this cyclocross thing might go pretty well for Emily Cameron (University of Georgia).
The former Division I collegiate swimmer hit the start line at Fort Steilacoom Park for just the 10th cyclcoross race of her life on Thrusday. The graduate student picked up the sport last year and raced her first full season here in 2019.
"My boyfriend got me into it," Cameron said. "He told me its like cross country but for bikes and it looked really fun so I started with flat pedals and Nike sneakers."
Cameron got off to a good start in Thursday's race and joined Ashley Zoerner (University of Colorado-Boulder), a former Worlds team member, and teammate Abby Hobbs (University of Georgia) off the front.
Thanks in part to strong running, Cameron opened up a gap after the second descent of the first lap she would not relinquish the rest of the way. She executed her plan the rest of the way and came away with a National Championship and capped one heck of a rookie season.
"Just staying true to the run-ups and keeping the line on the downhills," she said about riding well on a course that deteriorated in parts as the morning raced on.
Rookie of the Year
A small but talented Collegiate Club Women's field closed out Thursday's morning session of championship races. Among the riders at the line were former Worlds team member Ashley Zoerner and last year's Club runner-up Cara O'Neill (University of Arizona).
Zoerner kicked things off by taking the holeshot and leading the field off the long starting stretch. After the first run-up, the lead of the race quickly sorted out, with Emily Cameron, Zoerner and Abby Hobbs at the front.
Although her background is in swimming, Cameron quickly showed off her running strength. She helped lead the charge up the second run-up and by continuing to stay on the move, she earned a gap coming back down to the lower part of the course in the first lap. By the end of the 1st of 5 laps, she had a 6-second advantage on O'Neill. Her teammate Hobbs sat another few seconds behind.
After a bit of a slow start, O'Neill was up to second position and appeared ready to keep Cameron in check and perhaps start erasing the leader's advantage. Cameron again took advantage of the second run-up and extended her lead to 25 seconds after 2 laps.
From there, the cyclocross newb would only extend her lead. The increasingly rutted and rocky chute descents presented a bit of a challenge, but she was able to conquer them and earn her title in resounding fashion.
"I was really nervous for the downhills, but I think with the help of my teammates, especially the ones with a little more experience, I just trusted the line and just trusted the spectators. They were really encouraging, so that was kind of the whole deal," Cameron said.
O'Neill finished with her second-straight second, and Hobbs took third. Elizabeth Huuki (US Military Academy) took fourth and Brooke Lyman (Duke University) rounded out the wide-angle podium.
For more from the Collegiate Club Women's race, see the winner interview, photo gallery and results below.
Emily Cameron: Collegiate Club Women Winner Interview