Finally, it was a long time coming for Sue Butler (River City Bicycles) who after multiple podiums claimed her first victory of the cross season on the first day of 2012 at the Chicago Cyclocross Cup New Year’s Resolution. And she didn’t pick an easy day to do it by any means, with blustery winds, temperatures hovering around freezing, some snow flurries and thick and heavy mud.
The conditions were so bad that Butler debated about starting the race.
“It’s been a rough season and I wanted to win one. Before I debated racing or not because I don’t have bikes coming in and I don’t want to have to fix my bikes before next weekend. And I knew there was going to be a lot of running and that’s definitely not my forte and I didn’t think it was going to add to my fitness so I was like ‘should I do this?’.” she explained.
But the answer was simple. “I love racing, I’m going to race.”
And race she did, giving what Saturday’s winner and second place Sally Annis (crossresults.com JRAcycles) a “clinic”.
Butler took the holeshot but couldn’t stay at the front in the first lap. “Nothing went wrong, just my body, it was so hard for me to warm up in this weather after standing around waiting for the start. It just took time to warm up and then kept going.”
That opened the door to Annis who came to the front quickly causing a separation and then she put the hammer down at the start of the second lap.
“The first lap, everyone was going along in the mud and I just tried to say steady. Put myself in the front and just trying to stay smooth and steady. Had the gap and man I was having issues, I couldn’t get clipped in, I dropped my chain, I was just having mechanical issues, my bike wasn’t working so great so I had to pit, my wheels were like 50 pounds. It was like ‘hey hang on and ride the best you can’.” said Annis.
Only one rider, Crystal Anthony (LadiesFirst Racing) was able to keep up after clawing her way back up to Annis in the thick heavy mud which was sticking to everything and causing problems to both bikes and riders.
“It was all in the deep mud and I guess I had a good line through there, I made up some time, I was feeling good.” said Anthony who admits to being disappointed with her race on Saturday.
But Annis applied the pressure once again and was able to drop Anthony while behind Butler was surging up, using the course to her advantage.
“I definitely handled the course well and I was smarter, I ran things that were faster to run than ride even though I prefer to ride them.” laughed Butler who is well known for her dislike of running. “People were getting off in places that I was able to power through.”
Butler caught and passed Anthony who was having problems with her bike.
“Halfway through the race I felt that my bike was alright and I didn’t pit but pretty soon after that my wheel didn’t move. I heard the announcers say Crystal should pit. ‘oh, I should pit’.” Anthony laughed. Pit she did but she couldn’t catch up to the riders ahead and had to watch out for the strong chase group behind her of Nicole Thiemann (Team CF), Arley Kemmerer (C3 Athletes) and Andrea Smith (LadiesFirst Racing).
“They are all strong riders so I had to put the gas on. Once I got a new bike, it was like night and day. I focused on riding clean, you don’t want to try to do too much and then go down.” explained Anthony who held on for third.
Meanwhile ahead, Butler had Annis in her sights, catching her and ultimately passing her just after the pit at the end of the penultimate lap.
“She passed and it was like I had a cowbell and was standing still.” said Annis. “She was riding in a different gear and rode an awesome race. I was just trying to literally hang on, my legs were cramping in the last lap, just one of those days, just hang on and do the best you can.”
With a strong headwind on the finish straight, Butler debated about taking the front. “I didn’t really want to go around Sally on that last lap, but I was like I better go and I did and it paid off.”
All in all, Butler agreed that it was experience and wisdom that won the day. “This race is not a fitness race, it was just hard and cold.” she concluded with a laugh.
Top 10 Results
1.Susan Butler (River City Bicycles/Ridley)
2.Sally Annis (crossresults.com p/b JRA Cycles)
3.Crystal Anthony (LadiesFirst Racing)
4.Nicole Thiemann (Team CF-Elite)
5.Arley Kemmerer (Charm City Cycling)
6.Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers)
7.Andrea Smith (LadiesFirst Racing)
8.Elle Anderson (LadiesFirst Racing)
9.Kelly Fisher-Goodwin (KCCX Fuji Elite Cyclocross Team p/b Challenge Tires)
10.Emily Shields (SmartStop / Mock Orange Bikes p/b Ridley)