Less than an hour after a heartbreaking end to the Junior Men 15-16 race at Lakewood Nationals, the script played out again in the Junior Women 15-16 race. Unfortunately, when a race is decided in the last lap due to a mechanical or crash, there is an equal part heartbreak to go with the triumph of winning a cyclocross national championship.
Saturday's final Junior National Championship race kicked off with Louisville Junior 13-14 national champion Ella Brenneman (CX Hairs Devo / Trek Bikes) taking the holeshot. Idaho's Disa Doherty (Missoula Bicycle Works) then stepped up to lead the charge toward the first run-up.
Doherty took the lead at the top of the run-up and led the drop through the first descent chute. Behind her, Mia Aseltine (Avout Select Junior Racing) led a train of five or six riders in pursuit. Running up the left side, Doherty led the group up the run-up as well.
Coming down the drop, Doherty took a spill, allowing Katherine Sarkisov (CX Hairs Devo / Trek Bikes) to pull around and take the lead along with Carrie Masters (Lionhearts Junior Racing). Masters then took over the lead after the sand pit, and the duo completed the first lap off the front. Aseltine sat in solo second 8 seconds back, and a group that included Doherty, Samantha Scott (Rage Cycling), Amelia Orton (Alpha Bicycle - Groove Subaru) and Mahika Peterson (BYRDS) chased 13 seconds.
In the second lap, Masters took a small lead dropping down the first descent chute, but Sarkisov closed on the flats and the two went charging up the run-up.
After climbing the run-up, the racers quickly turned around and headed down the second descent chute. It was there the race got its first shake-up when Sarkisov crashed on the drop. While she recovered, Masters opened up a big lead that swelled to 24 seconds at the bell.
Behind her, Aseltine caught Sarkisov and the two headed out into the last lap, seemingly racing for second. Of course, as they say, anything can happen...
Masters handled the first descent with no troubles and still led by a large distance at the second run-up. Behind her, Aseltine led Sarkisov up the run-up and got an advantage.
It was on the second descent chute that the race got upended. Masters hit the descent a little too far forward on her bike, and she crashed to the ground as her bike went tumbling down the steep hill. As she banged her hoods back into place, she still had a lead, but Aseltine was closing fast.
Aseltine pulled within a few bike lengths at the beginning of Pit 2, and then she made the pass when Masters bobbled on the first corner after the pit. Masters recovered and sat on Aseltine's wheel through the sand pit.
Aseltine led through the final snaking corners and popped onto the finishing pavement stretch first. She accelerated down the straight and got enough room to comfortably celebrate her Stars-and-Stripes ride at the line.
Masters wrapped up a tough silver, and Sarkisov took third. Chloe Fraser (Boulder Junior Cycling) and Doherty rounded out the wide-angle podium.
For more from the Junior Women 15-16 race, see the winner interview, photo gallery and results below.
Mia Aseltine: Junior Women 15-16 Winner Interview