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With spring here, at least in parts of the country, bike racing on the road, gravel and singletrack is starting to pick up. This spring and summer, our goal is to bring you a regular Rumors & Rumblings column to track how your favorite cyclocross riders are doing during their ’cross offseasons.

This past weekend marked the start of the 20-event USA Cycling Pro Road Tour and 7-race Pro XCT cross country mountain bike series, and not surprisingly, the races featured some familiar faces at the races’ pointy ends. The roadies were in Alabama for a crit and road race and the dirtheads were in California for some cross country action.

Williams, Mullens, Hagens-Berman Supermint Shine in Alabama

Lily Williams (Hagens-Berman Supermint) has quickly established herself as one of the young Women’s riders to watch across several disciplines. The former Vanderbilt track runner first crossed our radar when she took second in the Collegiate Club race for Northwestern University at the 2017 Hartford Cyclocross Nationals.

After winning a stage at the 2017 Joe Martin Stage race and finishing sixth in the GC at the North Star Gran Prix, Williams signed with the Hagens-Berman Supermint UCI Pro team for the 2018 season.

Lily Williams is racing road for Hagens Berman - Supermint in 2018. photo: Snowy Mountain Photography

Lily Williams is racing road for Hagens – Berman Supermint in 2018. photo: Snowy Mountain Photography

The 2018 Pro Road Tour kicked off with the Alabama Cycling Classic Sunny King Criterium in Anniston on Saturday and Foothills Road Race in Piedmont on Sunday. Williams wasted little time making her mark with her new team at Saturday’s Sunny King Criterium. Temperatures for the Alabama twilight race dropped into the 40s, and rain started to fall midway through the race, creating rather cyclocrossy (or Smarchy, depending on your perspective) conditions. With her experience racing UCI-level cyclocross, it appears Williams felt right at home.

Lily Williams raced for Northwestern at the 2017 Collegiate Nationals and finished second.. 2017 Cyclocross National Championships, Collegiate Club Women. © D. Mable / Cyclocross Magazine

Lily Williams raced for Northwestern at the 2017 Collegiate Nationals and finished second.. 2017 Cyclocross National Championships, Collegiate Club Women. © D. Mable / Cyclocross Magazine

Midway through the race, Williams got into a break with Lauretta Hansen (United Health Care) and Harriet Owen (The Meteor-Intelligensia). Even with several teams missing from the break, Williams and the other riders made it stick. The trio stuck together into the long uphill finish, where Williams outkicked Hansen in the last few meters to take a close sprint win.

For more, check out this video of the live stream video:

On Sunday, it was Williams’ teammate Peta Mullens’ turn to shine. Mullens, who won Australian Cyclocross Nationals in August, has spent the last several summers racing on the road in the U.S. She took the top spot in Sunday’s Foothills Road Race ahead of two United Health Care riders. Although admittedly I did not watch the live stream of Sunday’s race, it appears it was a group affair, with 24 riders finishing within 8 seconds of the winner.

Last we saw Peta Mullens, she was showing off her new Australian Cyclocross National Champion kit. 2017 Australia NCXS4. © J. Curtes / Cyclocross Magazine

Last we saw Peta Mullens, she was showing off her new Australian Cyclocross National Champion kit. 2017 Australia NCXS4. © J. Curtes / Cyclocross Magazine

In the Men’s races, the Holowesko-Citadel p/b Arapahoe Resources Pro Continental Team dominated the start list and dominated the racing. The team swept the podium in both the criterium and road race. Danny Summerhill, who raced primarily on the track last year after resigning from the United Health Care team because of a gun incident, raced in the Sunny King Criterium and finished sixth behind the Holowesko-Citadel juggernaut that grabbed four of the top six spots.

Cyclingnews.com has Women’s and Men’s results for Saturday’s Sunny King Crit.

Huck, Blevins Shred in Fontana

The 2018 Pro XCT cross country mountain bike series also kicked off this past weekend with the UCI race in Fontana City, California. The Women’s race was a star-studded affair featuring a veritable who’s who of North American (and beyond) mountain biking. 2017 US Open of Cyclocross Day 1 winner Erin Huck (Scott-3Rox Racing) took top honors ahead of ’cross dabbler Catharine Pendrel (Clif Pro Team) and ’cross mainstay Eva Lechner (Clif Pro Team). Sofia Gomez Villafane (Stan’s Pivot Pro Team) celebrated her start with her new team with a 7th-place finish, Maghalie Rochette (Clif Pro Team) took 10th, Hannah Finchamp (Clif Pro Team) 20th, Crystal Anthony (Maxxis-Shimano) 36th and Jen Malik (KS-Kenda Women’s MTB Team) 38th.

In the Men’s race, top honors went to bike racing phenom Christopher Blevins (Specialized), whom we last saw winning the U23 race at the 2018 Cyclocross Nationals. Blevins topped the podium ahead of Canadians Andrew L’Esperance and Peter Disera. Long-time cyclocross racer Brian Matter (Linear Sport) took 28th overall and 2nd in the Over 40 category. Not impressed with the latter accomplishment? The median rider in the field was 22 years old.

Full results from Fontana City are available on cxhairs.com.  For more mountain bike #hype, follow Bill Schieken’s videos on Instagram. Stay tuned to see if CXHairs’ mountain bike coverage becomes a NPGnar spin-off featuring Gnar Talk and This American Bike hosted by Gnara Raum.

Langvad, Courtney Conquer Cape Epic

This year’s UCI Mountain Bike World Cup kicked off at the beginning of March in South Africa, and some of the riders stuck around to race the 2018 Cape Epic, which is … an epic race. This year’s race maybe didn’t have the same hype as the 2017 event that included Sven Nys and Sven Vanthourenhout, but it did have a powerhouse Women’s squad featuring new cyclocross rider Annika Langvad of Denmark and American U23 National Champion Kate Courtney.

The duo crushed the Cape Epic race with a winning time of just under 30 hours for the 7-day affair. They finished over 46 minutes ahead of the next closest team.

Sunday we took a look at the five-day Pisgah Stage Race that kicks off today which has much more pedestrian finishing times around 11-14 hours. If you are looking to train for a grueling event like Pisgah or Cape Epic, perhaps Courtney’s #kateepic training program can provide some inspiration. She rode 33.5 hours and racked up over 50,000 feet of climbing in eight days of riding in Northern California.

Did her plan pay off? Her impressive win with Langvad suggests yes.

Get Well Soon Jolien Verschueren

Our last bit of Rumors and Rumblings is one that is much less valedictory. 2015 and 2016 Koppenbergcross winner Jolien Verschueren of Belgium underwent surgery to remove a tumor from her brain last week. The story from hln.be says doctors first discovered the tumor several years ago, but let it go until a recent checkup showed it was growing. Verschueren, age 27, had surgery to remove the tumor last week.

“A scan showed that there was a stain on her brain, and not much later it was a tumor, something she was probably born with,” said mother Livine Haerinck. “Still, the doctors were not particularly worried at first. Jolien only had to check every year to make sure that the tumor did not grow. Last week, during such a check, it was determined that the tumor had indeed increased, and they did not want to take any further risk, so they removed it on Tuesday. It was a particularly heavy operation, in which a sort of hatch was made in her skull.” Livine explained. “Fortunately, everything seems to have gone well, but it is still unclear whether the tumor was good or malignant, but we are still waiting for those results.” (translated)

We wish Verschueren a speedy recovery and a quick return to her kindergarten classroom and riding her bike.

Jolien Verschueren won two straight Koppenbergcrosses. Elite Women. 2016 Koppenbergcross, DVV Verzekeringen Trofee Series race #2. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Jolien Verschueren won two straight Koppenbergcrosses. Elite Women. 2016 Koppenbergcross, DVV Verzekeringen Trofee Series race #2. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

On the Schedule

This coming week and weekend feature a number of races we will have our eyes on. They include:

  • Joe Martin Stage Race, Arkansas – Thursday through Sunday
  • UCI XCO Bonelli Park, California – Saturday
  • Belgian Waffle Ride gravel race, California – Sunday
  • Pisgah Stage Race, North Carolina – Tuesday through Saturday