SUN PRAIRIE, Wisc. (VN) — Katerina Nash (Luna) made it look easy on a course than was anything but on Sunday during round two of the Planet Bike Cup.
The second race in the 2011 U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross series’ first weekend looked nothing like Saturday’s opener. The sun was out by the time the women took the course, but heavy rain earlier left the 1.5-mile course a quagmire and the riders were inching around it in hopes of keeping the rubber side down.
Lap times were dramatically slower than on day one — as in three or four minutes slower — and the women would complete only four laps on Sunday.
French champion Caroline Mani — who is racing in the U.S. while completing a business internship at SRAM headquarters in Chicago — grabbed the holeshot prime, charging off the pavement at the end of the start-finish straight. It would be the last time she and her bike would be clean as she turned onto the soggy grass.
The first turn was less profitable for Canadian mountain bike star Emily Batty, who went down in the turn with local Alyssa Severn. Both remounted but never got back into contention.
Nash and teammate Georgia Gould grabbed the lead early on and the pair rode together most of the first lap, until Gould slid out on a tricky off-camber downhill turn just after the course’s run-up section. Gould floundered a bit — somehow one foot wound up inside her frame’s triangle — and then Nash was gone for good.
“I really enjoy racing in these conditions,” Nash said afterward. “The mud is cool. I focused on improving my lines through the sections. I didn’t make any huge mistakes but I made plenty of little ones. I can always improve,” she said.
Next time up the run Gould had fallen nearly a half-minute behind Nash, and she would get no closer. Mo Bruno-Roy (Bob’s Red Mill-Seven Cycles), who always seems to come to the fore when it gets muddy, was closing in on third placed Nicole Duke (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com), legging it strongly up the hill.
The third time around Nash was long gone, headed toward her second consecutive win of the weekend. Gould, likewise, was solidly in second.
Only third remained up in the air as Bruno Roy closed to within three seconds of Duke. But Duke, a former downhill racer, is no slouch in the muck, and held her own. When Bruno Roy made a mistake coming into the barriers on the last lap, Duke’s gap expanded and she grabbed the final spot on the podium.
Mani, coming back from an injury that kept her away from racing for eight months, was fifth. She said she had bag legs and was fatigued from not having much team support in the U.S.
“I love racing in America, the people are friendly and they love cyclocross,” she said. “I’d like to find a team and stay here.”
1. Katerina Nash, Luna, 40:15
2. Georgia Gould, Luna, at 0:56
3. Nicole Duke, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com, at 1:55
4. Maureen Bruno Roy, Bob’s Red Mill-Seven Cycles, at 2:09