Katie Compton (Planet Bike) got the broom ready on Saturday in Middletown, Ohio, riding away from the field for her second solo win of the three-day Cincinnati UCI3 Cyclocross Festival.
Compton took off on the second lap of the Java Johnny’s-Lionhearts race at Sunset Park to go two for two after winning Friday’s Panther Cyclo-Stampede.
Laura Van Gilder (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes) came around Sue Butler (Hudz-Subaru) in the run-in to a set of two sharp, 15-foot climbs 500 meters from the finish and opened her sprint first to steal second.
The Sunset Park course could not have been more different than the Stampede track. A block of pavement led riders onto the constantly winding grass of the park and there were never more than 10 seconds of continuous terrain. Riders fought to keep rhythm through multiple sections of tight 180-degree turns and two sand switchbacks. Two extremely steep, 15-foot grassy ramps carried riders onto the 150-meter paved finish straight.
Butler pulls, Compton pulls away
Once again Butler took the hole shot up the 5 percent paved opener and led a strung-out group onto the grass. As she did Friday, Compton stayed in the wheels for the first lap, which was actually a half lap due to the start location. There, too, were Van Gilder and teammate Deidre Winfield, Maureen Bruno-Roy (Bob’s Red Mill) and Kaitlyn Antonneau (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com). Antonneau fought hard to stay on the back of the train, but when the leaders came through the start a handful of minutes later, Compton lit the fuse and the young rider was gone.
“Sue was pulling so I figured it was the perfect time to attack,” said Compton.
Butler dug to match Compton but could not, and lost 15 seconds over 500 meters of winding grass and dirt corners into the first sand pit. Van Gilder, the veteran roadie in her third year of elite ’cross racing, clung to the World Cup-bound Oregonian. The pair rode away from Bruno-Roy after a second early crash in as many days, and Antonneau led Winfield in pursuit of the top four.
As she did Friday — and at Sunset a year ago — Compton ground out a gap over the third and fourth laps that surpassed 45 seconds halfway through the five-lap affair. Building for next week’s World Cup opener, Compton looked collected, her stone face focused 15 feet ahead, as she floored the accelerator at every chance.
“I just wanted to ride smoother and faster through the turns and I had to get to the front to do that,” Compton said. “They were chasing pretty good and at some point I knew they were probably going to crack and I just needed to keep on the pace.”
Couldn’t shake her
Behind her, Butler led the stubborn Van Gilder lap after lap, the short, powerful criterium specialist pinned tightly on her rear wheel. “I felt pretty good on her wheel,” Van Gilder said. “I respect her strength and I wasn’t going to put myself out there really early.”
Bruno-Roy turned herself inside out, gasping for breath, her shoulders swaying with every pedal stroke. Last year’s top points earner in the season-long U.S. standings, she came within eight seconds of Van Gilder’s wheel, but blew with two laps remaining.
When Butler pulled onto the start hill near the end of the penultimate lap, she took a pull from the bottle she carried on her frame and looked back for her companion to pull through. Van Gilder wasn’t biting.
“I sat up, took a drink, to see if she’d go around me, but nothing,” said Butler, who put in dig after dig in the few sections of course consistent enough to up the pace. “There was just no way to shake her. There’s not a lot of real estate to make a challenge.”
As they had most of the day, the chasers crossed paths with Compton near the top of the hill, the leader pushing a solid gear along a small ridge lining the north side of the park.
“You’ve got to really pay attention. It’s a lot of turns to keep track of and even a couple times I went to turn and went, ‘Oh, wait, it’s straight here and turn the next,’” said Compton, who focused on keeping balanced as the corners loosened over the course of the race. “The corners were kind of breaking down and changing each lap, so they were getting more slippery.”
Compton kept her balance, bobbling only once in the extremely loose, off-camber right-hander that tripped up a number of riders. Her stars-and-stripes skinsuit fully zipped, Compton pumped her right fist in the air five-and-a-half laps into the contest and posted up for the win, her fourth in a row at Java Johnny’s.
“I don’t know what it is, I just really like this course,” Compton said of one her favorite tracks of the year before looking a day ahead. “I just want to make sure tomorrow’s a good day — no mechanicals, don’t make stupid mistakes — and it’s a good day to win. It’s really good money and it’s the day everybody is gunning for.”
Van Gilder burst around Butler in the 20-meter straightaway coming out of the final sand pit and led her partner onto the two grass ramps. When the top road sprinter led into the final corner onto the pavement, she opened the throttle and gapped Butler immediately. Resigned to third, Butler came through the finish five seconds after the Mid-Atlantic Championship series leader.
“I was working hard to stay with her … I’m going to ride to my strengths,” Van Gilder said. “I thought that if I could just go with her bursts, no one’s going to take me at the line. They have to get rid of me and today I showed I could ride technically with Sue.”
Butler was frustrated at the finish, but the upbeat Pacific Northwester shrugged the result
“I let her pass because I didn’t want to lead her out, but she’s a better sprinter. I should have been in front and tried to run her out of real estate,” said Butler, admitting her gaffe in the finale. “It was good racing. She’s smart, she’s strong, and that’s racing.”
Bruno-Roy fought through the closing lap and held off the gaining pair of Winfield and Antonneau for fourth.
Sunday is the main event at the festival, with UCI C1 points and cash on the line. The race is one of the richest of the season for American women, paying out $4,373 to the top three women and men. Harbin Park and its monster climbs is the site of the finale in Fairfield, Ohio.
- 1. Katherine Compton, Planet Bike
- 2. Laura Van Gilder, C3-Athletes Serving Athletes
- 3. Susan Butler, Hudz Subaru
- 4. Maureen Bruno Roy, MM Racing p/b Seven Cycles
- 5. Deidre Winfield, C3-Athletes Serving Athletes