Yesterday during the Collegiate Club Women's race, we met one of the cyclocross rookies of the year in Emily Cameron, who won a Collegiate National Championship in just her first year of racing cyclocross.
On Friday, another rider made a bid for ’cross rookie of the year in the Masters Women 35-39 race. A long-time runner, local athlete Laura Matsen Ko (Audi) took up cycling this spring and cyclocross this fall. One lap into Friday's final Masters race, she was off the front of a talented field of experienced racers.
As was the case in other Friday races, an early lead did not mean a comfortable win. The descent of the two chute descents got the best of the ’cross rookie in the second and third laps, but with Erin Feldhausen (Trek Cyclocross Collective) charging hard behind her in the last lap, Matsen Ko found a clean line through the feature in the last lap.
"I just decided to take my time," she said about the final descent. "I was like 'You’ve just got to stay up. If it's 2 more seconds, it’s better than 5 more seconds when you crash."
With some help, Matsen Ko held off Feldhausen and completed one heck of a first year racing cyclocross.
"My husband was just yelling to give everything I could, I think I was trying to get out of the saddle," she said.
Putting It All Together
Friday's final Masters race of the 2019 Lakewood Cyclocross Nationals was 1 of the few to bring back its top finishers from Louisville with defending champ Holly LaVesser (Neff Cycle Service) and Suzie Snyder (Sierra Endurance Sports) looking to rehash their sprint finish from last year.
Crashing the party at the start was Heidi Wood (HiFi Sound Cycling Components), who raced out to the holeshot and led the field toward the first run-up.
Once at the incline, Laura Matsen Ko and put her running background to good use.
By the time Matsen Ko hit the first descent chute, she had a 4-second lead on a string of riders led by Erin Feldhausen, Janelle Bickford (Metropolis Cycle Repair) and Danielle Larson (Cyclocross2theMax). The chasers neared the fast-starting Matsen Ko at the second run-up, but she used the run and following climb to open up a sizeable gap.
One lap in, the Audi rider had a 12-second lead on Snyder and Feldhausen. Behind them, Alexandra Burton (Point S Auto p/b Nokian Tires) and Bickford gave chase.
"I have a history of running, so the running felt great," Matsen Ko said.
In the second of four laps, Matsen Ko maintained her 10-plus second lead until the second chute descent.
Although the morning even saw some sun and the afternoon was much drier than the previous days, the second chute descent gave riders trouble throughout the day. Matsen Ko fell victim to its treachery and slipped out making the final left-hand drop. She recovered and maintained her gap.
When the chase that included Snyder, Feldhausen, Burton and Bickford dropped down the descent, Snyder powered off the front with renewed vigor. By the end of the second lap, she was within 6 seconds of the leader. The other riders from the chase strung out with about 3 seconds between each rider.
Matsen Ko's lead survived one crash on that dreaded second descent, but in the third lap, it could not survive a second. She again went down in the penultimate lap, and this time, Snyder made the bridge on the incline following the sand pit. At the bell, Snyder and Matsen Ko were at the front, and Feldhausen and Bickford chased.
In the bell lap, Matsen Ko again relied on her running skills on the first lap. She grabbed a lead, and her pace helped cause Snyder to crash on the first descent. Coming off the drop, Matsen Ko now led Bickford by about 5 seconds, and she, in turn, led Feldhausen by 5 seconds. LaVesser, meanwhile, moved up into fourth.
After Matsen Ko hit the second run-up first, Feldhausen pulled around Bickford right before the run-up to lead the charge after the race leader. As Matsen Ko approached the precipice of the second descent with a lead, all that likely stood between her and the Stars-and-Stripes was the cursed chute that got the best of her the two previous laps.
Matsen Ko took her time and took a slightly wider line that gave her traction and a clean passage down the chute. When Feldhausen cleared the bottom, the two women dropped everything they had into the last third of the course. Matsen Ko held her advantage to grab the win and complete a rookie-of-the-year-caliber first cyclocross season.
The Wisconsin duo of Feldhausen and LaVesser went two-three after LaVesser passed Bickford in the last third of the bell lap and held her off in a sprint down the finishing straight.
Bickford and Snyder rounded out the wide-angle podium.
For more from the Masters Women 35-39 race, see the winner interview, photo gallery and results below.
Visit our dedicated 2019 USA Cycling Cyclocross Nationals page for all of our 2019 National Championships coverage.
You can purchase our race photos from our nightly galleries at cyclocross.zenfolio.com and help support our event coverage.
Laura Matsen Ko: Masters 35-39 Winner Interview