The third year of the Gateway Cross Cup, part of the Cross After Dark Series, saw a date change and a second day of racing added to its new weekend position. Moved from the early season midweek slot of the previous years, the race brought a bigger field than years past and the bone dry conditions led to racing that was heavy on tactics.
Both the men’s and the women’s field on Saturday night had big groups together through the opening laps as the blistering fast and relatively non technical course forced racers to choose their efforts wisely and race as much with their heads as their legs.
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In the women’s race, a large group together through the opening lap was broken up by a surge from early season dominator, Elle Anderson (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized). When Anderson accelerated, Nicole Duke (Marin/Spy Optics) said “I knew at some point she’d take off and unfortunately at that point, I was behind Amanda Miller so Elle was able to gap us. I finally came around and tried to catch her, but I felt like I was maybe going to put too much out there so I was waiting for her to come back a bit.”
As Duke was reeling Anderson in, the Cal Giant rider flatted and was forced to pit, opening the door for the chase group that also contained Miller and Courtenay McFadden (Cycling Northwest). Once Anderson was gapped, the leading trio worked to keep her at bay, trying to do as much as possible to hold the gap while still conserving a bit for the sprint. A bobble in one the final corners led Duke to give a bit of space to Miller and she used her powerful road sprint to hold the advantage for the win.
For the first two laps of the men’s race, nearly the entire field was stuck together, wheel to wheel in what looked more like a road race than a cross. The ultra fast course didn’t provide many opportunities for big attacks, but a group of ten eventually peeled clear of the head of the race and stormed through the third and fourth laps, snaking through the course. Through the middle of the race, the elastic began to stretch to a quartet of Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement), Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus), Cody Kaiser (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) and Troy Wells (Clif Bar). Berden, the 2012 Gateway Cross Cup winner, had slowly ground his way to the front from midfield and worked comfortably with his younger rivals. Their gap to the chase grew steadily and eventually, Kaiser was dropped to fight it out by himself in no man’s land, the gap to the leaders around eight seconds for the rest of the race. In the front group,
Berden commented, “Troy Wells was really strong and pulled a lot, but I knew I had something left. The guys up front probably thought I would wait for the finish, but I did a surprise attack with one half lap to go. I have a fast sprint so I didn’t need to attack, but if you can drop them with one to go, it’s more secure.”
After Berden left his breakaway companions, McDonald came in for second with Troy Wells taking the third step of the podium. Cody Kaiser hung on for fourth.
The Gateway Cross Cup concludes Sunday with another day of UCI racing for men and women and a full day of racing in St. Louis’s Heman Park.
Complete results at usacycling.org