On a glorious day in Northampton MA, with blue skies and warm temperatures, both Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven/NoTubes) and Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) soloed to victory at the 19th annual Cycle-Smart International, making it back-to-back wins for McConneloug. The oldest UCI cross race in the United States also marked the tenth round of the Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series (NECCS).
In what as become tradition, much of the course was reversed today delivering an off-camber runup which most rode up, a steep descent into a raised track crossing causing many riders to curse when hitting their front wheel hard after getting some air. (See lots more photos in the gallery)
Not bad for an ‘old’ woman. Once again, a fast start was the name of the game again in the Elite Women race. It only took the so-called parade lap, which was anything but, to shatter the field, as McConneloug, Natasha Elliott (Garneau Club Chaussure), Laura Van Gilder (C3/Athletes), series leader Maureen Bruno-Roy (MM Racing) and Andrea Smith (Minuteman Road Club) rode away on the runup on the first lap.
“Going out front and getting any seconds that you can and for me there are so many turns to this course, I knew that if I could set up and ride them fast, I was not going to lose time and I was going to pull away.” said McConneloug. “I only got a few seconds but it was enough that I could ride my own pace out in front.”
Soon, Bruno-Roy fell behind and there were four off the front. McConneloug used the technical sections of the course to her advantage to power away from the lead group.
One spot that she had identified was the one and only runup where she did get a few seconds. “There was a couple of sections that I really liked and were sort of technical, that steep climb, I knew that if I could go into it just smooth, just be super smooth and quick up that, I had my lines dialed in the woods up top. I think that I was probably riding those a little faster, taking the inside bumpy rooty lines.”
Van Gilder had also identified the sections to focus on. “I felt a lot more confident for the start, I really was going to make an effort and I had some key places in the course. I really felt that if I could get to the sand clean and to the hill in a top position that I could contest the race, those were the key spots. I made it through both of those clean and I was really happy with that. ”
The chase group dwindled down to only two riders when Smith fell behind to eventually ride with Bruno-Roy, Rebecca Wellons (Team Plan C) and Sara Bresnick-Zocchi (Pedalpowercoaching.com/ Landrys Bicycles).
Mountain biker McConneloug used three areas on the course to keep roadies Elliott and Van Gilder from closing down the gap which held at 10 seconds for most of the race.
“On that hill, in the forest, and in the sandpit.” said McConneloug. “Those were the three sections where I felt that I could just drill it, time trial on the flats because those girls are road racers, they’re super powerful and they were together, tucked in out of the wind, maybe working together so if I could get to those three technical sections and ride them fast and without mistakes that I could maybe hold them off.”
“If feels great,” said McConneloug about her back-to-back wins. “I’m just so psyched to be able to do this. My sponsors, Kenda Tires, Seven Cycles and No Tubes, all our product sponsors are just so supportive. And to have Mike be here to get my bike just perfectly running, there are so many things that go into being fast that I’m just so grateful to be able to pull it all together.” The 38-year old added with a laugh. “And being one of the oldest women on the circuit.”
Battle for second. Behind her, the battle was on between Elliott and Van Gilder, each bringing different skills. Elliott was trying to force Van Gilder held on, planning her move in the final lap.
“It seemed like Natasha got frustrated with me, and I’m like ‘I’m working. If you think you can take a section faster, then by all means, go ahead’. And then she would get in front of me, and I was thinking we need to go faster here. Obviously we had different strength sets and we just weren’t able to bring it back. At some point, I thought ‘I’m not going to do all the work so you can attack me at the end’, she knows my strengths, I know hers. I pulled through at one point, and I thought okay that’s enough, I’m going to just be cautious and make sure I have everything for the final three-quarters of a lap.” said Van Gilder.
While Van Gilder is a formidable sprinter on the road, she didn’t want to leave it to the sprint finish.
“In cyclocross, every mistake can cost you.” said Van Gilder. “You can get over-confident and slide out. Natasha is no slouch as a sprinter, last season here at this very event, we contested the sprint pretty closely together so I always take my competition very seriously. I figured if I could just get little gaps, coming out of the sandpit then I could probably hold it.”
It went to plan, as Van Gilder powered away from Elliott in the sandpit on the final lap to take second place.
Roadie course? It was repeated time and time again during the race that the design of the course called for a roadie to win the race. Van Gilder co
“Alan said ‘oh this is a great course, these are roadie courses’, and I said ‘well yes, they are but they are still cross courses. There are still a lot of corners, a lot of technique. Maybe if you could straighten it out a little bit, I could do better’.” said Van Gilder. “So I don’t think you can say that because it’s a more roadie-type course, a roadie is going to win. Mary has proven week after week that she is super fast, and I really respect that and I’m glad to be getting a little bit closer to her.”
Bruno-Roy kept the lead in the series with 19 points on Elliott with two weekends to go, in Sterling MA on Nov 28, and the series finale in Warwick RI on Dec 5.
The Driscoll show. All eyes were on Driscoll who was riding solo as his teammate and yesterday’s winner Jeremy Powers was doing a charity ride to raise helmet awareness. While not known for his fast start, Driscoll “was motivated by the crash that I heard about yesterday, I wanted to really avoid that. Getting a good start just builds on itself, getting the confidence from it, that’s more than half the battle.”
Good thing he did, as another crash marred the beginning of the Elite men’s race, this time just 25 meters into the race, on the pavement. The crash took down nearly half the field with most riders avoiding injury except for Nick Keough (Champion Systems) who was holding his arm/shoulder as he walked to the ambulance. The severity of his injury was still unknown by the end of the race.
On the first lap Driscoll, who won the $200 first lap prime, was joined by series leader Dan Timmerman (Richard Sachs/RGM/Radix) and race promoter Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart) at the front. The trio took an early lead but soon there would be only two, as bad luck struck Myerson when he flatted far from the pit and fell back to finish fourteenth.
Timmerman and Driscoll continued to drill it at the front on the second lap until Timmerman made a mistake and it became the Driscoll show.
“I came into this corner just way too hot, hit the pedal, jumped the bike out sideways and rolled a tire, it was totally all my fault. Oh well.” said Timmerman who lost many positions as he went into the pit.
After fixing his mechanical, Timmerman started to charge up, picking off riders trying to make his way back to the front. He would eventually make it back to seventh place.
“I was making some ground. It was actually kind of fun,” laughed Timmerman, “Just like fighting back, of course I would have liked to not have the mishap and fighting for the win but you know, it happens.”
The chase is on. Behind Driscoll a chase group was formed which included U23 Cross Champion Nick Weighall (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized), Derrick St John (Garneau Club Chaussure Ogilvy), Justin Lindine (BikeReg.com/Joe’s Garage/IF) and Josh Dillon and William Dugan both from Richard Sachs-RGM Watches-Radix team.
“We have Dan in the series lead so we kind of sat tight for a little bit and see what would happen.” said Dillon. “Then Weighall took off, Will gave me a good pull to try and get it back. He set me up at that point once it seemed that Dan wasn’t coming back.”
With three laps to go, Weighall attacked the chase group with only St-John going with him.
“My tactic is always the same, to stay in front, because I’m kind of powerful but sloppy so I just stay in front and then just try to cause lots of chaos. I worked with Nick, we worked pretty good. I made a couple of mistakes and he took advantage of it, pretty hard to catch.” said St-John.
Weighall took advantage of the St-John bobbles to continue to chase solo. Suddenly, Driscoll’s win didn’t seem so sure as Weighall quickly shaved 10 seconds off the gap. He had Driscoll in his sights.
“I totally thought I could catch him, he was right there. Everytime a little closer, a little closer.” said Weighall. ” could see him looking over his shoulders and I was looking over my shoulder also. It definitely got a lot closer on that last lap so I was happy with that.”
“He was given me a scare because he got, he closed that 10 seconds down really fast.” said Driscoll about Weighall.
With less than two laps to go, the gap was down to 10 seconds. Driscoll continued at the front, mouth open, working to keep Weighall away. Weighall finished second with St. John third.
Driscoll picked up his fist victory since Cross Vegas to go with seemingly countless podiums, often finishing behind his teammates.
“It’s good to do that.” said Driscoll about his win. “Maybe I’ll be able to beat my teammates, those seem to be my biggest opponents so far this year.”
Timmerman still has a solid lead in the NECCS series, with two more weekends to go.
From the back to ninth spot. Starting in the back of the field, Adam Craig (Giant MTB Team) was caught up in the crash at the start.
“Somebody evidently had never ridden a bicycle before …. really unimpressed. We were 20 meters from the start line, at least wait until we hit the curb to crash.” said Craig. “I got up and grabbed somebody else’s bike and then I grabbed my bike which had a flat tire and a broke shifter. I rode it to the pit, grabbed this thing (bike B), rode around and tried to catch people.”
Craig put om some fast laps as he moved up, picking off riders one by one. “Got some exercise, it’s a nice day for a bike ride. Stuff happens, it’s just good reinforcement of the fact that I should have done a race or two earlier this year so I’d have UCI ranking right now.”
After taking a break following his mountain bike season, the Olympian is feeling the heat for not competing in and getting points in the earlier UCI cross races. “It’s just dangerous to start these races in the cheap seats, a bunc of dudes back there that don’t care about crashing while going 30 on the pavement and that stuff will really hurt you. It’s really dangerous, everybody needs to relax for just a second. ”
Craig’s focus is the Cross National Championships in December. “Racing myself into shape trying to be good for Nationals is what I’m trying to do. These guys have been racing a lot this year and they are racing really well, but I feel that a few of us have the ability to ride with the cyclocross boys. Hopefully if we’re just coming up as they are rolling along, we’ll be good for Nationals. ”
Elite Women Top 10
1. Mary McConneloug (KENDA-Seven-NoTubes )
2. Laura Van Gilder (C3 Athletes Serving Athletes )
3. Natasha Elliott (Garneau Club Chaussure Ogilvy )
4. Andrea Smith (Minuteman Road Club )
5. Rebecca Wellons (Team Plan C )
6. Sara Bresnick-Zocchi (Pedalpowercoaching.com/ Landrys Bicycles )
7. Maureen Bruno Roy (MM Racing )
8. Ann D’Ambruoso (Minuteman Road Club )
9. Sally Annis (Hub Racing )
10. Anna Barensfeld (Minuteman Road Club )
Elite Men Top 10
1. Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale/CycloCrossWorlds.com )
2. Nicholas Weighall (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized )
3. Derrick St John (Garneau Club Chaussure Ogilvy )
4. Josh Dillon (RICHARD SACHS – RGM WATCHES – RADIX )
5. Justin Lindine (BikeReg.com / Joe’s Garage / IF )
6. William Dugan (RICHARD SACHS – RGM WATCHES – RADIX )
7. Dan Timmerman (RICHARD SACHS – RGM WATCHES – RADIX )
8. Luke Keough (Team Champion System )
9. Adam Craig (Giant MTB Team )
10. Jerome Townsend (BikeReg.com / Joe’s Garage / IF )
Complete results here