BEND, Oregon (VN) — Katerina Nash (Luna) rode away from Nicole Duke (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) to take day one of the Deschutes Brewery Cup on Saturday in Bend, Oregon.
The Bend weekend marks the finale to the 2011 Exergy U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross.
It wasn’t the kind of course fans have come to expect from Bend in December— the 1.9-mile course was dry, dusty, rocky and windswept, with a staircase run, a flyover and a double barrier section leading out of a left-hand U-turn.
But it was a fast, furious race, and if Nash was the strongest woman out there, second place was up for grabs … until a broken derailleur hanger broke Duke’s heart.
Nash, Duke battle early
The race was almost instantly a two-woman battle. Andrea Smith (LadiesFirst) exploded off the line and after the usually fast-starting Duke missed her pedal twice, she took the Shorty Ultimate holeshot.
It wouldn’t last for long, however, as Duke dove inside on the first, left-hand corner and took control. She rode to an eight-second advantage almost immediately and halfway into the opening lap, Nash and she were already alone on the front.
Next time through the start-finish Nash was alone, with Duke 10 bike lengths back and chasing on the wind-whipped course.
But Duke fought back up to the series leader on the backside of the circuit, and behind the two leaders Teal Stetson-Lee (Giant Berry-Specialized) took sole position of third.
Nash took a digger and Duke took the lead, but the Luna rider — covered in the black, dusty sand that marked every rider to hit the deck — was unruffled.
“I stuffed it in the dustiest place out there,” Nash said. “It took a little bit to put myself together again. It wasn’t a big deal. But at that point she was really close, and she was suddenly in the lead, and it was just like, ‘I have to fight again, it’s not a done deal.’”
Stetson-Lee closing in
With three laps to go the two leaders were still together with Stetson-Lee chasing solo in third and teammate Meredith Miller trying to ride up to her. But after a speed check on a short, technical dirt mound peeled Duke off the wheel, Nash was on her own once again. A minute later, Stetson-Lee and Duke were together at the barriers.
“I caught her and was on her wheel, and then I passed her, ’cause she was getting a little sloppy on one section that I was a little smoother on,” said Stetson-Lee. “And so then I pulled her around for probably about a lap and a half and kind of winded myself.”
Next time through the start-finish Nash had a 15-second gap over Duke and Stetson-Lee, and she held tightly to it over the flyover.
Going into the bell lap, Nash was alone and clearly en route to victory, but Stetson-Lee and Duke were about to have company — Miller was closing in, which spelled trouble for the Cannondale rider.
Duke takes a digger
But the Giant Berry-Specialized teammates wouldn’t get a chance to try to work Duke over. One of the best bike handlers in the women’s sport, Duke washed out on a slick, off-camber, downhill corner that led from the pavement to the infield of the venue. She was off the bike and running toward the finish with a broken derailleur hanger, the race rolling away from her.
“I just slid out in the corner right after the pavement,” Duke said. “And I went to get back on and my derailleur had broken off. The hanger had broken in half. So I was like, ‘OK,’ and I started running.
“It was so incredibly heartbreaking, because I felt really good, I felt really strong – I felt like I deserved second place.”
After Nash sailed across the line, high-fiving spectators, Miller and Stetson-Lee rolled in to take second and third. Stetson-Lee had hoped to hold off her senior teammate in the finale, but Miller, a former U.S. road champion, revved up her powerful diesel engine to pull the runner-up slot.
Miller said she was “just kind of struggling a little bit today. I didn’t feel on top of my A-game.”
“But hey, I took second, so it turned out OK,” she added.
Stetson-Lee, meanwhile, said the finale “would’ve been a battle royale if Nicole hadn’t gone down in that final corner over there.”
As for Nash, she was clearly pleased with her win, not having raced since Louisville, and as she talked about her day-one win she was already looking forward to day two.
“It’s my first race since Louisville, and in the ’cross you can tell the difference. I definitely wasn’t as quick getting in and out of the pedals,” she said. “I needed to put in a good block of training so I’m pleased with the win today.”
And on Sunday?
“I’ll just give it my best tomorrow,” she said.
So will Duke, who said she’s had “a weird second half” to her season, thanks to illness and mechanicals, and needs a podium.
“I feel like I haven’t been racing at all, so I was really nervous about how I was going to do,” she said. “So that’s the one positive thing that I’m taking away from this — that I know that I’m fit, and that I can race well. So I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Online editor at large Patrick O’Grady contributed to this report.
- 1. Katerina Nash (CZE), Luna Pro Team, 43:36
- 2. Meredith Miller (USA), California Giant Cycling, at 0:19
- 3. Teal Stetson-Lee (USA), California Giant Berry Farms/specialized, s.t.
- 4. Julie Krasniak (FRA), Rapha-Focus, at 0:53
- 5. Susan Butler (USA), Hudz Subaru, at 1:05