Georgia Gould (Luna) turned the tables Sunday in Broomfield, Colorado, grabbing the hole shot and riding to a solid solo victory in the Boulder Cup in Broomfield, Colorado.
Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) also rode alone to the finish, but the national cyclocross champion left his race-winning attack for later in the game, jumping mountain-bike champ Todd Wells (Specialized with four laps to go in the sixth round of the North American Cyclocross Trophy Series (NACT).
The new Boulder Cup course at the FlatIron Crossing Mall was more challenging than many riders expected. Long grass lay down to make a number of off-camber corners and straightaways extremely slick. Two would-be run-ups turned into sharp, rideable climbs, much to the chagrin of the promoters. Four downhill switchbacks over the slick grass at the center of the course tripped up a number of riders in both races before the steep, 50-foot ramp to the finish.
“There wasn’t sand or gravel, but the combination of the dry ground with the grass on top was like ice,” said Johnson. “Some of those off-camber sections it was sketchy just to stay upright.”
After doubting the technicality of the course earlier this week, Planet Bike’s Katie Compton — who would abandon on Sunday after hitting the deck in a series of slick downhill switchbacks on the third lap — called the track a pleasant surprise despite leaving the race battered after her second crash in as many days.
Gould goes, Compton crumbles
Gould, missing the cat ears and whiskers she wore last Halloween, jumped to the hole shot. She led Wendy Simms, Devon Haskell and Compton, the winner of Saturday’s Colorado Cross Classic, onto the grass for the first time and gapped her competitors on a tight uphill and off-camber 180-degree switchback that was slick with long grass.
The chasers pulled Gould in when she crashed in a shallow ditch leading into the pit two minutes into the race. She remounted and tagged onto the group and in a replay of Saturday’s race, Compton, Gould and Duke emerged as the three leaders midway through the opening lap.
“I just completely stuffed it there,” said Gould. “It was just like a funny thing — ‘Whoa, that’s a really pro move.’”
The Planet Bike and Luna riders dueled on the steep, 50-foot run-up leading to the finish of the first circuit, gapping Duke. When the leaders left the pavement again they had 10 seconds on the Hudz-Subaru chaser and the two-up battle was on.
“Georgia was riding much better than I was today,” said Compton. “She was putting me under pressure in the technical sections.”
Compton, who was concerned before the start about the aftereffects of Saturday’s hard crash, led Gould onto a 200-meter, 6-degree grass climb on the second lap. But in a reversal of the day before, it was Gould who attacked and put her rival into danger.
“I didn’t feel like I was riding much better than yesterday,” said Gould. “I didn’t want to go too hard too early and blow myself up. It’s such a hard course.”
When the pair arrived to the finish run-up for the second time Compton appeared to be struggling on her feet. A lap later Gould arrived to the run-up with a gap of 1:15 after her Planet Bike rival crashed in the slick grass downhill switchback at the center of the course.
“I was just being too conservative because I was worried about crashing,” said Compton.
Compton walked the run, her head down, and it was clear her race was over. She abandoned at the start-finish. Back at her car, Compton grimaced as she cleaned her new wounds, which lay over her abrasions from the day before, and debated whether to see the medic.
“I’m pretty sure (Georgia) would have beaten me anyway, she was just flying,” said Compton. “I just hate having to pull out.”
Both Millers, who rode through Duke on the second lap, passed Compton running and set out in a long pursuit of Gould. Amanda Miller (Hudz-Subaru) rolled away from Meredith Miller (Cal Giant-Specialized) on the backside of the course, and the latter grimaced as she crept up the run with Duke 10 seconds back.
She and Duke battled for two laps until Meredith Miller attacked on the long grass climb on the far end of the course, knowing she needed to avoid being dropped by the former downhill and dual slalom champ on the technical descent. When she got a gap, Meredith Miller put her head down and played it conservatively.
“I knew that I needed to put a good gap into her so that she wouldn’t catch me and drop me again,” she said. “I got a big enough gap that I could make a little mistake and she wouldn’t catch me.”
She made contact with the younger Miller soon after, and when Amanda Miller touched down she took advantage, riding into second with a half lap remaining.
“I crashed and couldn’t get my chain back on,” said the Hudz-Subaru rider. “I must have just taken them too fast — I hadn’t crashed any other laps.”
Duke, the surprise of the weekend, also passed Amanda Miller and landed on the podium for the second day in a row.
Gould’s solo ride was demonstrative; she led at one point by 90 seconds — a lifetime in ’cross.
“I just rode my own race,” said Gould. “I just tried to ride hard the whole time and it worked out well … I don’t know if I had the mojo corner riding today or what.”
Nearly an early end for Summerhill, Johnson
The men got off to a sketchy start when Danny Summerhill (Holowesko Partners) tried to move up the right side of the road 250 meters into the opening 400 meters of pavement and another rider squeezed him into the barriers.
“I got pushed into the barriers,” said Summerhill. “I got my knee on it and I’m amazed I didn’t crash.”
Johnson, who was on the young rider’s wheel, thought his race was about to end before it began. Fortunately, Summerhill kept his bike upright and the group rode onto the grass together for the first time.
“It scared the crap out of me,” said Johnson. “I was just hopeful they wouldn’t go ballistic at the front and I might have a chance to catch up and it worked out.”
On the opening lap, it was Wells, Summerhill and Jeremy Powers (Cannondale) who jumped away from the field. Johnson, teammate Jamey Driscoll and Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) held tight in a five-rider chase group, the Cannondale riders unwilling to hunt down their teammate at the front of the race.
National champ closes the gap in the air
Crowds were three deep on the steep ramp leading to the finish straight. A full-sized barrier and a 10cm barrier sat at the base of the climb to take riders off their bikes, but the elite men would have none of it. Wells led Powers and Summerhill in the air over the barriers at the base of the would-be finish run-up for the third time. Five seconds back Johnson jumped away from the chase group and made contact with the leaders soon after.
“It’s always tough,” said Johnson. “You can never assume a race is going to go a certain way and I was hoping I would still have a chance to catch on, and once I did, it was up to me to try and win.”
Three minutes later, Johnson attacked the group in the pit before the long, low-angle grass climb on the far end of the course, and Powers fell off the pace when he struck a sprinkler head and flatted. Troy Wells (Clif Bar) and Driscoll rode through Powers as Wells drilled the pace on the front.
“I shredded the sidewall right off,” said Powers. “To try and close that back down, at altitude, just wasn’t going to happen.”
Summerhill, the U23 national champion, was on pace for a huge result, but flatted a lap later at the hand of the same sprinkler that took down Powers. The mishap happened for both riders at the farthest point on the course from the pits and a long, slow ride in landed them outside the top 10.
“I was so bummed,” said Summerhill. “I was just hoping people knew why I was sucking so bad all of a sudden.”
At the front of the race, Driscoll caught the two leaders, but when Johnson and Wells hopped onto the run-up in front of huge, costumed crowds, they rode away into a two-man dogfight.
“I don’t have the snap, so I can’t really ride other people’s races,” said Driscoll.
A champions’ duel
Wells led Johnson for three laps, the national ’cross champion glued tightly to the national cross-country mountain bike champ’s rear wheel through the technical descents and the long power sections.
“He wasn’t going to pull because Driscoll was coming up,” said Wells. “It was either neither one of us was going to pull and there would be three of us and they would just one-two me or I could just pull and try to keep Driscoll off and maybe Timmy J makes a mistake or something, but that didn’t happen.”
Just when it appeared the race would come down to the final ramp to the finish, Johnson attacked atop the ramp with four laps to go. He took a 20-second lead through the start/finish and aced the slick, downhill switchbacks at the heart of the course to push his gap to a half-minute.
“I took a chance to attack him as soon as we got onto the pavement and got a little bit of a gap,” said Johnson. “I felt like I was pretty equal through a lot of the technical stuff, so I thought once I was able to get a little bit of a gap I would be able to hold it. I went early enough so that if I had to attack him again later I’d still have time.”
“I couldn’t respond,” said Wells, who had spent more than five laps on the front. “I was pretty tired at that point.”
It was almost for naught when Johnson, who dismounted and ran the finish ramp to save his tight back after dispatching Wells, dropped his chain atop the run on the penultimate lap. Johnson reached over his red-white-and-blue top tube to reload the chain, losing 15 seconds of his lead. The steely veteran felt panic set in with his delay.
“I lost a huge part of my gap and really had to hit the gas,” said Johnson. “Todd’s no slouch. You never want to give him a second reason or a second wind to catch up.”
Wells jumps away from Driscoll
Behind the leader, Driscoll made ground on Wells, with Kabush locked into fourth after losing at least 10 places in the melee when Summerhill clipped the barrier early. When they came through for the bell, Driscoll and Wells were together, despite the former overshooting a tight, uphill switchback and tagging a course marker on the penultimate lap.
Knowing his rival would hop the barriers and escape to the finish, Driscoll upped the pace multiple times, but he has struggled with sharp accelerations this season and could not drop Wells.
“It would have been nice to really punch it into (the barriers) so that I’d have a little bit of a gap and the difference of running wouldn’t have been as big,” said Driscoll. “But I didn’t really have much gas left.”
For his part, Wells was content to sit on Driscoll’s wheel until he could attack at the barriers heading to the finish.
“When he caught me and I saw him running it, I was so happy,” said Wells. Sure enough, the Specialized rider opened the throttle at the base of the climb, flew over the yellow TRP blockades and left Driscoll to ride in for third.
Kabush rolled in for fourth to continue a streak of close podium calls this fall.
“It’s a little bit annoying to get fourth,” said Kabush. “Gaps opened up there in the first lap and I was seeing stars there in the end, pushing pretty hard trying to close them.”
- 1. Tim Johnson, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com, 1:00:47
- 2. Todd Wells, Specialized, 1:01:11
- 3. Jamey Driscoll, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com, 1:01:15
- 4. Geoff Kabush, Maxxis-Rocky Mountain, 1:01:48
- 5. Adam Craig, Giant, 1:02:05