World champion Sven Nys and Katerina Nash won Clif Bar CrossVegas on Wednesday night in Las Vegas. Nash (Luna) attacked halfway through the 40-minute women’s race to ride solo to victory at the Desert Breeze Soccer Complex on the outskirts of the city. Nys (Crelan-Euphony) went alone 30 minutes into the hour-long men’s race to prove his rainbow class under the lights.
Behind Nash, Lea Davison (Specialized) prevented a 1-2 finish for Luna, jumping Catharine Pendrel for second with a long sprint.
“At one point I decided I was going to ride a higher pace and I got away,” said Nash. “I just wanted to push it as hard as I could all the way to the finish and not worry about people behind me.”
With darkness descending on the Nevada desert, Caroline Mani (Raleigh-Clement) jumped out to the holeshot, leading a compact group of roughly 20 riders into a short opening lap around the upper field at the Desert Breeze property. Davison took to the front to start the first long lap across the complex after 90 seconds on the upper circuit around the finish.
Nash wasted no time, however, taking to the front ahead of the barriers and leading Mani and Gabby Day (Rapha-Focus). Elle Anderson (Cal Giant-Specialized) opened the betting at the front of the race, playing her first card with an attack into the winding descent onto the backside of the course. Day and Nash called, leading the chase and reseting the race heading for the finish to close lap No. 1.
The bulk of the pace-making fell to Anderson and Cal Giant teammate Meredith Miller in the early going of the second lap, but Chloe Woodruff (Crankbrothers Race Club) soon took to the front. Day, Nash, and Mani followed the American, pushing the Cal Giant duo back into the group. Day placed a small bet, pushing the pace at the front, but the effort did more to soften legs than split the group. Sixteen riders were together headed for the third lap.
Amy Dombroski (Telenet-Fidea), Mical Dyck (NoTubes), Georgia Gould and Catherine Pendrel (Luna), and Nicole Duke (Duke-Spy) were all there. Nash put in a dig, then Miller, but halfway through lap No. 3, there were no big differences being made at the front. Miller led into the barriers, with Jessica Cutler (Bikesport NW-Jamis) holding up the rear of the group.
Twenty-one minutes into the race, Nash went all-in with a sharp attack and soon had more than 10 seconds.
“A few of us tried to make a little pace,” said Nash. “At one point I decided I was going to ride a higher pace and I got away.”
Davison was the rider to respond, trying to bridge across to the Czech rider.
“You never give up, you never know what’s going to happen, but Katerina just starting inching away,” said Davison. “Katerina started moving up and I thought, ‘this is it.’ I knew she was going to go. I knew I could ride with her, but she was stronger tonight.”
Miller led the chase behind Davison, Day among the five riders able to follow. Soon, Pendrel jumped around Miller, chasing Davison. Fifty meters separated each of the front three riders, with Pendrel eight seconds ahead of Miller and Co.
Davison could only hold pace for so long and, once Pendrel made contact with the American, Nash settled into a 20-second lead. With two laps to go, the gap was almost a half minute. Pendrel played her teammate card, posting up squarely on Davison’s wheel. Behind them, Miller led four riders at a further 10 seconds.
“I knew she wasn’t going to chase. I was chasing Katerina and [Pendrel] bridged to me, and there was no way she was going to chase her own teammate,” said Davison. “Once the gap was established we started battling.”
For Pendrel, who had spent an hour and 40 minutes on a ’cross bike in 2013 before the night’s warm-up, her ability to sit behind Davison and not drop the hammer on Nash was a victory of its own.
“That was the best tactical race I’ve ever done. I was really smart,” she said. “When I knew I wasn’t going to bring Lea up to my teammate, I started playing around and trying to get position.”
That playing around started when Pendrel rode a set of four small stairs with just over one lap remaining, forcing Davison to follow. The Canadian accelerated out of the stairs, briefly distancing Davison, but the Specialized rider drew even with her. Pendrel kept up the pace, however, leading Davison through the finish almost one minute behind Nash.
“She was speeding up [into the stairs] and I thought, ‘yeah, she’s going to ride the stairs. Oh yeah, mountain bike style,’” said Davison.
The race for second was on and Davison and Pendrel rode together across the circuit. Pendrel tried to shake the American, but could not, and Davison jumped into the final, 180-degree corner heading in the finishing straight. Davison held off the former mountain bike world champion for the runner-up spot. It was the second consecutive second-place ride for the Vermonter at CrossVegas.
“Another one for the second year in a row, but I’m psyched,” she said.
Miller led the second chase group through for fourth.
Nys goes 2-for-2 on American soil
In the men’s race, defending CrossVegas champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha) chased Nys across the line for second. Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox) was third.
“All the time, since I started my cyclocross career, it’s still you’re getting nervous for the first race,” said Nys after the finish. “Definitely with the jet lag and everything around this race, I was really nervous. And with this jersey, it’s not so easy, but I’m really proud to win.”
The Belgians wasted no time at the start, with Wout Van Aert (Telenet-Fidea) powering to the holeshot. Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) took over heading out for the first long lap and led into the first trip up the barriers. Yannick Eckman (Cal Giant), Powers, Van Aert, and Ben Berden (Raleigh) fell in behind Johnson with the race strung out through the infield of the complex.
Former world champion Bart Wellens (Telenet) laid down the first face card, putting in a big attack halfway through the first lap. The veteran Belgian quickly took more than five seconds, but Nys led the pursuit. At the close of the first lap, three riders led: Wellens, Nys, and his Crelan teammate Sven Vanthourenhout. But soon it was just one man at the front, an ace card on the table and rainbow stripes adorning his jersey.
Ryan Trebon (Cannondale) jumped out in pursuit of Nys in the second lap. The American clawed his way up to the world champion before the start of the third lap, Telenet leading the chase roughly 20 seconds back.
“What are you going to do, just let him ride away?” said Trebon. “Obviously that guy’s really strong and he’s going for it. I’m going to go for it, too. I’m racing for the win. I’m not racing for second place.”
Nys led the duo through the finish and Vanthourenhout held tight to second in the chase to disrupt Telenet’s pursuit of his teammate.
“It just started fast and got faster,” said Trebon. “I was with him and we were riding really fast laps. Really, he was riding fast laps.”
Trebon went to the front heading into the barriers and dismounted while Nys hopped the boards. The tall American led into the infield and behind them, Powers followed Quinten Hermans (Telenet) off the front of the chase. Behind them, Eckman pulled, keeping Powers within a handful of bike lengths. It wasn’t long, however, before Powers made a jump for it, leaving the chase group behind with 4.5 laps remaining.
“That was definitely unexpected. I thought those guys were bluffing a little bit, so I waited,” said Powers, who expected Telenet to chase Nys. “I had a really hard race to try and close the gap. They were already gone 20 seconds. Even though I closed the gap, I was in the red. I basically effed it up.”
Kabush followed Powers and left the group. Powers rode through the barriers less than 10 seconds behind Nys and Trebon, and an equal amount of time ahead of Eckman and Co. Crossing the backside of the course, the gap to Powers was seven seconds.
Halfway through the race, Nys and Trebon continued to lead, with Powers third, at roughly 10 seconds. The makeup of the race would soon change, however, and Nys attacked as he rode the barriers. Trebon dismounted, lost more than five seconds, and looked back for Powers. With 30 minutes to go, Nys was riding the rainbow stripes straight to the cashier window.
“He’s smart. He’s the world champion,” said Powers. “When I got to five or six seconds, Sven attacked and there was zero chance of closing that today.”
Powers trailed Trebon by seven seconds as they headed toward the finish with three on the lap counter. Kabush was a further 14 seconds back, but well ahead of the Berden-led chase group. The top four spots appeared set with 25 minutes to go.
Nys soon had more than 30 seconds on Trebon, then pushed the gap toward one minute.
Powers drew Trebon back with 2.5 laps remaining and the duo set about trying to hold off Kabush. Trebon led toward the line for two laps to go and Powers went to the front to open the penultimate lap.
“I was blown,” said Powers. “He was blown.”
Back in the chase group, Johnson, Berden, Troy Wells (Clif Bar), and Adam Craig (Giant Off-Road) hung with the Telenet trio.
Soon, Powers was able to leave Trebon behind, empty from the opening 40 minutes. The defending CrossVegas champion charged his way into a comfortable second-place position, but it was all Nys up front.
“When you just get ridden off the wheel and the next guy catches you and you’re super fucked and he just rides you off the wheel, and you’re just like, ‘oh no, come on, man. Legs, just a little more,’” said Trebon, describing Powers leaving him behind. “It’s one thing if someone attacks you and drops you or you make a mistake, but when someone just has more, you’re just like, ‘shit, see ya.’”
The veteran Belgian high-fived fans as he approached the finish on his own, set to make it a perfect mark in the U.S. following his world championships win in Kentucky in February.
“When you are the world champion, you need to have good preparation before this race. It’s not so easy to win it. I was really motivated,” he said. “When you can win in a race like this, first of the season, it’s good promotion for the sport.
“I never lose here. Maybe I’ll come back.”
Kabush caught and dropped Trebon, who was simply trying to make it to the line.
“I knew it was coming,” said Trebon. “I could see him and if he caught me on that last uphill section I didn’t have it. It was just trying to finish at that point.”
Powers pumped his right fist across the line, celebrating second to the world champion. Kabush followed Powers through for third, Trebon fourth.
Neal Rogers, Chris Case, Caley Fretz, and Logan VonBokel contributed to this report.