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USGP of Cyclocross #6 - Portland Cup - C2
Portland, Oregon, USA, December 7, 2008
Race 3 - December 7: Elite Women
Nash masters muddy finale
By Laura Weislo in Portland, Oregon
Katerina Nash dominated the women's US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross finale in Portland, taking back to back wins on the weekend. And while Saturday's duel was a tactical battle with her teammate Georgia Gould against Rachel Lloyd (California Giant Berry), heavy rains turned the race into a test of survival skills on Sunday.
Nash hit the gas on the first lap and never eased up once, forcing her teammate Georgia Gould into the position of chaser for the entire race. "I wasn't planning on attacking on the first lap, I just happened to be on the front of the field.
"With the course being pretty challenging, you don't want to be stuck behind somebody who goes down because then you might wind up on the ground too. So it's better to be up front picking your own line, and that's what I tried to do," Nash explained.
Despite a couple of minor falls, Nash held a lead of up to 10 seconds throughout the 40-minute contest, and strode into the finish line covered head to toe in mud to bring home her first series title in the USGP. "I had a couple of crashes today - one in front of a whole lot of spectators - it was one of those moments. But I tried to recover quickly and get back on the bike and focus on the course."
Nash's victory in the USGP series came at Gould's expense, who held a slim advantage at the start of the day. Facing a four-point deficit, Nash was aware that she would have to win the race to take the series title. "I knew what I needed to do to win, but when you look at the points we're pretty much tied, so I think we both won today," said the talented Czech rider.
Gould held on for second in the race and the series overall, while home town favourite Sue Butler (Monavie Cannondale) took home the first UCI podium performance of her career - a result which drew an exuberant reaction from the large crowds that braved the pouring rain to watch the races.
"It was really fun - I felt like I was the only one racing because I only heard my own name," Butler enthused. "I guess today was my day - everything came together. I kept the rubber side down, and I kind of relaxed and decided I'd go for it. It worked out well."
Butler matched the best riders in the country on the first lap, but eventually had to settle into her own pace to maintain the podium spot. "They [Nash and Gould] started pouring it on and attacking me, and I couldn't stay with it. But I get a little stronger every year - I'm fairly new at this. I keep learning, too; learning that you have to be there at the beginning, and while you might drop back over the next couple of laps at least you made the selection."
How it unfolded
Dark clouds rolled in before the start of the women's race and dumped volumes of water onto the already swampy course. The course, churned up by earlier races, became a slippery morass which required riders to bring out their best technical skills and make smart equipment choices as every little mistake could easily balloon into an unrecoverable deficit.
Sue Butler brought the crowd to attention by taking the hole shot while Wendy Simms (Kona) showed she was keen to improve upon Saturday's fifth place result. Simms led from the first run-up through the sinuous and rolling moto-cross section before being passed by Nash heading into the barriers.
Butler hung tough in third, then passed Simms to follow Nash through the most technical part of the course - a muddy, root-laden S-curve on the side of a hill. Butler was the only rider to navigate the section on the bike, much to the delight of the hundreds of gathered fans.
Gould fought back from a slow start into fourth position and made contact with the three leaders but then had a bobble on the curve that set her back. As Nash forced the pace at the front, Gould began slowly picking off riders - first Simms and then Butler - but could never quite make up the few seconds she needed to catch Nash.
"I kind of got stuck behind a couple of people, then the first lap Wendy and Katerina got off and I was just chasing the whole time," Gould said. "The gap kind of stretched out, then I pulled it back. It was challenging. I felt like we were riding the same speed all the time but there was this gap that wouldn't go away."
Gould managed to negotiate the course without any major incident. "There were a couple times I had to put a foot down, but I never crashed. I didn't make it up that one little S-turn on the first lap, and that let the gap get a little bigger to the first three. It wasn't that exciting - the gap just stayed the same."
As Butler faded from view behind and Nash dangled tantalisingly close ahead, Gould maintained her focus on the race and kept pushing through to the end. "I tried my best on the last part of the race - you never know, if she [Nash] crashed it was a small enough gap that I could have caught and passed her."
Butler's podium finish appeared to be solid, as she had opened up a large lead on Simms, but the Portland native had one moment of concern. "I had a little moment on the rollers when my shifting stuck and I couldn't pedal, but I just told myself to relax, and gradually got it going again, then I went through a puddle and it stopped - it worked out."
The day's most aggressive rider award went to the home town hero, Butler, but the rider who possibly had to work the hardest for her result was the previous day's third-place finisher, Lloyd, who rode into fourth place after an abysmal first lap. "I slipped a pedal right at the start and kind of screwed myself. I had to chase from the beginning, and that was a bummer because when you get spread out on a course like this you just stay there," Lloyd said.
She worked her way through the traffic, picking off riders slowly but surely until she overtook Simms for fourth place on the final lap. "I've been working on my finish speed, so I felt strong at the end, but I was just tired. I went hard yesterday, and I think I used up that extra bit that I needed."
Through her consistent strong results, Lloyd earned the third place overall in the USGP series behind Nash and Gould.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Mitch Clinton/www.clintonphoto.com
Images by Tim Gasperak/www.gasperak.com
1 Katerina Nash (Cze) Luna Women'S Mtb Team 43.50 2 Georgia Gould (USA) Luna 0.08 3 Susan Butler (USA) Monaviecannondale.Com 1.18 4 Rachel Lloyd (USA) California Giant Berry Farms 2.06 5 Wendy Simms (Can) Kona 2.22 6 Kelli Emmett (USA) Giant Bicycles 3.00 7 Maureen Bruno Roy (USA) Mm Racing P/B Seven Cycles 3.08 8 Amy Dombroski (USA) Webcor/Alto Velo 3.42 9 Meredith Miller (USA) California Giant Berry Farms 4.20 10 Josie Jacques-Maynes Beggs (USA) California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized 4.50 11 Wendy Williams (USA) River City Bicycle Team 5.04 12 Emily Van Meter (USA) River City Bicycle Team 5.18 13 Pepper Harlton (Can) Juventus Cycling Club 5.21 14 Rhonda Mazza (USA) Team S&M/Sellwood Cycle Repair 5.57 15 Barbara Howe (USA) Velo Bella 7.01 16 Kristi Berg (USA) Redline Bicycles 7.33 17 Coryn Rivera (USA) Kahala Lagrange 7.35 18 Jadine Riley (GBr) Team Group Health 8.16 19 Joele Guynup (USA) Island Racing Club P/B Robert Cameron Law 8.45 20 Kari Studley (USA) Velo Bella - Kona 10.10 21 Shannon Gibson (USA) Velo Bella - Kona 10.29 22 Maria Stewart (USA) Velo Bella - Kona 11.56 Behind one lap 23 Marne Smiley (USA) 24 Shannon Holden (USA) Velo Bello 25 Joanna Mensher (USA) Gentle Lovers Behind two laps 26 Lianna Miller (USA) Spike 27 Angela Mysliwiec (USA) Avanti/Ti Cycles Racing Team DNF Alice Pennington (USA) DNS Dawn Anderson (Can) Oak Bay Bikes/Everti DNS Sarah Kerlin (USA) Velo Bella - Kona DNS Jennifer Gaertner (USA) Team Bobs-Bicycles.Com DNS Heather Gundersen (USA) Veloshop USGP Final standings 1 Katerina Nash (Cze) Luna