Several mistakes helped decide the outcome of the men’s elite race at Cyclo X Sienna Lake on Saturday. But the guys that made them are still on top.
Coming out of the first pass through an earthen drainage ditch, Ken Benesh (Evol Racing) clipped out and paused near the top of the steep pitch. That held up the field behind him long enough for teammate Spencer Powlison, Chris Baddick (Boulder Cycle Sport), and Brady Kappius (Clif Bar) to sneak off the front where the first two would stay.
However, thanks to consistently showing up to races and finishing well, Benesh still leads the Cyclo X series with two of seven races remaining. He’s also second in the annual Colorado Cross Cup competition.
Similarly, with two laps left in the Sienna Lake race, a slight washout by Powlison in a grassy corner assisted Baddick’s escape into the lead. While that’s a frustrating way to lose, Powlison currently ranks first in the Cross Cup competition.
Mistakes happen. But Benesh and Powlison are still the best in two important series challenges on the Front Range. And rivals like Baddick who won Saturday’s race know it.
“Spencer’s been the guy to beat this year in Colorado and he’s so consistent,” Baddick said, before the podium on Saturday. “He hardly ever makes mistakes because he is so smooth on the bike. To beat him feels really good.”
Another drama played out at Sienna Lake in the leaders’ wake: Kappius’ defense of third place in the face of an onslaught piloted by Benesh, Mitch Hoke (The Pro’s Closet CX Team), and junior Pan American champion Gage Hecht (Alpha Bicycle Co.).
Kappius dropped away from the leaders after two laps and rode alone.
“I kept getting gapped out of the corners. So I took a couple of laps and kind of recovered a bit while Gage [Hecht] and Mitch [Hoke] caught me,” the Clif Bar rider explained. “I rode with them until the end. We started playing cat and mouse a bit, so Ken [Benesh] was able to catch up to us with a little over one to go.”
Meanwhile Steven Stefko (First City Cycling), second in the Cyclo X series standings, had moved up and trailed Benesh.
With about two laps to go Baddick found separation from Powlison.
“On the grassy corners just after the start/finish Spencer just slightly washed out his front wheel and ended up putting a foot down,” Baddick said. “That gave me a couple of seconds and that was pretty useful to get a gap.”
While Baddick played with the red zone to maintain that gap, action heated up in the Kappius group.
According to Kappius, at the start of the bell lap Hecht and Benesh tried to split the group. From the pavement the track took multiple turns on grass before directing riders into the ditch. Benesh slid out there and lost a bit of time.
Coming into the finish Benesh marked Stefko who motored just behind him and Kappius executed his plan to secure third place.
“I knew the finishing straight was pretty short and there is a little bit of an off-camber coming into it. I didn’t think anybody could get around somebody [there], so I wanted to come into it first,” Kappius said. “That last half lap was me just going about as hard as I could in the straights and recovering in the corners where I knew nobody could pass me. I was looking over my shoulder the whole time.
“I was able to come into the finish leading and put it in the drops, did 20 hard pedal strokes and held on for third.”
He held on by a whisker ahead of Hoke who finished fourth with the same time. Hecht arrived a second later. Stefko poured himself into the sprint for sixth, but Benesh got the best of him.
See the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website for full results from Cyclo X Sienna Lake.
The next Cyclo X series race takes place at the Boulder Reservoir on November 15.
When would not winning as often be a good thing?
By this time last year Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport) had stacked up five cyclocross wins. Coming into last weekend’s Front Range Cyclo X Sienna Lake race, she had yet to score her first.
Instead of dwelling entirely on whether she’d ever win again (banishing that thought forever is difficult for nearly all humans), she considered the big picture. “I actually just kept saying to my coach Anne Trombley that I felt like I was faster than last year, even though I had a bunch of wins last year.
“There’s always six to ten women who come out on a given weekend and can win a race. I knew it was making me faster by having all those fast people randomly show up to a lot of our local races,” Weber said, referring to a set of very strong local amateur women combined with a pro rider or two at every weekend race.
“But I think the competition has gotten faster. So I just feel like the bar has been raised a little bit.” Even the juniors, she said, are faster this year.
Part of the explanation for what she’s experiencing could be the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado’s added emphasis on attracting women to bike racing. The lower category fields are expanding in numbers. With that growth, perhaps more women are taking what might be the toughest leap up in competition: from category 3 to elite or open races. Several women in the Sienna Lake field raced category 3 last year.
More women racing and advancing their skills is a great situation overall; additional competition drives riders to improve which makes winning all the more satisfying.
“It feels really good [to win] to tell you the truth,” Weber said after crossing the line first at Sienna Lake, “because we’ve just had so many strong women this year.”
An errant cyclist pedaling across the road near the start area created a bit of disarray after the whistle. Weber slotted into fourth position on the first bend. Typically a fast starter, she had aimed for the front, but hesitated in the confusion.
“I wanted to be in the ditch first,” she explained later. “I came by three people to get to the ditch first because often in the beginning of this race the ditch can be a big divider if someone crashes or everyone is nervous about it.” Sure enough, her concern came to pass in the men’s elite race that followed.
Only Evol Racing’s Kate Powlison could match Weber’s trajectory around the predominantly grassy and pavement course. The two pulled away early and stayed away together until the next to last lap.
“Kate [Powlison] was riding so strong on the power sections and I knew I was faster than her in the technical, so I just made one move,” Weber said. “Right before the ditch I just stepped it up for like 10 seconds and then I made that gap.
“I would get ahead of her in the technical sections and then she would close it up. It was definitely some cat and mouse with us because we had different strengths today. I was worried.”
Behind them Margell Abel (Natural Grocers) and Megan Carrington (Naked Women’s Racing) fought for the third spot on the podium; Carrington captured it. Abel finished fourth. Kristal Boni (Rapid Racing) and Karen Hogan (Kappius Components) came in together and placed fifth and sixth.
See the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website for full results from Cyclo X Sienna Lake.
The next Cyclo X series race takes place at the Boulder Reservoir on November 15. Melissa Barker (Evol Racing) currently leads the seven-race series by two points over teammate Kristen Legan.
Sunday’s Feedback Cup ‘cross event provided an outstanding reminder of what cyclocross is all about.
Sure, ‘cross is about physical achievement as well as a life lesson in taking bad luck with the good. But even more so the Feedback Cup in Golden, Colorado exemplified the sport’s community foundation and the dedication of people who commit personal resources to elevate local bike racing to a high quality level. Golden-based Feedback Sports put on the event. The company makes and sells bicycle work stands and other accessories.
Those familiar with the course sandwiched between a youth detention center and golf course near the foot of South Table Mountain found something new: a long pit of sand entered after a strategically-placed ninety degree turn. One after another of the guys scheduled to start the elite men’s race scoped it out, trying to ride it. Almost all of those who could pedal through it – and they were in the minority – ground away in slow motion as tires lost traction in the silty stuff.
According to Tim Allen, Feedback Sports employee and ‘cross team member, the sand was donated by Jay Kenney of the Kenney Brothers Foundation. Lee Waldman and the Feedback Sports crew installed a dozen or more railroad ties to contain the new feature. Kenney joined them to distribute the sand.
“That sandpit blew Valmont’s away,” said Allen.
He was referring to Valmont Bike Park in Boulder. An awesome space for a cyclocross race with diverse features, it hosts local races, but it’s designed to hold world-class events, like the Boulder Cup UCI contest and cyclocross nationals, which touched down in Valmont last January.
So there was something very sweet about a local course adding such a stellar feature, courtesy of a benefactor. The addition tops off years of course design supplied by Waldman.
That feel-good aurora stands in stark contrast to what must happen in the Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center adjacent to the course. In late August four male teens between the ages of 14 and 17 escaped from that facility. On their way out they assaulted a 65 year-old employee. A press release from the City of Golden Police Department about the incident read: “Attempted Homicide and Escape at Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center.” The four teens were caught the next day.
A Denver Post article about the break-out said, “Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center is described by the Department of Human Services as an ‘intensive’ treatment program for up to 130 ‘highest risk’ male juvenile offenders committed to the facility by the courts. The agency says that up to 75 percent of those in the facility have been diagnosed with mental health issues, and more than half have substance-abuse issues.”
It’s hard to stand in the shadow of the Youth Services Center during a cyclocross race at the Golden course and not wonder a few things. Are some of those kids watching from a window behind the high security fence surrounding the building? Did they ride bikes when they were younger? Did any of them grow up in a safe, friendly community like the greater cyclocross family present at the Feedback Cup?
Sometimes we cyclists can be so devoted to our sport we become a bit insular. The Youth Services Center stands as a reminder to not take our cycling community for granted and to share its benefits with anyone we think might need some family love.
Now back to the race.
Feedback Cup elite women’s race action
Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport) unleashed another fiery start and captured the holeshot. Caitlyn Vestal (Feedback Sports) and Erin Huck (Scott-3Rox) tailed her along with the rest of the field.
The new sandpit appeared near the end of each lap. Aside from riding into it during lap one, Vestal ran it.
“You could make it like half-way [riding] through, but it’s just an energy sapper,” Vestal said. “But I think Erin Huck rode it through the whole way a couple of times. That’s sweet. She was on her mountain bike which is awesome.”
When the women arrived to tackle the new feature for the first time, Weber and Vestal crossed in the lead together. Kate Powlison (Evol Racing) and Kristal Boni (Rapid Racing) pursued 20 seconds later. Next was a large group led by Feedback Sports’ Lisa Hudson, containing six riders with Huck now near the back. But the new Scott-3Rox rider wouldn’t stay there for long.
Although pretty new to ‘cross, coming into the Feedback Cup Huck had already finished top five in four of five local cyclocross races this season.
Why is this year’s number two in the USA Cycling Pro XC Tour and world mountain bike championships pick racing cyclocross? In a Twitter exchange she explained: “for a new, fun challenge – lots to learn!” In those five previous races she competed on a ‘cross bike. She chose fat tires for Golden because she desired a “refresher on the mtb” before starting Iceman Cometh on November 8 in Michigan.
By lap three Huck was in third and chasing down Weber on the loose, dry course while up ahead Vestal had pulled away with a 30 second lead. Coming into the sand Huck moved into second on course. She couldn’t catch Vestal who would win with a gap of over a minute, but she collected another cyclocross podium place to add to her growing collection.
Weber finished third. Megan Carrington (Naked Women’s Racing) surged in the final laps and arrived fourth with Powlison in for fifth.
Vestal’s victory was number two on the weekend; the day before she won Schoolyard Cross. Right now she’s one of the Front Range’s most winning elite women. How has this lady with a full time job been so successful? She attributes it to sixteen years of racing experience and her training program.
“I’m doing a lot of high anaerobic threshold workouts. I also rest really hard. I take rest really, really seriously and I know my body needs about two days fully off the bike a week,” she said. “I run and I lift. I try to keep it really balanced because I just feel a lot better when I do that. So just really strength based workouts seem to help me a lot.”
Feedback Cup elite men’s race action
After Allen claimed the holeshot a group of five leaders quickly formed with Allen at the front. It included Chris Baddick (Boulder Cycle Sport), Spencer Powlison (Evol Racing), Brady Kappius (Clif Bar), and Garrett Gerchar (Clif Bar Devo Cyclocross Team).
A mechanical dispatched Baddick from the race. Gerchar dangled then dropped off the lead group.
Near the beginning of lap five Allen washed out at the bottom of the first of two consecutive sharp descents on the opposite side of the course from the sandpit. By the time he ran his bike up the hill, Kappius and Powlison had flown beyond reach, however he maintained a lead over Gerchar. Next on course were Taylor Carrington in a Feedback Sports kit and Bryan Alders (Marin Bikes Factory Team); they carried on as a duo and eventually passed Gerchar.
As Kappius and Powlison approached the climb leading into the sandpit it seemed the winner would be decided in a sprint to the line. But the presence of a lapped 35+ rider in a corner – that field started a minute or so after the elite pack – became as decisive as that climb.
Powlison later explained what happened. The lapped rider “didn’t understand where he needed to be, so he was on the inside corner where we needed to be riding.” Powlison swung wide around him. “I slipped out because I was in a totally different line than I was accustomed to. I kind of put my knee down then popped back up but Brady passed me and I could never come back after that.
“It’s just really frustrating. I think they need to start pulling lapped riders on the final lap because it’s just pointless. It wouldn’t have made any difference [to the 35+ rider] – there was no one in front of him and no one behind him.”
Kappius entered the sand first and won. Powlison arrived twelve seconds later. Allen came in third. Alders finished fourth with Carrington next in fifth. Gerchar finished sixth.
Did bad luck alone siphon off Powlison’s chance for a double win weekend, or was it Kappius’ plan for how to shake him? It’s hard to say.
“There were definitely some fast sweepy corners where Spencer was on the edge, taking it a bit faster than I wanted to. So I knew as long as I could stay with him on those that when we got to this last climb I’d be able to try to do something there,” Kappius said. “Unfortunately we got a little bit of lapped 35+ traffic and probably it should have been a little closer at the end…” The veteran Clif Bar rider especially enjoyed winning that day in the presence of his family.
Regarding the sandpit, Kappius said he ran it every lap and offered praise for the new obstacle. “It’s sweet. I like having ones that are hard enough that you actually have to think about riding it or not.”
Then he commented on making the decision about dismounting to handle an obstacle. “I think lately I’ve been kind of conservative on my ‘should I ride it or should I run it’ deals; I didn’t even ride the barriers the first lap then I saw I was getting gapped so I went for it again. On those kinds of things, my train of thought is, unless you can do it 99 percent of the time, the amount of time you gain isn’t worth screwing up that one time.”
See the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website for full results from the second edition of the Feedback Cup.
New Canadian ‘cross champions who will take home maple leaf jerseys on Saturday own their titles for 2015. To get them they need to win on a 3.2 kilometer course with a little bit of everything. The circuit travels through riverside park and a popular entertainment spot called The Forks in Winnipeg.
The start grid sits about 150 meters behind the finish arch, which is on the east side of the course near the new Canadian Museum for human rights.
Riders veer right onto grass as they head out, onto gravel, and then back onto grass to ascend then descend a low hill. There’s a couple of off-camber grassy turns here, one of which exits uphill.
More grass, barriers, and then a short section of cobblestones precedes a flat open area that houses a double pit. If there’s one theme to this course it’s alternating surfaces. Riders move from grass to thin gravel on to grass to thin gravel. They repeat the formula with short sections of loose dirt on the run-ups, cobbles, pavement, and sand.
The next section flows alongside and in sight of the Red River. A short downhill with roots poking out of soil dips onto a flat section of chalky soil littered with leaves. The run-up that follows is steep; it carries riders up to the main level of the course then dips down to the river in steps.
The long, very steep run-up dubbed the “Abyss” will get competitors’ hearts pumping faster. Dry as it was on Friday riders easily dug their toes into footholds in the loose soil. If it rains — which it might on Sunday for the C2 Manitoba Grand Prix, it will become really interesting.
A little thin gravel and concrete later, the course swings right onto loose bark and into 46 meters of sand pit number one. The sand runs a few inches deep here.
After a U-turn on grass with a set of thick tree trunks, sand pit number two follows. It’s the same length as pit number one. However, the sand feels more compacted here.
From the sand a long stone staircase ascends to the heart of The Forks where shops and take-out foods from around the world are located. The custom-made podium rests in this area.
The course turns right around the edge of the marketplace. As it swerves south, cobbles appear. A section of dirt topped with scattered gravel and then grass leads into a small amphitheater where a sweeping curves and a U-turn sit on sloping grass.
A little bit of cobbles, a little bit of grass, and then a little bit of packed service strewn with gravel brings riders back to the start/finish area. Whew.
So often at Front Range cyclocross races the winner crosses the finish line alone. The elite women’s Cyclo X series race at Valmont Bike Park on October 19 bucked that trend as Nicole Duke (Marin-Spy) and Boulder Cycle Sport’s Amanda Miller rounded the last turn before the start/finish straight together. About 100 meters of hypoxia stretched before them.
When the sprint to the line began Miller wasn’t sure how it would end up, she said later. The prior Friday night at Cross of the North thirteen year-old Katie Clouse beat her in a two-up sprint, and that memory had planted a seed of doubt in her mind.
But Miller took the win, her first so far this season as a new member of the formidable black and orange team kitted team. Duke finished right behind her.
Third place Caitlyn Vestal (Feedback Sports) came in 38 seconds later for third, alone. Evol Racing’s Melissa Barker, also solo, arrived in fourth place. Both women are having very strong seasons to-date.
Then a group of four took the last corner and stormed toward the finish line, raising a collective plume of dust as they pounded on the pedals in search of fifth place. The group consisted of Kate Powlison and Kristen Legan of Evol Racing, Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport), and Margell Abel (Natural Grocers). Legan dropped off the pace. Powlison proved best of the remaining three, but Weber was right there, back by less than a second.
Chris Baddick (Boulder Cycle Sport) won the men’s elite race at day two of the Cross of the North by going full-on from start to finish. While Tim Allen (Feedback Sports) took the hole shot and at first seemed like the guy to beat, Evol Racing’s Spencer Powlison emerged as the biggest threat to the British rider’s bid for his first win of the season.
A five second gap separated Powlison and Baddick throughout most of the race. Baddick’s win only became a sure thing when Powlison clipped a course pole with less than a lap remaining.
Allen and Baddick both zoomed away from the start line at full speed, albeit for different reasons.
Allen: “I was just motived for that $35 prime on the first lap.”
Baddick: “The last two races I lost in a sprint finish by half of a wheel length. I’ve realized my sprint is not working this year so I had to go as early as possible.”
Going into the second lap Allen gained about ten seconds over Baddick. Five seconds further behind Brady Kappius (Clif Bar), Powlison, and Russell Finsterwald (SRAM) chased with Taylor Carrington (Turin) dangling off that group. Each man that followed now raced for the top ten, including local Steven Stefko (First City Cycling Team).
Then Baddick arrived first at the maze of tape before the track pitched onto the start/finish pavement at the beginning of lap three.
“I ended up burning too many matches and couldn’t hang with those guys,” Allen later said.
“I really just put the power down from the beginning and couldn’t really let it up,” Baddick said. “Normally in a ‘cross race there are two or three laps in the middle where it eases back a bit. Today I just couldn’t really do anything but pedal on through.”
Powlison forced that pace, proving strongest of the chasers as Allen faded to third on course. As hard as he worked, so did Baddick; five seconds separated them from the middle until near the end of the race.
Baddick never changed his bike. He knew if he did he might risk giving up the lead. “I had a pit bike. I’m not very good at pitting – it costs me 10 or 15 seconds,” he said. “It’s just not worth it for me to pit.”
With three laps to go Carrington passed Finsterwald. Now fourth on course, he began to nibble away at the space between him and the third place Allen struggled to maintain.
With one lap to go Baddick surged and lengthened his lead over the Evol rider. Powlison’s persistence, however, finally brought him up to Baddick’s rear wheel.
“We did the mud and I was right there, really close to him,” Powlison said. “But I’d gone pretty deep after that mud section and he kind of extended the gap again.”
Whether or not Powlison could have given it another shot will remain an unanswered question. On the twisty downhill toward the pit with less than a lap remaining he snagged a plastic pole. What happened next exactly he couldn’t say. After righting himself he found his bike tangled in course tape.
“My bars were all crooked,” he said. “It was a total mess.”
The bike functioned well enough to conclude the race but Baddick was gone. He cleared the finish line forty-two seconds ahead of Powlison who had gathered enough of a lead throughout the hour’s competition to keep second place.
After the race Powlison reviewed a key moment that may have defined the outcome. “I was a little lazy the first few laps; I should have just gone right with him [Baddick] when he went. I was kind of hanging in there, counting on Russell [Finsterwald] to pull us up to the front.”
Allen held on to third place by four seconds. Carrington got fourth. Finsterwald finished fifth.
“Taylor almost caught me on the last lap,” Allen said. “He definitely made me work for it.”
For Baddick the win was his first of the season and first on the Boulder Cycle Sport team. Like the day’s women’s elite winner Caitlyn Vestal (Feedback Sports), he chose a gentle build-up to the cyclocross season.
“I’m kind of easing into this ‘cross season; I haven’t done too many intervals or anything yet because I want to be fit in December. I’m just kind of racing myself into fitness. So to win is good, especially against Spencer [Powlison] because he’s flying right now. It means a lot really.”
The near future
The Brit’s December goal is the Colorado state cyclocross championships. Subsequently he’ll take a break to rest before training for mountain bike season when he’ll race for the Red Ace Organics team he joined this year. He lives and studies in Boulder, Colorado.
“I race ‘cross as kind of secondary to mountain biking, so I’m not going to race through to nationals,” Baddick said. “I still race [cyclocross] to win; it’s not like I’m just out here training. Every race I start I want to win.”
See the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website for full results from Cross of the North day two, as well as days one and three.
First pass of the runup after the start
Gallery (more to come)
Two of the threesome had met the night before.
In late evening coolness Amanda Miller (Boulder Cycle Sport) and Katie Clouse (Canyon Bicycles) left narrow knobby tracks that connected pools of light with lengths of shadow at the Cross of the North Friday night cyclocross contest in Loveland, Colorado. The rest of the field behind could no longer hear the two leaders breathe or the click-thunk of changing gears on their bikes.
The pair arrived together at the start/finish stretch of pavement and sprinted for the line where thirteen year-old Clouse beat Miller by less than a second. Miller, 26, has represented the US at road world championships.
In the daytime race yesterday it seemed like the two took up where they had left off, together again at the front of the elite women’s race, though now on a drier, faster course. However this time they had company.
Just after the start they trailed hole shot conqueror Laurel Rathbun (Raleigh-Clement) who came to the start line after a spill Friday night that t-boned her bike and forced her to pull out of that race.
Rathbun charged onto the steep run-up on the south side of the course first. Footholds had taken shape in the soft ground thanks to hundreds of riders who raced earlier in the day. From there the circuit wound north then switch-backed downhill into a sunken section of the venue where runoff from the power washer pooled around the pit, creating a large puddle and expanse of mud inches deep.
By well into the first lap Caitlyn Vestal (Feedback Sports) made herself at home with Friday night’s top two and Rathbun.
“I just tried to keep them in sight,” Vestal said post-race. “And people on the course were really pushing me to bridge the gap.”
After they dropped Rathbun early in lap two, for the better part of thirty minutes threesome Vestal, Clouse, and Miller tried to shake each other but couldn’t.
In the second lap Miller took charge at the front. She and Clouse opened a gap of five seconds on Vestal. While a brief burst of rain and wind gust buffeted the open venue, Clouse passed Miller on an uphill portion of track cut by multiple railroad tie barriers. Vestal caught back on, making up time in the corners and going hard on the flats.
“Katie [Clouse] and Amanda [Miller] were kind of playing cat and mouse. I think they were slowing down a tiny bit so I would jump and get them and I don’t mind pulling,” Vestal later recounted. “I’ll just do it, just go fast. Then I was able to stay with them and kept feeling good.”
Miller gained a little separation from Clouse in lap three. The junior closed the gap on one of several rideable pitches that rose out of the low section that housed the pit.
In lap four Vestal shot off the front. She gained a handful of seconds on Clouse with more to Miller. According to the junior, Miller had experienced mechanical problems and Vestal took advantage of the delay and surged. Clouse tried to pass the Feedback Sports Rider at the barriers, but Vestal dodged to the right and blocked her.
Meanwhile behind them riders worked single-handedly on the well-packed nearly all dirt and turf surface. Rathbun held on to fourth on course until the last lap when Evol Racing’s Melissa Barker, who finished third the night before, slipped ahead of her after passing Boulder Cycle Sport’s diligent Kristin Weber. Going into last trip around the three km circuit Ksenia Lepikhina (SDG Factory Team) and then Evol Racing’s Kate Powlison and Jess Case pursued next on course.
In that fifth and final lap Miller lost time. Vestal and Clouse seemed set to repeat Friday night’s two-up sprint scenario Then when about a third of the lap remained, Clouse flew over her bike’s handlebars.
“Caitlyn [Vestal] got a little away from me so I was trying to catch back up,” Clouse said after the race. “I was I guess a little tired. On the single log I got up [over it] and I must have twisted my wheel…I’m OK. It was actually fun.”
Vestal crossed the finish line alone, taking her seventh win so far this season. Clouse came in twenty seconds later for second, happy from her day’s effort and the experience of contending for the win versus her two main competitors.
Miller claimed third one minute after Vestal’s win. Barker finished fourth and Rathbun fifth.
Even though Vestal’s season to date shows more wins than losses, she said she hadn’t expected to come away with the victory. “I really just rode my heavy mountain bike and had fun all summer, so I started training end of summer. I just try to stay positive and calm…and have fun. It helps.”
The Feedback Sports rider, who started racing at about Clouse’s age of thirteen, praised the Utah junior’s performance on a course she perceived as the toughest to date on the Front Range calendar.
Vestal now leads the Colorado Cross Cup competition by twenty-one points over Barker.
See the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website for full results from Cross of the North day two. A third day of racing takes place Sunday.
When pros like Nicole Duke and Danny Summerhill and Mitch Hoke show up at a local cyclocross race the amateurs have more to fight for.
It’s a chance to stretch personal limits and explore capabilities. To savor the satisfaction from a speedier start, capturing the hole shot, and taking slippery corners faster. To feel good about the time and effort socked away into training and optimizing the bike.
The local Colorado amateur race, fiercely fought to begin with, becomes that much harder.
And so with more at stake the elite men and women took the start on Sunday at Cyclo X Flatirons. Duke (Marin-Spy) and Summerhill (K-Edge / Felt) established early leads and won. The toughest struggles played out behind them.
In the men’s race Hoke (The Pro’s Closet CX Team), Spencer Powlison (Evol Racing), and Tim Allen (Feedback Sports) competed for the remaining podium spots after some early re-shuffling of places on course.
Powlison, who took the hole shot, appeared to have second place locked down.
But in the last lap Allen and Hoke found a way around him and Powlison came in fourth.
At the end of the day, it’s just amateur bike racing. But goddammit why does it seem so important?! Wish I could care less than I do …
— Spencer Powlison (@spino_powerlegs) September 29, 2014
Allen crossed the line second, 39 seconds after Summerhill. “I was thrilled to finish second behind the world class Summerhill,” he wrote after the race. “It was a hard fought battle and felt so good to have a strong finish.”
The rain that started during the men’s last lap continued through much of the elite women’s race. A predominantly grassy course, already slippery in off-camber corners, became slicker. Karen Hogan (Team Kappius) moved into second with Duke always visible ahead.
Just before the finish line Duke replaced a victory salute with a few words to race announcer Larry Grossman. “Hogan crushed it,” she said.
Evol’s Melissa Barker confirmed her early season form with a strong third after going down four times in a close contest with Feedback Sports’ Caitlyn Vestal.
But Barker had forgotten to wear a timing chip. After going as hard as she could, she was disqualified. She left with grass and mud-encrusted bike and shoes. She left disappointed about forfeiting points for herself in the Cyclo X series and for her team in the Colorado Cross Cup best team ranking.
Hogan, who placed next best after Duke, was able to absorb the meaning of her achievement yesterday. When asked what it was like to score her result, she said, “Well that’s super fun. Any time you can even see Nicole in a race, that’s a huge accomplishment in my mind.”
Men’s race action
Less than one minute into the men’s elite race at least two riders in the field of 37 slid out in a set of off-camber grassy switchbacks on the Flatirons course hillside. The first of those mishaps held up Summerhill but only briefly; he quickly joined the three men on front: Powlison, Allen, and Clif Bar’s Brady Kappius.
Following the leaders in a loose group were junior Eric Brunner (Boulder Junior Cycling), Brandon Dwight (Boulder Cycle Sport), Ken Benesh (Evol Racing), Hoke, Boulder Cycle Sport’s Johs Huseby and Pete Webber, and Taylor Carrington (Turin). In the first half lap they had a small gap to next set of riders which contained junior Gage Hecht (Alpha Bicycle Co.).
Summerhill owned the lead early in lap two as he reached the north end of the course where more off-camber turns would pop several riders out of the saddle. Powlison tailed him. Ten seconds separated them from Allen, Kappius, and Brunner. Hoke pursued them alone, followed by riders near the front in lap one. Carrington punctured and lost time.
As lap three began Hoke moved into third on course, fifteen seconds behind Summerhill and Powlison. Allen arrived ten seconds later ahead of a group containing Benesh, Kappius, Brunner and Hecht.
Then Summerhill poured on the speed. Midway through the ten lap race he preceded Powlison by 45 seconds. Hoke and Allen now rode together just a few seconds behind the Evol rider.
While spectators wondered who would be next best after Summerhill, Powlison held his gap until the last lap. Hoke, who said later that he slid out a couple of times during the race, almost pulled away from Allen but didn’t succeed.
Less than one minute after Summerhill took the victory Allen stunned the crowd by cresting the top of the hill and claiming second. Hoke, who later said he felt good fitness-wise but struggled with driving the bike that day, finished seconds later for third. After all his efforts, Powlison got fourth. Hecht came in fifth over a minute later, with Benesh sixth.
As the riders told it, two factors affected the outcome during the last circuit. Rain commenced and lapped riders created a decent amount of traffic. Powlison described the latter situation as “a mess” with guys who should have been pulled not giving way to the leaders.
In that tenth lap Allen snuck ahead of Hoke in the off-camber switchbacks located early in the course while also passing a lapped rider.
“Then I just buried myself to try to bridge up to Spencer [Powlison]…It was not easy to get around Spencer – he was riding super aggressive (the good kind of aggressive) sprinting every time I tried to come around,” Allen wrote after the race. Just ahead of the steep climb before the finish he passed the Evol rider.
Meanwhile, Hoke made it back to Allen. On the dirt-surface climb now brushed with rain, Spencer slipped. “He was running pretty slick tires,” Hoke said, “and had to run it. I rode the last part so I was in my pedals and came around him. Tim was right there, but I couldn’t close it to him.
“We were coming through a lot of lapped traffic, but there’s nothing you can do – somebody’s going to get lucky and someone’s going to get unlucky.”
See the WithoutLimits website for full results from Cyclo X Flatirons.
Women’s race action - a tale of five slick laps
What was it like when you all were getting ready to start and rain came down?
Karen Hogan answers the question, speaking after finishing second: “Kris Weber said she’d never raced in the rain before, which surprised me. But then when I thought about it, I haven’t raced much in the rain either. We had lots of sprinkler water; it just made it a little more dicey, which I kind of like. It was super fun.”
Lap one: off-camber switchbacks on the wet grass hillside quickly sort out the early leaders. Duke enters the section first. Boulder Cycle Sport’s Kristin Weber is the only woman close to Duke as they exit the turns and point their bikes back uphill toward the barriers. Kristen Legan (Evol Racing) and Hogan are next on course.
Lap two: Hogan advances while Duke maintains the lead. Ten to twenty seconds separate each of the top four on course. Weber rides third; Caitlyn Vestal (Feedback Sports), fourth.
Lap three: the best five shifts and Barker moves up. Hogan refuses to allow the space between her and Duke to expand. Barker catches on to Vestal and Weber. The rain lets off for a bit but one slippery corner in particular still requires hugging a tree.
After the race Duke will say, “Oh my God, that was the hardest local race I’ve ever done. Karen [Hogan] pushed me so hard. And so I didn’t get to rest really at all and then I was like, all over the place. I didn’t have mud tires on and it was super slippery.”
Lap four: Barker proves strongest in the chase group. She advances to third while Duke slides in the switchbacks and Hogan draws closer to the leader.
Lap five: Duke finds better lines that help her gain on Hogan and reach the finish line first. Hogan places second twelve seconds later. One minute passes. Barker gets third a few seconds before Vestal; but she’ll lose that result to the Feedback Sports rider after being disqualified. Weber finishes fifth after another forty seconds.
“Today was great because I kept Nicole [Duke] pretty much in the same place,” Hogan said. “Then I heard she fell on this side of the course and I got a couple of seconds closer, but I could never close the gap.”
Duke recalled Flatirons had hosted a UCI race, about 2009, when she rode to third place.
“I’m happy to win in front of all my peers and friends,” she said, about Flatirons 2014. “It was great to have a win, and have a win that was actually so hard to win. It was hard-fought because Karen was so strong.”
A rare feature made an appearance on a Colorado cyclocross course this past weekend: a muddle. The fifty foot long puddle, deep enough to build a wake the color of chocolate milk that lapped at wheel hubs, connected the upper and lower portions of Saturday’s Xilinx course in Longmont, Colorado northeast of Boulder. It started off small. Then an overflow of ditch water super-sized it.
— Jeremy Powers (@JeremyPowers) September 21, 2014
The outsized muddy puddle was perhaps the only unexpected element in the women’s elite race at Xilinx. Melissa Barker (Evol Racing), one of the best local finishers in the UCI cyclocross races earlier this month in Boulder, grabbed the hole shot and except for a brief stretch led all the way to the end of the 45 minute race.
But for the men’s elite field, the muddle presaged surprises that affected the podium composition.
Riding strong as one of a select group of leaders, Boulder Cycle Sport’s Chris Case crashed hard on a descent in the final lap. The resulting shoulder injury sent him to the medical truck and removed one of the threats to Ken Benesh’s plan to win. Additionally, earlier in the first lap a dropped chain distanced Pete Webber (Boulder Cycle Sport) from the select group that would contest the win eventually claimed by Evol Racing’s Benesh.
By the end of both races layers of muddy water obliterated bib numbers on the riders’ backs and left a uniform paint job on every frame. But for these men and women used to dry tracks, the muddle was the welcome surprise of the day.
— Kristen Peterson (@KPLegan) September 21, 2014
Race action – women
Barker and teammate Kristen Legan led by five seconds as they entered the muddle after swinging through the upper part of the course. Then Barker lost her line. She dabbed and Legan passed in the high water. They rode together through straightaways, turns, and dips in the field on the lower section of the course. After a set of barriers the circuit continued on pavement through the finish area and up to higher ground.
“I went in front of her [Legan] to let her draft off of me,” Barker said, “and then we got a little separated in the back.” From a bit of forest at the top of the course through the fifth and last lap Barker maintained her lead.
Meanwhile another Evol Racing rider Jess Case, caught and passed Margell Abel (Natural Grocers) and then Legan. Jess Case finished second, 23 seconds after Barker and seven seconds ahead of teammate Legan who make it a podium sweep for the Evol Racing team.
“It’s very exciting,” Barker said about her victory. “I feel great. It was a good course.
“The mud bath was actually really fun and challenging. You didn’t know if your tire was going to drop out or anything. You just had to go with it. It actually cooled me off a little bit; it was kind of nice.”
When Barker had charged into the muddle on lap one, a junior spectator commented about how it’s hard for her to find time to train because of her devotion to teaching juniors at the Dawson School. Barker coaches them on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and most Fridays.
“It’s challenging to train and coach them,” Barker commented. “But when I get to work with the fast kids, I get some good training in.”
With their podium sweep the Evol ladies are on target to again capture the Colorado BAT, Best All-around Team in the Colorado Cross Cup set of races over the season.
The men also won that competition last year and it’s their goal to repeat as well.
Race action – men
A group of six containing the eventual winner formed early in lap 1. It included Benesh, Taylor Carrington (Turin), Steven Stefko (First City Cycling), and Boulder Cycle Sport’s Brandon Dwight, Johs Huseby, and Chris Case. In the second lap Huseby dropped off.
The remaining five seemed pretty evenly matched on a course that, according to Benesh, made it difficult for any one of them to hold a gap once off the front, though some tried.
“Anywhere you have really long straights it tends to be relatively easy to bridge back up to a group or to an individual if they go off, and people will work for that,” he explained. “So I think we all kind of knew that and there was a couple of times where we had 60 – 100 foot [gaps] but we were able to bring someone back or they were able to bring me back.”
Behind them Webber moved up steadily after remedying a dropped chain. Grant Holicky (Evol Racing), Sam Weinberg (riding in tee shirt and street shorts), Huseby, and Danny Whipple chased individually for the most part as the next best riders in the field.
Benesh, who claimed his first elite win late last season, launched his plan at the top of the course in the last lap when he moved into first position in the lead group.
“I knew that I wanted to be first through the mud on the last lap because even when we were going hard through the lower section I felt like I had a fair amount of gas to spare,” he said. “So I knew I wanted to be first through that and then just kind of on it.”
As Benesh flew down the descent that funneled into the mud puddle Case began to set up for a bid to win too. Next to last in the group of five, he tried to pass Carrington by taking a line through the grass. His front wheel ditched in a hidden hole. He dropped hard to the ground and rolled under the course tape, taking a minute to recover before remounting his bike.
Down in the field Benesh’s plan worked. He won ahead of Dwight who finished a close second. Carrington pulled up alongside Stefko to fight for third. The pair finished on the same time with Stefko prevailing in the sprint. Webber came in about two minutes later for fifth, over a minute in advance of the next man across the line.
After the podium Benesh downplayed his result. “It’s good, I didn’t race mountain all summer so I’m a little surprised it came this early on but we’re missing a lot of strong guys here today.”
And regarding double wins for his team, he said, “The women’s team is looking almost unbeatable this year. And we [the men] are going to be going hard against Boulder Cycle Sport for the best team. It’s going to be a tough one though.”
Case now nurses a broken scapula. But with his teammates looking strong they’ll undoubtedly mount a strong fight for the BAT title through the rest of the season.
Find full results from Xilinx with lap times on MyRaceResult.com. Xilinx was the first of seven races in the Cyclo X series which continues with the Flatirons Mall event on September 28.
The two Boulder UCI races last weekend provided glimpses of what we might expect early in the cyclocross season and this weekend at Trek CXC Cup in Waterloo, Wisconsin.
Here’s a review of the top five from the US Open of Cyclocross on Saturday and the Boulder Cup on Sunday at Valmont Bike Park.
|Place||US Open of CX||Boulder Cup|
|1||Compton / Powers||Compton / Powers|
|2||Mani / Berden||Miller / Krughoff|
|3||Woodruff / Krughoff||Gould / Johnson|
|4||Lloyd / Driscoll||Mani / Milne|
|5||Durrin / Milne||Lloyd / Driscoll|
And the three best locals:
|Places||US Open of CX||Places||Boulder Cup|
|16 / 15||Barker / Powlison||14 / 13||Vestal / Riveros|
|18 / 17||Weber / Riveros||17 / 17||Rathbun / Powlison|
|20 / 18||Vestal / Chance||18 / 18||Barker / Baddick|
The reign of Katie Compton and Jeremy Powers carries on
The US national champions represented their titles with power and grace.
Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) crossed the finish line first and alone at both Boulder races with a lead ranging from 18 to 45 seconds. She pulled away from the field in the first couple of laps.
“It feels really good because I haven’t quite done as much intensity yet, but the baseline’s good obviously,” Compton said about the back-to-back victories.
“I was riding well technically and just feeling faster and strong on the bike. So it’s a good sign for the season.” She’ll race at Trek CXC Cup, take a weekend off, contest Providence, rest the following weekend, and then head to Europe for the first World Cup in Valkenburg.
Powers (Aspire Racing) also won both races but waved goodbye to his rivals much later in the events. He seemed more under pressure on Saturday while trying to shake Raleigh-Clement’s Ben Berden. Powers edged out second place by a narrower margin of 8 to 20 seconds over the two days of racing.
Allen Krughoff and Caroline Mani spark lightning from their pedals
These former teammates got after it from the whistle and drove hard.
After Powers and Berden took the weekend hole shots, Krughoff (Noosa Pro Cyclocross Team) flew to the front and led the charge that quickly sorted out the leaders from the followers.On Sunday Boulder’s bike community ushered Krughoff to the second podium step with loud cheers. He says the victory he’s prepared for all summer is coming.
Mani took the US Open of Cyclocross hole shot, an honor that went to Crystal Anthony (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) at the Boulder Cup. Both days the former French national champion spun out a pace that most couldn’t match and held it for up to two laps – an improvement over the past couple of years when she lost steam after the sprint out of the grid.
Shawn Milne is a contender and Georgia Gould is back
This season Milne races in a Boulder Cycle Sport kit. He led the pack intermittently at CrossVegas and brought his confidence to Boulder. On Sunday at Valmont Bike Park he passed the Wells brothers and Jamey Driscoll (Raleigh Clement) in the final lap and finished fourth.
Last year Gould (Luna Pro Team) raced CrossVegas and didn’t return to ‘cross until the Colorado state championships in December – which she won. She took the break she intended and rested, though she maintained her fitness and finished fifth at nationals in January.
This year Gould’s CrossVegas fizzled after an early crash. But at the Boulder Cup she rode in the group chasing Compton and came home for third place. She’s registered for Trek CXC Cup and fans hope she’ll tackle at least a partial season.
3rd yesterday in the Boulder Cup CX. Luckily, I have 5 days to do nothing but VO2 max intervals before next week’s @TrekCXCCup Watch out!
— Georgia Gould (@gouldgeorgia) September 15, 2014
Her competitive bite is as strong as ever. When she joined the post Boulder Cup bread bake-off shenanigans with Compton and local mom and fun-maker Katie Macarelli, she arrived armed with three different loaves of professional baker quality, gunning for the win.
Tim Johnson and Ben Berden still have tread left on their tires
Age 37 and 39 respectively, Johnson (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) and Berden gave the younger guys in Colorado no slack.
Only Johnson could match the pace of Krughoff and Powers at Valmont, where Berden crashed hard on lap two. That incident left him with a sore neck and back. The day before the Belgian had forced Powers to work hard for his Saturday win.
Helen Wyman and Jonathan Page are great with kids
As the US Open of Cyclocross staff plucked up stakes and rolled up tape at the end of the day’s racing at the Boulder Reservoir, Page (XcelLED) and Wyman (Kona) led a group of juniors through a clinic organized by Naked Racing’s Emily Zinn.
Among other skills they demonstrated riding and running through sand and bike shouldering techniques. The kids couldn’t have been in more capable hands as both Page and Wyman spoke easily with them, offering advice and encouragement.
More in the mix
Driscoll feels he’s off to a slow start and aims to fight for the podium. Jake Wells (Stan’s NoTubes), another guy who factored in among the leaders at CrossVegas, is storming and scheduled to start in Gloucester.
Chloe Woodruff (Stan’s NoTubes) and Rachel Lloyd of Cal Giant delivered top six results at both Boulder races.
While Meredith Miller (Noosa Pro Cyclocross Team) struggled through a bad day on Saturday, she refound her mojo on Sunday for second place. “Even though it was a harder course, it suited me much better than yesterday,” Miller said at Valmont. “I just regrouped overnight, shook off the cobwebs, and was ready to come out strong today.”
For full results from the Boulder races, see the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website.
Boulder Cup Gallery