Two cyclo-cross weekends on the different coasts of the country were held this weekend in the United States; the CXLA Weekend in Los Angeles, California and the NBX Gran Prix of Cross in Warwick, Rhode Island. While cold weather is expected in New England at this time of year, the mud and rain that hit Los Angeles brought surprising conditions to the race.
NBX. Frigid temperatures greeted the racers Saturday, adding to the challenge of the NBX course with two bayside beach runs complementing the loose climbs, bermed corners, and fast dirt chutes carving through trails and around pine trees. Arley Kemmerer (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes) took off from the whistle in Saturday's elite women's race and was the first onto the first turns of the course. A group formed on her wheel and built a gap on the field, with Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) and Elle Anderson (Ladies First Racing) getting away from Kemmerer, leaving her to chase with Crystal Anthony (Cyclocrossworld.com), Cassandra Maximenko (Silverbull/Bones/Thule), and Mo Bruno Roy (Bob’s Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles). Anderson and Van Gilder worked together to keep the others at bay, knowing very well the prowess of the chase group.
An attack from Van Gilder in the last lap proved one that Anderson couldn’t match, as Kemmerer, Anthony, and Bruno Roy each attempted attacks on the chase to claim the third podium spot. Bruno Roy suffered a run-in with a tree, leaving her unhurt but ruining her chances at a podium, and Kemmerer broke free from the rest in the melee. The final placings for the day’s race: Kemmerer third, Anderson second, and Van Gilder with an amazing win. “Laura was riding really strong today,” noted Anderson of her competitor.
The Elite Men’s race started under darkening skies as the gloomy day gave way to dusk. The fast course left few places to gain an advantage early on, but repeated attacks from Nick Keough (Keoughcyclocross.com) forced breaks in the field. Dan Timmerman (RGM Watches – Richard Sachs) and contender for series podium Justin Lindine (Redline) stayed with Keough, but Shawn Milne (Cyclocrossworld.com) and Mike Garrigan (Stage-race/Blacksmith Cycle) were in hot pursuit. Milne led the charge and caught the lead trio, then launched a successful attack with two laps to go. Garrigan took second, and Timmerman grabbed the third spot in the podium.
Though the conditions were different on Sunday, fog rolling in from the bay over Warwick, Rhode Island brought more tolerable temperatures, the outcome was the same with Van Gilder and Milne sweeping the weekend. The faces at the front of the Elite Women’s race were familiar, as Anderson, Kemmerer, Van Gilder broke away within the first half lap, gaining handfuls of seconds over Anthony, Bruno Roy and Mary McConneloug (Team Kenda-Seven-NoTubes).. Hungry for a result that would bring her into second in the series over McConneloug, Anthony bridged the gap to the leaders through phenomenal will. These four flew through the course together, while Bruno Roy and McConneloug cranked their pedals in an attempt to gain back some ground. Each of the leaders attempted attacks in the last half lap, and each was in turn matched by her worthy competitors.
The four swung through the final rooted trails all together, but it was van Gilder and Kemmerer who hit the pavement first, guns blazing. The sprint left the race officials to sort it out with a finish line photo, as even the announcers had divergent opinions about the race victory. The results came in: Van Gilder won it with a mere quarter of a wheel’s length on Kemmerer. Anthony placed third, just the edge she needed to overcome McConneloug, but not the weekend she needed to oust Helen Wyman (Kona) as series champion. Ellen Noble (Trek Cyclocross Collective), celebrating her seventeenth birthday tomorrow, glowed with happiness over claiming the U23 Women’s leader’s jersey.
The Elite Men hit the course with ferocity, and a swarm of seven amassed at the lead of the race, with Milne and Derrick St. John (Stevens Racing p/b The Cyclery) taking turns at the helm. The pack was filled to the brim with racers motivated to do well today: Durrin bent on redemption after yesterday’s hopes were crashed; Garrigan who needs to earn podium spots to ensure his place on the Canadian team in the World Championships this February; Justin Lindine (Redline), hoping to build his late-season form leading up to racing in Belgium and Nationals; Timmerman, winner of the 2009 Verge Series, making a comeback after a few years away from racing; and under23 Canadian champion Evan McNeely (Specialized Canada) hoping to move into second spot in the U23 series competition.
This group clung together, attacks stringing them out, danglers chasing back on, until the pace hit a fever pitch in the last lap. Milne, in a dramatic bid to claim his second win this weekend, launched off the front of the race and held his lead for a tremendous victory. Managing his own gap off the front of the group, Garrigan hoped to claim his second second-place finish for the weekend; however, he flatted in the final stretch, allowing Timmerman to slide through to take second as Lindine laid claim to third. Milne’s double victory this weekend moves him into second overall in the series, behind Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus). McNeely finished the series with two tremendous races and succeeded in claiming second on the U23 series podium. Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus) maintained his lead, while Manny Goguen (CF Racing p/b Trek Portsmouth) took third.
CXLA. The pineapple express hit in Southern California this weekend, falling rain on the course at the Los Angeles State Historic Park turning clay into mud. The conditions changed race by race as the rain increased throughout the evening for the night races on Saturday. On a mission, Nicole Duke (Alchemy) hit the front on the first lap with only Katerina Nash (Luna) on her wheel by the end of the first lap. With three laps to go, the chase duo of Meredith Miller (CalGiant/Specialized) and Julie Krasniak (Rapha-Focus) were joined by Pepper Hartlon (Juventus). One lap later, Nash accelerated and pulled away, gaining 20 seconds on Duke while the chase group which now included Caroline Mani (Raleigh-Clement) was closing in.
By the bell lap, Nash had a huge lead on the chase and was on her way to a solo victory. Behind, the battle was on for the remaining spots on the podium. Krasniak slid out on a corner and fell behind. Miller, Hartlon and Mani was still together with half a lap to go. Hartlon took the front followed by Mani and Miller but not for long. Using her power, Miller made her way to the front as they came to the hill that preceded a few turns and the sprint to the finish. Miller held on to take second on her first UCI race since her injury and surgery eight weeks ago. Mani was third, Hartlon fourth and Duke fifth.
“Winning races is awesome so I can't complain.” laughed a wet and muddy Nash after the race. “Nicole got a great start, she's a really good bike handler. I didn't mind riding behind her, there's always something to learn from her. Once I went around, I'm not quite sure if she had a problem, I didn't really attack or anything but after the barriers I had a little gap. It would be easy to make mistakes behind somebody so I wanted to have the first choice of lines.”
Ryan Trebon (Cannondale-cyclcrossworld.com) took the front early in the elite/under23 men's race followed by his teammates Tim Johnson, Jamey Driscoll, and Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement). One lap later, the same four riders were off the front in a lead group of eight riders which also included Adam Craig (Giant) and Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus). With five laps to go, McDonald shook things up at the front causing a further separation. One lap later, Trebon was back at the front of the tactical race as the rain fell harder and harder.
By three laps to go, Trebon, Driscoll, Johnson and Berden were together at the front with American under23 champion McDonald chasing not far behind and Yannick Eckmann (Calgiant/Specialized) surging up in the under23 race-within-a-race. Johnson made the first big move, getting a gap and forcing Berden to chase while his teammates sat on. The catch was made and Driscoll attacked and quickly got a gap. Driscoll held on for the win, his teammate Trebon was second and Berden third.
“I definitely felt good but it ended up being a really tactical race in terms of the long, long straightaways and drafting being in effect. I was fortunately able to make an attack, my teammates were good and rode defensively for me and I was able to get the gap. And once that happens, it's pretty hard for that gap to get closed. Everyone was in the top four of us all had the legs to win it, it was a matter of playing out the tactics.” Driscoll said.
After more rain during the night, the highly saturated ground turned into thick, heavy mud for Sunday's races. Once again, separation at the front came quickly in the women's race. With four laps to go, Krasniak was leading the front group which included Duke, Nash, Miller and Mani. Once again, Nash came to the front and accelerated away with Krasniak holding her wheel for half a lap. With three laps to go, Nash had seven seconds on Krasniak. Duke was in third followed by Miller, Mani and Canadian champion Mical Dyck (Stan's No Tubes) in chase group. With two laps to go, a slight re-shuffle in the top five which held until the finish. Nash took back to back wins, with Krasniak second. Mani was third, Duke fourth and Miller, fifth.
Johnson set the pace early in the first lap of the elite/under23 men's race causing separation behind him. A lead group of 10 riders which included Trebon, Berden, Chris Jones (Rapha-Focus), Todd Wells (Specialized), Eckmann, Craig and Johnson was off the front. After more accelerations, the group was whittled down further. With four laps to go, Johnson, Berden and Trebon were off the front – let the games begin. Behind, Eckmann and Wells were chasing together. Johnson once again attacked forcing Berden to close the gap. More attacks and with one lap to go, Johnson and Trebon were clear of Berden. The teammates hit the pavement together with Johnson taking the win. Berden held on for third, Jones surged up to take fourth ahead of Eckmann.