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Formidable duo Vincent Baestaens (Spits CX) and Annemarie Worst (777) took victories in the men’s and women’s races respectively on a dramatic second day in Rochester at the USACX series.
The pair had shown their speed during day one to ride clear of their opposition for victory, but had to show their skills on a slippery course during day two Sunday.
A change in course layout and heavy rain resulted in treacherous conditions and a race which had a very different feel to Saturday’s opener.
Belgium rider Baestaens pulled out a gap after 15 minutes of racing in the men’s event and despite never being out of sight his consistent effort gave him a fourth victory in as many rounds of the series.
He was chased throughout by Curtis White who had to fend off a last lap challenge by Eric Brunner (Blue Competition Cycles), who was hampered by a last lap crash and had to settle for third.
In the women’s event, Dutch rider Worst showed her form once again running clear of her opposition on the muddy banking and finishing 42 seconds ahead of her nearest rival.
Similar to the men’s race, the battle for the podium places was more intriguing with Madigan Munro (Trek Factory Racing) finishing just six seconds ahead of a fast-finishing Caroline Mani (Alpha Groove Silverthorne).
A talking point in both races was the inclusion of a slippery bank which had riders sliding back down and climbing threw adjacent trees to reach the top.
Both Baestaens and Worst are traveling to Baltimore for the Charm City Cross next weekend.
Bastaens best in the mud
A good start was vital due to slippery course conditions for the men’s race and Curtis White (Steve Tilford Foundation Racing) led the field away.
After the opening loop Lance Haidet (L39ION of Los Angeles) took over the pace-setting as they approached the muddy bank for the first time.
The leaders charged up the bank on the opening lap with apparent ease while behind riders were forced to crawl up the slippery surface.
After 10 minutes of racing a group of five riders developed at the front including Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz Bicycles), Haidet, White, Baestaens, and Eric Brunner.
Five minutes later Baestaens put his power down and pulled out a gap on his rivals with none of the Americans wanting to tow the others across the gap.
Brunner was the first to chase but then paid the price for his effort and was dropped to leave a chasing trio.
White was clearly the strongest of the chasers and went in pursuit of the Belgian alone leaving Haidet and Ortenblad to chase behind.
The race had started in bright sunshine but by the 30-minute marker heavy rain soaked the course.
A problem for White resulted in him losing time on the lone leader and dropping back to the chasing duo.
With three laps remaining a consistent effort by American champion Brunner saw him ride across to the chasing trio 15 seconds behind lone leader Baestaens.
White saw Brunner approaching the podium battle and had enough power to start closing the gap to Baestaens, who was still within sight.
With two laps remaining the Belgian still had a tentative lead of around 15 seconds ahead of White, while the chasers were also within sight.
Brunner was on a charge in the closing stages and went straight past Haidet and Ortenblad before going in pursuit of second placed White.
Coming into the final lap Brunner caught his rival setting up a battle for second, while Haidet also remained in the contest a few seconds back.
A crash on the final half-a-lap for Brunner cost him in the battle for second and White escaped his rival.
Baestaens had time to celebrate another victory finishing 17 seconds ahead of White, while Brunner finished third 28 seconds back.
“These conditions are what I like the most, I can do my technical (riding) very well. This is something that I really love,” Bastaen said Baestaens.
“For my mechanics it’s a little bit worse, and the rest of my family here. Without them, this wouldn’t be possible as we don’t have all the equipment that we have in Belgium. The turns and searching for lines made the difference, I just had a really good day again.”
Worst dominates: ‘It was real cyclocross weather’
After finishing second the previous day, Mani led the charge away off the asphalt onto the muddy grass in the women’s race.
Mani suffered a problem on the starting loop allowing Worst to take the front as her competitors made mistakes in the slippery conditions.
On the first full lap, riders hit the steep muddy bank and competitors were forced onto their hands and knees pulling themselves up the hill.
While Worst quickly made her way up the climb, a host of other leaders were heavily delayed as they tried to drag themselves up the bank, while others climbed through the adjacent trees.
Riders towards the back of the field were seen sliding back down the muddy bank or using the course markers to pull themselves up.
Former professional cyclo-cross rider Jeremy Powers commentating said:
“This is brutal. Riders are completely unable to get any traction on this steep embankment, it’s too slick. This is not how the race should be or proper cross. This needs to be amended. It’s so crazy with so many people sliding backward and completely unable to find anything to pull themselves up.”
At the front, three riders including Worst, Munro, and Sidny McGill (OneBike Racing), who had managed to get up the bank, had gapped the rest of their rivals.
After 19 minutes of racing the running of Worst and the Dutch woman’s power on the muddy surface made an impact as first McGill and then Munro were dropped.
Every rider was suffering in the muddy conditions, including Worst who had a slip and then Munro crashed resulting in her losing more time.
After being distanced on a chaotic opening lap Mani started to pull time back on third-placed McGill and was just nine seconds behind with two laps remaining.
While Worst was comfortable and took her time on the last lap, Mani caught McGill and a crash for Munro allowed her rivals back into contention resulting in a three-way battle for second place.
The experienced Mani took the lead into the muddy switchbacks and then launched a powerful attack searching for second, but Munro matched her competitor as they went side by side in the mud.
Worst celebrated her second win of the weekend finishing 42 seconds ahead of Munro who finished powerfully, while Mani settled for third a further six seconds back.
“It was real cyclocross weather,” said Worst.
“It changed a lot, I did a (practice) lap and it was still OK and then it started raining, everything changed so much and it was really slippery.
“The first lap we came there (to the run up) it was so different. Now we were in a race and it was so slippery to run up. I felt that I could run away from the other girls with three riders and we stayed away.”