SUN PRAIRIE, Wisc. (VN) — Katerina Nash (Luna) won the kickoff to the 2011 Exergy U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross on Saturday, leading nearly wire to wire and taking the first series leader’s jersey.
Nicole Duke took the holeshot and the $250 prime for leading the first straight, and was soon joined by Nash, who rode with the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com newcomer for about a half before taking off on her own.
It was drizzling at the start but began to rain steadily as the race progressed, making some of the grassy turns slippery.
Nash had little trouble with conditions — later she recalled one turn that she overcooked, forcing her to take a foot off. Not a bad record for a 45-minute effort.
Behind, Duke had faded back to a chase group that had an ever-changing cast of characters as the race went on, and where several riders struggled with the conditions.
“It got slippy and I got sloppy,” said Sue Butler (Riverside Bicycles), who was part of the chase group but wound up finishing eighth after hitting the deck twice.
Nash’s Luna teammate Georgia Gould kept a low profile in the chase group until two laps to go, when she attacked on the course’s run up and quickly opened a gap. “I figured I could go fast for at least two laps,” she said wryly afterward.
Meredith Miller (Specialized-Giant Strawberry), struck out after Gould and with two to go the podium look settled, but there was still a six-woman race for the fourth spot, revealing a deepening pool of talent in the women’s field.
The chase group included Duke, French champion Caroline Mani, Butler, Canadian mountain bike champion Emily Batty, former collegiate and U23 mountain bike champion Chloe Forsman, and, for a time, Canadian Pepper Harlton.
Butler, Duke and Mani were leading the chase for a bit, but Duke and Mani weakened in the final laps. Butler, who was using dry-condition tires, was struggling in the corners.
Forsman was the revelation of the race, riding past Duke and Mani in the final lap to take fourth in just her second major ‘cross race.
“I had a blast out there,” she told VeloNews. “As the course got slicker I think coming from a mountain bike background helped.”
Nash charges on
Much as she did at CrossVegas a week and a half ago, Nash rode steadily to a solid win. She had time to high-five spectators on the final lap and smiled at the raucous hecklers on the run-up hill, though she declined their offers of free beers and cheese balls.
Gould kicked in high gear to hold off Miller in the last lap, coming in just 17 seconds behind her teammate.
1. Katerina Nash, (USA) Luna Pro Team, at 40:34
2. Georgia Gould, (USA) Luna Pro Team, at 0:17
3. Meredith Miller, (USA) California Giant Cycling, at 0:28