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For the first time in what feels like ages, bright and sunny skies were overhead for UCI cross racing in New England. Racers came in force to the 21st annual Cycle-Smart International at Look Park in Northampton, Massachusetts. This race, one of the four jewels in the crown of the Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series, has a reputation for rewarding racers willing to lean hard on the gas and trust their bikes through long series of fast and tight corners. Today’s elite races developed in dramatically different ways, but the winners of both were deserving and played their hands extremely well.
While Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom p/b C3) came into today’s race wearing the Shimano Series leader’s jersey, the odds-on favorite for victory was multiple World Cup-winner and current Czech national champion Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team). In town to lead a clinic for amateur women through the Boston Luna Chix, Nash put on a clinic during the women’s race as well, powering away from the field early on and maintaining for an emphatic victory. Nash’s focus this season had been largely in Europe, but she took the opportunity to come out to the oldest UCI race in North America as well as help coach the next generation of cyclocross stars.
Behind Nash, there was a dogfight between Van Gilder, Sally Annis (crossresults.com p/b JRA Cycles) and Andrea Smith (LadiestFirst Racing) for the rest of the podium. “We knew it was in all of our best interest to work together to bring Nash back,” said Laura Van Gilder after the race, “Sally was going really, really well and Smith and I were both working hard.” Nash, despite having a strong lead, was well aware of what was happening behind. “It’s never easy,” said Nash post-race. “The women on the front here are very fast. I know not to let up even when I had a gap.”
The separation came as Van Gilder made a dig on the steep ride-up on the final lap. Under pressure to match the acceleration, Smith bobbled, taking down Annis and giving Van Gilder the space she had been fighting for. Back together coming into the final barriers, only a couple minutes from the end of the race, Smith bobbled once again, this time on the remount. A deft move by Annis kept her upright as she rode over Smith’s bike. Annis didn’t look back and crossed the line third, only a few seconds behind Van Gilder, whose progress had been slowed by a flat tire just before the pit. Smith cruised in alone for fourth.
The Elite Men hit the course flying with Dylan McNicholas (cyclocrossworld.com) taking the holeshot ahead of Adam Myerson (SmartStop/MOB p/b Ridley). Early on, a lead group of five established themselves with McNicholas, Myerson, Luke Keough (Champino System p/b Keough Cyclocross) and Philadelphia Cyclocross School teammates, Lukas Winterberg and Eric Brungger, both from Switzerland. Behind these five, it took a long time for a selection to be made, with the group numbering near ten at times with Shimano Series leader Justin Lindine (bikereg.com/Joe’s Garage) driving the pace.
As the racers saw five laps to go, the front group had trimmed itself to three – Winterberg, Keough and McNicholas with Dylan doing the lion’s share of the pacemaking. “I was fine being at the front. I saw how big the group behind was and I don’t like racing with a large group,” said McNicholas after the race. From behind, the attacks were coming alternating between Lindine, Jerome Townsend (SmartStop/MOB p/b Ridley) and Jeremy Durrin (JAM Fund/NCC). While Lindine and Townsend were both brought back into the fold, Durrin’s attack came with three laps to go and he was able to gain a significant gap.
At the front, the trio battled hard for position into the final, as all three rode flawless races. Winterberg put in a hard attack with about 500 meters to go, which set the stage for Luke Keough to counter and hit the pavement first, holding off McNicholas for his third career victory at the Cycle-Smart International. “I’m never nervous coming into the finish with a group,” said the victory after the race, “I don’t like riding alone at the front, but I’m always confident when it comes to a sprint.”
Behind the podium of Keough, McNicholas and Winterberg came the hard-charging Durrin for his best ever UCI finish. Fifth place went to Townsend who narrowly bested the series leader, Justin Lindine.