PARK CITY, Utah (VN) — Riders took to Deer Valley resort for some early-season cyclocross racing at the Raleigh Midsummer’s Night cyclocross event on Thursday. Elite amateurs lined up in pursuit of a team for this season.
In the small elite women’s race, Caroline Mani (Raleigh-Clement) took the early lead, being the only one to clear the off-camber section just after the start, and opened up an initial gap with Amanda Carey (Stan’s No Tubes) chasing and Erica Zaveta (Redline) sitting in third. With over half the race to go, Carey joined with Mani sitting on her wheel. Carey proceeded to do most of the work.
Beth Orton (Team S&M), the first rider in pursuit of the Raleigh-Clement contract, sat in fourth, with Rebecca Gross (Tough Girl-Scott) chasing 20-plus seconds back after having a rough start.
“I dropped my chain on the first lap and knew I had to let some people by to get it back. I stayed positive and kept thinking, ‘I can get her, I can get her,’” Gross told VeloNews.
With one lap to go, Gross had closed the gap to Orton and the race for the Raleigh contract was just getting started. Gross attacked on the climb with just over a half lap to go and held that gap to the finish.
At the front, Mani distanced herself inside the final half lap and rolled across the finish line solo to win. Carey and Zaveta rounded out the podium in second and third.
“I am not believing it [the possibility of signing a Raleigh-Clement contract] yet,” Gross said. “I had hoped to do better overall, but am very happy.”
In the men’s race, Jonathan Page (Fuji), Ben Berden, and Allen Krughoff (Raleigh-Clement) formed the early group. Carl Decker (Giant) and Justin Lindine settled into a group behind, with Decker riding a full-suspension, 27.5” mountain bike.
In seventh and eighth place, teammates Jared Nieters and Jake Sitler (SEAVS-Haymarket) were battling for the pro contracts.
With seven laps to go, Decker was riding many of the obstacles — including the short staircases, which allowed him to make up considerable time on the leaders. He leapfrogged Krughoff, who had fallen off the pace set by Page and Berden.
Seeing that Decker was closing in, Page attacked Berden and Decker rode past Berden to join Page. With less than two laps remaining, Decker attacked Page on the stairs, riding the two consecutive sets and rode that gap to the finish, soloing across the finish for the victory.
“With this bike I was able to take lines that no one else could,” Decker said. “Even though I can’t surge at this altitude, I didn’t have to get off my bike as often, which is good because I hate walking.”
Page was less comical and shrugged off the last few laps when Decker rode away. “He could ride everything, and I had to get off my bike two more times than he did,” Page said. “And these descents were good with some fat tires.”
The course was incredibly bumpy with plenty of loose rocks. It was no surprise to see a mountain bike do so well.
Jared Nieters held on to finish as the first amateur seeking that pro contract. “I want to race against these guys all year, so I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring early,” Nieters said.
On Friday, it was announced that Nieters and Gross were awarded roster spots on the Raleigh squad. Each will receive Raleigh’s top-of-the-line cyclocross bike, the RXC Pro Disc, a backup frameset, two team kits, and $1,500 to be used for entry fees and travel. The total sponsorship package for each rider is $10,950.
The other athletes on the team are Mani, Berden, Krughoff, and Craig Etheridge.
“Last season the team had some great results and went head to head with the worlds best cross racers, coming out on top,” said Donn Kellogg, team director of Raleigh-Clement. “I’m excited to what these athletes have in store for the coming season and excited to Welcome Rebecca and Jared to the team.”