Jane Rossi's (Rhode Island School of Design) Collegiate Club race on Thursday may very well have been cursed, even if she did not know it at the time.
"I am [wearing #13], that's probably what caused this," she said after the race. "I didn't even think of that."
In the third lap, while holding a 30-second lead on Cara O'Neill (Arizona University), Rossi had to stop at the stairs to deal with a small chain issue. It appeared it was no big deal at the time, and she remounted her bike and continued on.
The next lap, disaster struck for Rossi. She crashed at the exit from the off-camber and bent her derailleur hanger. O'Neill caught Rossi as she tried to repair the bent hanger as best she could. Rossi tried to stick O'Neill's wheel as she limped back to the pit, two grueling climbs away.
The two women got the bell together, setting up an exciting last lap.
Rossi held a gap descending into the bowl, but O'Neill would not go easily. The Arizona student grabbed Rossi's wheel on the final climb and the two headed past Pit 2 together—this time with no bike change for Rossi.
Rossi opened up a small gap and carried it home for the win, defeating whatever curse afflicted her on Thursday.
"Almost everything that could go wrong on the bikes was going wrong today," Rossi said. "My pit crew was super valuable today, I wouldn’t be able to do it without them."
The ’Cross Gods Lash Out
The Collegiate Club Nationals final exam started with 13 women taking the line.
Midway through the lap, number 2 O'Neill and number 13 Rossi got off the front. The two hit the limestone stairs together with a gap back to third through fifth.
"It started out with a strong first lap, there were three or four of us that we're all together, then I got a break on the first climb," Rossi said.
Rossi pulled away from O'Neill on the second and third climb in Lap 1, and after one lap, her lead was 12 seconds on O'Neill. The next lap, Rossi extended her lead to 27 seconds. Two laps in, Rossi appeared headed to a comfortable win.
The first harbringer of some kind of curse happened in the third lap. Right before the limestone stairs, Rossi stopped for a few seconds to make sure her derailleur was working properly. It was a short stop, and she appeared to be back on her way. Her lead was up to 33 seconds.
Rossi's third-lap mechanical was hardly worthy of a curse. Her fourth-lap mishap, however, was not.
While attempting to ride the exit from the off-camber, Rossi slipped out and fell on her drivetrain side. The seconds ticked by as she tried to bend her hanger back and get the derailleur in working order.
"Then on the uphill chicanes, up to the rock stairs I fumbled and bent my derailleur, and did it twice throughout the race," Rossi said.
O'Neill stayed calm and focused while Rossi struggled and eventually closed the gap and passed Rossi. The race now had a new leader. Rossi recovered and did her best to follow O'Neill down then up and down and up again before she could get to the pit. She swapped for a new bike, which was only part of her problems.
"I did change bikes but I was also having a tire pressure issue today," Rossi said. "I burped both my tires on my first bike, and I was feeling super slow. That also got in my head because I thought maybe I was just super tired. Then I got a new bike and started going fast again."
O'Neill led the way onto the pavement into the bell lap, and Rossi then joined her to head out one more time.
The first half of the bell lap belonged to Rossi. She opened up a gap through the sandpit and dropped down into the bowl. Perhaps not surprisingly, Rossi dismounted and ran the off-camber exit, probably not wanting to tempt fate.
O'Neill, however, rode the exit cleanly and was not about to go easily. She slowly closed the gap and caught Rossi at the bottom of the final climb out of the bowl. The two rose out of the saddle and powered up toward Pit 2. Rossi exited the climb with about two bike lengths on O'Neill. Only the boulevard and barriers remained.
Rossi exploited her small lead and hit the barriers first.
She accelerated down the finish to take the Collegiate Club win and get the last laugh against the ’cross gods that were seemingly against her on Thursday.
"I thought I lost it a few times," Rossi said. It was a strong fight, but I was able to pull away."
O'Neill finished a strong second, and Melanie Beale (Arizona State University) took third.
For more from the race, see the winner interview, photo gallery and results below.
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Jane Rossi: Winner Interview