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.”
Race action and more photos to come.
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
Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) claimed a repeat convincing win on Saturday ahead of solid rides by second and third Caroline Mani and Chloe Woodruff at the first of two Boulder weekend UCI races. On an off day, CrossVegas winner Meredith Miller (Noosa Pro Cyclocross Team) missed a pedal at the start and finished seventh.
Raleigh-Clement’s Mani started and ended fast; in a go-big or go-home move with one lap remaining, she attacked the chase group and held on to a gap until the finish line.
Woodruff, who recently won the Grand Junction Off-Road mountain bike event, returned to the venue at Boulder Reservoir where last year she surged into second as a relative newcomer to cyclocross. Now she’s racing as a new member of Stan’s NoTubes Elite Cyclocross Team.
Mani took the holeshot at Boulder Reservoir. Compton was tucked in behind Kona’s Helen Wyman. Miller started in the front row, but lost about ten places to leader Mani after the track narrowed with the first few turns.
According to a report by the Noosa Pro Cyclocross team, Miller’s first lap was fraught with mistakes, including a flip over the handlebars. “I finally got my act together on lap two,” Miller continued. “I started to pick people off pretty consistently from that point. I got into a better groove and calmed down a bit. I was riding alone, so I could pick my own lines rather than follow wheels. As I passed riders, I was able to recollect myself and take a deep breath.”
British national champion Wyman, Woodruff, and Nicole Duke (Marin-Spy) chased Mani from the reservoir beach while Compton followed them in fourth on course. In the beginning of the second lap Compton gained the lead.
Crystal Anthony (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) joined Woodruff and Mani in the chase group.
Rachel Lloyd (California Giant Berry Farms / Specialized) steadily worked her way into the chase group to make it four. The effort cost her in the last lap when she couldn’t respond to Woodruff’s attack in pursuit of Mani.
Meredith Miller was closing in on fifth on course Anthony. Then she flatted in the last lap. Gabby Durrin (Neon Velo Cycling Team) passed her and finished fifth behind fourth place Lloyd.
Courtenay McFadden (Gecapital/American Classic) finished ninth after Duke who placed eighth.
The Amy D. Foundation chose Erica Zaveta as this year’s scholarship winner. Zaveta will travel with the Raleigh-Clement team this season. She finished twelfth at the reservoir on Saturday after a successful ninth at CrossVegas.
Compton’s husband and mechanic, Mark Legg, said Saturday was Compton’s 94th UCI race win. He’s been counting since 2006.
“I actually felt way better today [than at CrossVegas],” Compton said after the race. “Vegas is tough because it is the first race of the season. I’ve been doing a little bit of intensity but not enough. That grass is just so hard; there is no recovery.
“I definitely felt better today but also the course was way more fun.” After all the bumps on the reservoir course, Compton was grateful for the strip of paved start/finish.
For full results from the US Open of Cyclocross, see the WithoutLimits website.
[Noosa Professional Cyclocross Team press release]
Las Vegas, NV – September 11, 2014 – Meredith Miller scored the biggest win of her cyclocross career in Las Vegas, Nevada on Wednesday night. In front of an estimated crowd of 10,000 that included the large majority of her new Noosa Professional Cyclocross Team sponsors, Miller edged out ten-time US Cyclocross National Champion Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) and four-time Olympian Katerina Nash (Luna) in a three-up sprint to win CrossVegas. The 2014/2015 season opener boasted what will likely be the deepest, strongest field Miller will face on American soil this year.
“The result ranks right up with my result from Tabor last year,” said Miller, referencing her sixth place finish at the World Cup last October. “This is by far my biggest win. I’ve won a handful of C1 races in the past but never at this level against such a stacked field and in front of so many people.”
“All of my sponsors are here,” Miller continued. “There were so many people watching online. I’ve given so many interviews. I’ve never won a race of this status before, and wow – it still feels a bit unreal.”
Miller raced brilliantly from start to finish. Making the most of her prime start spot, she was quick off the line and easily able to jump around the riders in front of her when gaps began to open on lap one. An early attack by Nash proved decisive. Compton responded to the challenge from Nash. As the split grew, Miller recognized the danger in the pairing out front and came around Helen Wyman (Kona) to bridge across to the two leaders.
“This race is about patience,” Miller explained. “It’s about making the front group when the split happens and racing smart, but mostly, it’s about being patient.”
“The move went pretty early today,” she added “I had to jump to close the gap to Katie and Katerina. It was just the three of us for a bit, and then Catherine [Pendral] (Luna) came up to us. That gave Katerina a teammate and changed the dynamic in the group a bit. I wasn’t going to attack when there were two teammates in a group of four.”
The four-rider front group proved evenly matched. Nash and Pendral each put in a few attacks. Their efforts were not enough to dislodge Miller or Compton.
“I did manage to go to the front for a little while, but I was honestly a little awestruck by who I was with,” Miller admitted. “I didn’t want to drop myself by doing too much work too early in the race. I needed to leave enough in the tank to follow wheels if anyone threw down a big acceleration.”
Just outside one lap left to race, Pendral crashed on a pavement section of the course. The incident took her out of contention for the win, leaving three riders in the lead group for the three podium places.
“Catherine took herself out on the sidewalk section,” noted Miller. “It happens every year that someone crashes there, so I knew to be extra cautious. She went down in front of me, but she slid, leaving a gap open for me to get through.”
Mental anguish accompanied physical effort in the final lap. While Miller knew she had a lock on the podium barring a super-human effort from Pendral to rejoin the leaders, she was unsure how to best play her cards. She contemplated an attack before ultimately deciding to wait until the final few corners to make her move.
“I wasn’t feeling confident enough to attack Katie or Katerina, so my goal was just to stick with them,” said Miller. “I wanted to lead into the last twisty grass section before the pavement. I was confident that I could get the best result from the position, although that’s not to say I had any idea my best result would be the win.”
“In the end, I was the last one of the three of us through that twisty section,” Miller added. “I tried to pass Katie once or twice because I really wanted to be on the front at the point. I lost my wheel but luckily was able to hold it up somehow.”
Miller was the third rider out of the final corner and onto the finishing stretch of grass. The leading trio treated spectators and online viewers to a nail-biting finale.
“It was just a drag race to the line,” said Miller. “We came out of the last turn, and I was like – oh boy, here we go.”
“I passed Katerina, and I was pretty elated to be in second,” added Miller. “I remember thinking – this is great. This is awesome. I’m in second place in the sprint. I kept on the gas, and I thought – wow, I think I’m going to pass Katie now, too.”
“Then, I did,” Miller said. “I passed Katie, and I won the race.”
Miller was full of praise for the people that paved the way for her historical result. She is only the second American to beat Compton in the last ten years, and the first rider to beat both Nash and Compton in the same race on American soil. Miller credits her teammate and business partner Allen Krughoff and the Noosa Professional Cyclocross Team sponsors for playing a major role in her success.
“Everything went right today,” Miller said. “Going back to June when Allen and I started this team, everything that’s happened has seemed a bit unbelievable. We had Noosa sign on as title sponsor in a pretty unorthodox fashion. All the product sponsors we approached have been so incredibly generous. Our equipment is amazing. The people we’re working with are amazing. Everything has gone right, and nothing has gone wrong.”
“I’ve been in the sport long enough to know how rare that is,” Miller added. “It speaks volumes about the work that Allen and I have done and the sort of support we enjoy from all our team sponsors. To pull it all together tonight for all of them is pretty awesome.”
Sunday, September 7 was a hot day for a hard effort at the first all-day cyclocross event on the Front Range, KickIt Cross.
Streaks of white evaporated sweat trailed down the sides of Jeremy Powers’ face. He’d won the men’s elite race ten minutes earlier with Allen Krughoff in heated pursuit. Nearby at the Rhyolite Park venue in Castle Rock, Colorado, Krughoff pressed a hand on his helmet; streams of sweat spilled out of the pads and onto the pavement.
All three intend to start Cross Vegas tomorrow. KickIt provided important preparation for the national event.
“I don’t want a first race to be Vegas,” Powers said after his Colorado win. Like Krughoff, the national champion begins the season with a new team, although the Aspire Racing kit and bike were still under wraps on Sunday with their debut set for Cross Vegas. For this season, Aspire Racing consists solely of Powers. He’s mentioned previously that the team could grow for the 2015/16 season.
Powers has been in Colorado for about two weeks, but not on vacation. With his annual FasCat Coaching camp scheduled for the last weekend of August and the Boulder UCI races in mid-September, he decided to fashion a training block in Colorado combined with preparing new equipment for the season together with mechanic Tom Hopper who lives near Boulder. The Castle Rock race fit in nicely between the camp and UCI events.
“If you’re going to do the races at altitude and be good at them – like nationals for instance, I need at least two weeks [at altitude],” Powers said. The Colorado plan turned out well. “It’s been successful and fun. The altitude training works for me so it is a good lead-in for my season for sure.”
KickIt allowed both men to test new equipment, and for Krughoff also a chance to work with a new mechanic and pit partner in the race environment.
Powers said he’s racing on an all new bike; the only components that remain the same from last season are the saddle and pedals.
“I always want to do one [race] before Vegas to get any cobwebs out,” he said.
“It’s always weird how things work out on the bike. At first when you are just training [it’s working], then when you are racing you are like, ‘I need to make this change or that change.’”
Focus Mares will carry riders for both the Noosa Pro Cyclocross Team and Aspire Racing this season. While Krughoff rode on his new model prior to KickIt, he came to the race with a newly assembled bike with SRAM CX-1 and ENVE tubular disc through axle wheels. During pre-ride he experienced a special moment at the barriers.
“I pick up the bike and it feels like I’m lifting nothing,” Krughoff stated. “It’s unreal… and I’m thinking, ‘this is going to be a great year.’”
That fast feeling carried over to the start of the KickIt men’s elite race. Krughoff won the holeshot. A lead group formed early in the first lap with the Noosa rider at the front. It included Powers, Berden, and the current single speed national champion, Feedback Sports’ Tim Allen (not riding single speed).
In lap two or three Allen dropped back to join Spencer Powlison (Evol Racing). Krughoff guided the lead group of three for four laps while Powers and Berden appeared satisfied matching the Colorado rider’s pace.
When Krughoff made a bike change Powers decided to test the results of his altitude training; he surged into the lead, soon opening a ten second gap over Berden and Krughoff. The Noosa rider regained and held onto second place until the finish. Berden lost ground to the pair as the race concluded, but not enough to forfeit third place.
After sixty minutes of racing the national champ won with a 22 second advance. Next to arrive after the top three were Allen, Powlison, Steven Stefko (First City Cycling Team), and Evol Racing’s Ken Benesh. Stefko topped off a strong year in January with third place in the masters 35 – 39 category at ‘cross nationals in Boulder.
Krughoff was content with the overall results from the day – testing fitness, a well-run first outing for the team that included a victory for Meredith Miller, and holding position behind Powers.
“That was confirmation that the fitness is here,” the Noosa rider said about his effort. “From here we have three days ‘till Vegas, and then it’s Boulder. So we’re on. There’s no time to get in better shape. So it’s good.” The US Open of Cyclocross (formerly the Colorado Cross Classic) and the Boulder Cup, Colorado’s two big UCI cyclocross races, occur on September 13 and 14 in Boulder.
Krughoff became Colorado state champion at the same Rhyolite Park venue last December. He likes the terrain there, even though he thought the day’s bumpy riding had contributed to blisters on his hands.
“I really like racing here because they have a lot of elevation to work with. It’s not just one hillside. It’s like a whole valley and John Haley does a really good job laying out the course.
“It’s fun. He changed it up a little bit with this option to go through barriers or go around them. I think it’s cool when people think outside the box. We can use some more of that.”
He should face an interesting challenge at Cross Vegas, which is adding a sandpit that riders will traverse twice each lap. That’s in addition to last year’s banked curve, stairs, barriers and flyovers. Krughoff placed 19th at the Vegas event in 2013; based on his fitness, he could improve on that this year if that’s his plan.
Powers won in Sin City two years ago; last year he placed second to Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony, now Crelan-AA Drink).
“If I can be up in the front and I can have a shot at it that would be excellent,” he said.
It’s hard to tell how things will shake out at the beginning of the cyclocross calendar; a large unknown is the form competitors will carry to Vegas.
“And with [Lars] Van der Haar and Sven Nys coming it’s definitely a good opportunity for me to showcase. So I hope that I am able to, especially being in the national champ’s jersey.”
For full results from KickIt Cross, visit the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website.
Gallery (from multiple men’s races) – Video to come
So much is new for Meredith Miller: just married one week ago, different pre-cyclocross season preparation, and a new team in Noosa Pro Cyclocross. But the form and desire that delivered a hard-fought podium place at nationals last January hasn’t changed; on Sunday she brought Noosa its first win at KickIt Cross in Castle Rock, CO.
“I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen today,” she said post-race, mentioning her wedding and teaching a clinic the day before in Chicago. “The last couple of weeks has been a little bit chaotic and all over the place. But obviously I was OK with it. I just wanted to come out here today and do a dry run for the team really…Everything is new.”
Foremost she intended to gauge the team’s new equipment performance as well as build a race partnership with mechanic Erik Maresjo who will look after her Focus Mares with Daimeon Shanks this season.
“In all the years I’ve been racing I’ve always been on Specialized for ‘cross. So it was a big switch for me. And so far I’ve absolutely loved being on the Focus.” KickIt was Miller’s third outing running SRAM’s CX-1 groupset. “I kept thinking as I was out there how smoothly it was working. It’s so quiet, no chain bouncing around. The bike, the MXP tires from Clement, CX-1, it was all really great.” CX-1 works with a single chain ring.
With conditions nearly entirely dry on Sunday, riders didn’t require many bike changes save for flats. However Miller took the opportunity to rehearse swapping bikes with Maresjo. “I’m always nervous to do bike changes and so I made myself do it today just to practice,” she said. “Everything went off great in the pit.”
Miller’s dominance in the women’s elite race provided a comfortable cushion for visiting the pit. Soon after the start the riders bumped off wide pavement onto a narrow section of turf. Miller led from the holeshot to the finish, nearly doubling the gap between her and second place Caroline Mani (Raleigh-Clement) with each of the four laps.
Boulder Cycle Sport’s Kristin Weber started fast as well. She rode third on course until Caitlyn Vestal (Feedback Sports) earned that spot during the second lap. Mani held steady in second through the finish, just over a minute behind Miller. Vestal came in 15 seconds later for third. Weber arrived next after about a minute thirty seconds, followed by Melissa Barker in a new team kit this year, Evol Racing, for fifth.
This year Miller’s ‘cross season preparation diverged considerably from previous years’ models. After competition concluded last winter, she spent one month “pretty much completely off the bike. I don’t remember when I took a break that long,” she said.
Contrary to popular belief at that time, Miller’s “retirement” was only ever from road racing; she hadn’t intended to end her cyclocross career. “Without a contract on the road, I was like, ‘I going to have to get a job and I don’t know what my job is going to look like,’” she explained. “And so I wasn’t quite sure how much time I would have for ‘cross but I knew in some capacity I wanted to keep racing [cyclocross].”
Over the spring and summer she celebrated turning 40 in 2013 by mixing it up with mountain bike competitions, long gravel excursions, and rides while acting as an ambassador for Rapha. In August Miller tackled the Cedar City Grand Prix and Tour of Utah Women’s Edition road races.
“From February to July I was just riding and having fun and not worrying about when I was on my bike and what I was doing that day. That was a really nice change and just a good kind of relaxing way to approach the season.” Toward late summer she reconnected with her coach, Neal Henderson, to begin a more structured program.
KickIt arrived with a just a handful of nerves as her team’s debut. “It is new colors, I wanted to represent well. Even though it was kind of low key and results weren’t the focus of today, I still wanted to do well.”
Just before the race, she promised new teammate Allen Krughoff as much.
Krughoff had joked with her about the pressure she bore as the first of the two to race wearing the new team’s kit. Don’t embarrass us, he cautioned. In reply she said, “Don’t worry, you’re going to have big shoes to fill.”
And she was right.
Based on the outcome of KickIt, it looks like all systems go for Noosa at Cross Vegas this Wednesday. Miller noted that several women coming off mountain bike worlds who have just peaked should be there, like Katerina Nash, as well as ten-time national champion Katie Compton.
“It’s going to be a really tough field this year,” she said. Then she began an I don’t really know kind of laugh and added, “I hate setting expectations for myself and then being disappointed if I don’t meet them.
“And it’s still early in the season; it’s hard to be like, ‘I’ve got to be on the podium,’ because it’s a long season. And I want to do well in January.”
Gallery (several categories of women’s races)
A seemingly endless flotilla of men in their teens through age 64 swung down the hill and onto curvy dirt paths cut from a field flush with yellow-blooming late summer rabbitbrush, native grasses, and clumps of prickly pear cactus. They were the men’s B class, a field of 80 testing their first week of September fitness at the first of four weekly races in the Back to Basics series in Golden, Colorado.
The newbies stood out; they raced on mountain bikes while the majority whipped around on lighter weight ‘cross bikes.
But Back to Basics is the ideal place for newbies. The registration fees are low and many riders view the series as a tune-up instead of dog-eat-dog competition. Back to Basics Health Center, Feedback Sports, and Pedal Pushers Racing sponsor the series. In total about 200 riders showed up to begin their cyclocross season.
On a plot of land sandwiched between a youth detention center and golf course near the foot of South Table Mountain, the course differs some from last year. That downhill is new; it passes by the previously used sharp dip under the heirloom cottonwood trees at the west end of the course. Off-camber, the descent requires a little more finesse. The south end of the circuit includes more off-camber terrain on a hillside which comes before the railroad tie run-up. Start and finish still take place on the center grassy field with a single barrier bordering the youth center and double barriers to the west – local Tim Allen’s playground for bunny hops.
The course represents yet another year’s improvement by promoter and racer Lee Waldman who took compliments as the action wound down toward sunset. How does he feel about the new trail? “I love it,” he said. “It’s my course.”
Two hundred or so riders won’t dispute that statement of ownership; Waldman has labored for years over the course. But they do love it too.
The USA Pro Challenge and the riders who contest it wouldn’t be as successful without the team and other staff that support them. That’s why US Cycling Report published three interviews with non-riders during the Colorado race – a sport director, mechanic, and race announcer. See the links below with hints about what makes these folks worthy of attention.
Ever wonder what a director says from the car to a rider in the breakaway? See how one of the few women sport directors in men’s professional cycling encourages her riders. “In the Sport Director’s Car“
Some might think bike mechanics only know their way around a frame and some grease. That couldn’t be further from the truth. “The Mechanic-Rider Bond“
Brad Sohner didn’t set out to be a race announcer. Find out how he got there. “Voice of the Race“
There’s something about a red carpet that makes people feel special. Or maybe it was the five year-old boy who wore a Garmin-Sharp jersey that fell to his knees and waylaid them with a sharpie held high.
Either way, the riders on the 16 teams in this year’s USA Pro Challenge smiled as they processed along the red carpet through a cheering crowd brandishing cameras at the team presentation. Children and adults held up their palms and guys from superstar level to neo-pro greeted them with low and high-fives.
For that one fine Saturday evening in Snowmass, Colorado while the sun dipped behind the ski slopes, the athletes could suspend all thoughts of 550 miles of Rocky Mountain suffering on the horizon and soak up the love.
The seven-day Colorado race begins today with the Stage 1 circuit around Aspen. It continues to a sharp uphill conclusion at Crested Butte, offers a new summit finish on Monarch Mountain in Stage 3, and then visits Breckenridge followed by the red rock of Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods in the shadow of Pike’s Peak. Saturday’s uphill time trial in Vail, Colorado will help determine who stands on the podium in Denver on Sunday, August 24.
It’s Jens Voigt’s final race of his career – or so the Trek Factory Racing man says, which means lots of attacks will be in order as well as a special celebration on the final day.
The BMC Racing team will have its hands full trying to defend Tejay van Garderen‘s 2013 overall win against the likes of Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp), Rafał Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), Leopold Konig (Team NetApp-Endura), and others.