The Great Brewers Gran Prix of Cyclocross came down to a duel between two roadies, Laura Van Gilder (C3 Athletes) and Meredith Miller (CalGiant). With two laps to go, the duo was off the front to battle it out with Miller taking the lead, knowing that she had to try and drop sprinter Van Gilder. Easier said than done however. Savvy Van Gilder came around in the final dash to the line and was able to hold it for the win. After a string of bad luck in the race and almost a year battling an illness, Canadian Natasha Elliott (Garneau Club Chaussures) battled her way back up, picking off riders to finish 3rd.
Even though it rained, heavily at time on Friday, clear blue skies, warm temperatures and a dry and dusty course were on offer today. The pace was high immediately with Amy Dombroski (Luna) coming to the front after Andrea Smith (LadiesFirst Racing) took the holeshot.
With bobbles happening behind her, Dombroski got a small gap on the first lap but was caught by the start of the second lap in the 40-minute race. The high pace splintered the field with the lead group shuffling and re-shuffling at the front. Battling out were Dombroski, Van Gilder, Miller, Sally Annis (crossresults.com p/b JRA Cycles), Mo Bruno-Roy (Bob’s Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles) and Elliott. Then Elliott had a mechanical and dropped back, followed by Bruno-Roy who also faded back. Behind them, a trio of solo chasers, Wendy Simms back to racing after the birth of her child, Smith and Kaitie Antonneau (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com).
The front group kept on hitting each other, taking turns at the front until Miller decided she had had enough and she just put the pedal down. Only Van Gilder was able to stick to her wheel and the two were off. With a lap and half to go, the pair had 3 seconds on Annis with Dombroski fading back. At the same time, Elliott was moving up, making her way around the riders and chasing hard.
With one lap to go, Miller was still pushing the pace at the front with Van Gilder tucked in on her wheel. The game of tactics was on but Miller could not afford to lift her foot off the gas with Elliott, now in third spot, surging up. As the pair made their way through the sand pit back up through the barriers and back down to the water front, it was still Miller at the front. Then as the pair made its way back up to the final section, Van Gilder made her move, came around Miller and held it to the finish.
Antonneau finished 6th and won the U23 race.
We get to do it again on Sunday, on a modified course. The other change is that Dombroski has decided to skip the race to rest.
Laura Van Gilder (C3 Athletes Serving Athletes). “It was very tactical. I have not been with this group for any longer than half a lap in two seasons so I really felt that I just needed to bide my time. I didn’t know what they were going to throw at me and I didn’t know if I could hang on. Amy was riding really strong and then Meredith and Mo were both fighting me for the position and I was able to hold third wheel. Meredith put in a couple of good digs. They were a couple of fumbles by the second wheel generally in these turns here, and that often helped me to advance. I’m not certain if that’s what happened to Amy or not, she was riding a really great technical race but I just kept following the front wheel and honestly I really just had to bide my time, I wasn’t certain what I was capable of but every dig that Meredith put in I was able to hold on to and I thought ‘if I can do this until the end’.”
About her strategy. “There was a little bit of wind today and I wanted to absolutely make the most of everything. Meredith has stepped up her game so much that I knew I couldn’t make a single mistake and I had to use everything I could to stay with her and then maybe beat her. So I just thought ‘I’m going to use that card, I have to do it’, and she was going to use every card she could to get rid of me. I’m thrilled, I’ve been waiting a long time to just be fighting it out with these girls so I was very happy to do so today. Great course, great venue and I’m thrilled to have that bug glass of beer.” (laughs).
About the final lap. “Certainly this was quite technical coming into the barriers and then if you got too confident in this section down here before you came up, you could wipe out and lose it. I felt that if I could get ahead of her, I could take it at my pace and really punch it over the top which is my strength. I felt okay if I was going to come from behind her but really that was were I wanted to make my move and despite it being a far distance from the finish, I felt confident with that. You plan where you’re going to make your move but sometimes you just have to go a gut feeling. She gained a little distance on the barriers because of her nice long legs and I surged back and I decided to keep the momentum rather than wait for later and I think sometimes you have to do that.”
Meredith Miller (California Giant/Specialized). “I definitely made a few mistakes. My goal was to actually stay with Amy because she’s been riding strong and I had a few bobbles and had to catch back up a couple of times. Then, right after the sand section I finally caught back up, got to the front, came out of the sand and I was like ‘alright I need to do something here’. Put the hammer down and split. Laura was on my wheel and I knew that they were pretty close behind us and I didn’t want to do the cat and mouse thing because it was going to be hard enough sprinting against her, I didn’t want the rest to catch us and be a four, five person sprint. So I sat on the front and was just hoping that I could hold her off to not come around me for the last bit, but it didn’t work.”
About her plan for the race. “There were riders out here that I hadn’t seen yet since Vegas or Madison so I wasn’t quite sure how everybody was riding. What I wanted to do the first lap or two was follow wheels because I knew some of the technical sections, I didn’t feel real confident in some of the off-camber turns so I just wanted to see what lines everybody else was taking and then after that once I got a little more comfortable, I was like ‘okay now I want to start to split things up a little bit’.”
About what she would do differently. “Not let Laura come around me in the end (laughs). Just be a little bit cognizant of where she is, I should have looked back and maybe see if she was on the inside or the outside, to know how I should go through that turn. I’m still learning too, and my teammate [Jesse Anthony] was just giving me different things to think about, instead of playing the cat and mouse thing it was more just playing the corners, the turns a little bit more differently. Some things to think about for tomorrow.”
Natasha Elliott (Garneau Club Chaussure Ogilvy). “I think I have the opposite syndrome from last year. Last year I used to always lead the race in the first lap and then blow sky high. Now this year I’m just picking people off as I go. I just think because I haven’t raced for a year, and have a hard time with the initial start. Today it wasn’t really a start per say, it was downhill and I just got lazy I think, I think that’s all it is (laughs). Maybe a little bit more warm up. ”
About her chase. “I actually got to the group and then I rolled a tubular and then I was back in like fifteenth maybe. I grabbed my other bike and just started riding through people. That was halfway through the race, two laps in. ”
Top 10 Results (Complete Results)
1. Laura Van Gilder (C3 Athletes Serving Athletes) 0:45:01
2. Meredith Miller (California Giant/Specialized) 0:45:03
3. Natasha Elliott (Garneau Club Chaussure Ogilvy) 0:45:21
4. Wendy Simms 0:45:39
5. Amy Dombroski (Luna Pro Team) 0:45:45
6. Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) 0:45:46
7. Andrea Smith (LadiesFirst Racing) 0:46:02
8. Sally Annis (crossresults.com p/b JRA Cycles) 0:46:16
9. Crystal Anthony (LadiesFirst Racing) 0:46:21
10. Sara Bresnick-Zocchi (crossresults.com/Pedalpowercoaching.com) 0:46:22