With Sunday’s Jingle Cross World Cup looming, Saturday night provided World Cup riders with the opportunity to vie for C2 UCI points if they felt the 45-minute effort would be a good warm-up ahead of Sunday’s battle on the slopes of Mt. Krumpit. Most of the top riders chose to take the hot, dusty night off to rest, but their night off proved to benefit a few veterans and several young riders.
The small 23-rider field in the Women’s race broke apart quickly and a lead selection that occupied both ends of the experience spectrum put on a show for the fans at the Johnson County Fairgrounds under the lights. Jingle Cross veteran Sunny Gilbert (Van Dessel Factory Team), who once shared a podium at Jingle Cross with Katerina Nash and Courtenay McFadden, locked into a race-long battle with young stars Sofia Gomez-Villafane of Argentina and Clara Honsinger (Team S&M CX) of Oregon.
Gilbert and Honsinger broke free midway through the race when the Grinch gave Gomez-Villafane a flat tire just before the sand pit.
As the leading duo battled into the early night, the decision would come down to whether or not Gilbert’s knowledge of nearly every corner on the Jingle Cross course could give her the edge she needed to win her first-ever race in Iowa City.
Ruby West Kicks Off the Saturday Night Party
With a wide-open field, no one at the Johnson County Fairgrounds knew what to expect from the group that assembled at the start line. The young stars took the uncertainty as an opportunity to animate the race early on. Gomez-Villafane led the field into the first run up Mt. Krumpit, and then Ruby West (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) moved to the front on the Bobsled Bomb heading into the sand pit.
Not content with her spot at the front, West kept the power down, and after the first lap, she and Gomez-Villafane were off the front, forcing more experienced riders Gilbert and Arley Kemmerer (Fearless Femme Racing) to chase.
The enthusiasm of the young riders early in the race served to break the field apart and quickly establish the first selection. In the group were the youth movement of West, Gomez-Villafane and Honsinger and the established veterans Gilbert and Kemmerer.
A Lead Selection Quickly Breaks Free
The young riders weren’t content to just get a bit of photographer and announcer time and kept the pressure on. Honsinger was the first to give it a go at the front. She attacked through the grassy section near the pits and the Holly Jolly Hell Hole. The Oregonian’s move forced the other riders to respond, and when all was said and done, only the veteran Gilbert and the young gun Gomez-Villafane had the legs to get to the front.
Gomez-Villafane had the legs, but she suffered a flat descending Mt. Krumpit that forced her to pit while Gilbert and Honsinger opened up a gap. By end of lap four of six, her gap up to Honsinger and Gilbert was 15 seconds. The Grinch stole the Argentinian’s chance to go home with Saturday’s biggest points haul.
The Veteran Versus the Newbie
Entering the penultimate lap, the lead selection was Gilbert, who was racing in her 12th Jingle Cross race, and Honsinger, who was racing just her fourth-ever UCI race. Gilbert said she knows every nook and cranny of the Grinch’s environs; did she have a spot where she wanted to make her move? Or was Honsinger ready to get the jump on Gilbert and not let her lay her trap?
On the penultimate lap, the two battled to parity up and down Mt. Krumpit, through the sand and over the barriers, but Gilbert had a plan. She blasted up the mini-Krumpit climb around the bleachers, but Honsinger stayed on her wheel. She attacked again on the finishing straight with one lap to go, and finally gained some breathing room on her young foe.
Gilbert’s efforts yielded her a six-second gap on her rival for the evening. When the two riders descended off Mt. Krumpit for the final time, Gilbert was committed to her solo ride, but it was clear nothing had yet been decided.
Honsinger gave the chase everything she had, couldn’t overcome the gap Gilbert opened up. The Van Dessel rider sprinted at full tilt down the finishing straight to grab the C2 victory Saturday night.
Gilbert said that although she planned an attack, she could not help going earlier than expected on the festive Saturday night.
“I thought about going on the straightaway in the back here, because I was riding the slight incline a little bit smoother than other people,” said Gilbert. “I was kind of gapping their wheels a little bit. My plan was to go there, but right before that, that uphill chicane I had a little burst of energy and kind of wanted to ride all out. I just kind of went for it and Clara came with me, which was great because I had someone right there on my wheel to push me. I couldn’t ask for a better race.”
Honsinger’s trip to the Midwest was rewarded with a 2nd-place finish in a UCI race after she placed 13th Friday night.
After the race, Honsinger sounded like a rider with years of experience. “I was mostly just trying to keep the pace up and not let Sofia come back to us,” she said. “Then when Sunny came around me, I tried to be patient and also to keep in mind where Sofia was and rest as much as possible. But yeah, Sunny had a little bit more than I had going into the last lap and got a little gap over the barriers the second to last time. I just kept it in mind that any little dab she has, I can be right back there. I am really satisfied with my result.”
She also added, “It’s cyclocross, anything can happen. One little mistake and your race can be over. So I try to approach every race with this feeling of contentment that it’s going to be alright and everything will be good.”
After her flat, Gomez-Villafane had to weigh going deep into the red on the eve of the World Cup versus saving some legs for Sunday’s mid-day affair. Although she could not close the gap back to the lead duo, she still rode strong for the remainder of the race to take the third podium position.
Arley Kemmerer closed in on the front as the race went on and ended up catching West to finish fourth. West’s trip south of the border from Canada yielded a top-five finish Saturday night.
World Cup Racing Return to Iowa on Sunday
Two days of UCI racing at the Jingle Cross Festival are in the books, and the only tilt to be decided is the first Telenet UCI World Cup of the 2017/18 season. The Women’s race starts at 2:00 p.m. CDT and the Men’s race gets underway at 3:30 p.m.
Women's Results - 2017 Jingle Cross Saturday Night
|1||GILBERT||Sunny||Van Dessel Factory Team||44:26|
|2||HONSINGER||Clara||Team S&M CX||44:38||12|
|4||KEMMERER||Arley||Fearless Femme Racing||45:38||1:12|
|6||GROSS||Rebecca||Zero D Racing||46:43||2:17|
|7||SHIELDS||Emily||Ken's Bike Shop||46:50||2:24|
|8||PATTON||Courtney||Freddie Fu Cycling Team||46:58||2:32|
|9||ORTON||Beth Ann||Team S&M CX||47:11||2:45|
|10||WILLIAMS||Lily||Pony Shop CX Team||47:45||3:19|
|11||SANTOS||Katherine||Amy D Foundation||48:01||3:35|
|12||RUBINO||Rachel||Fearless Femme Racing||48:25||3:59|
|13||MERTZ||Nicole||The Meteor p/b Allied||48:49||4:23|
|14||LIVINGSTON||Suzie||TOPO Designs CX||48:59||4:33|
|15||SEIPP||Carol||Orion Racing p/b K'ul Chocolate||49:46||5:20|
|16||DORINZI||Nicole||Pro Mountain Outfitters||50:01||5:35|
|17||KELLY||Siobhan||To Wheels Epic Sports Performan||51:45||7:19|
|21||MALARSKI||Anya||Transitions LifeCare p/b Garnea||53:07||8:41|
|22||KNIGHT||Lindsay||Ten Speed Hero CX||53:43||9:17|
|23||RAMSAY||Turner||Alpha Bicycle Co. - Groove Suba||@2Lap|