Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
European riders Vincent Baestaens (Spits CX) and Annemarie Worst (777) rode clear of their competitors to take victories in day one of the Rochester Cyclocross on Saturday.
Belgian rider Baestaens built enough of a lead to have a last-lap shoe change before winning his second round of the USCX series in as many weeks.
American cyclocross champion Eric Brunner (Blue Competition Cycles) ran Baestaens close at Virginia last weekend but three crashes ended his hopes on this occasion.
Instead, Curtis White (Cannondale) led the challenge against Baestaens but was second best, despite being handed a way back into the race on the last lap as the Belgian changed his shoe while Caleb Swartz finished third.
Meanwhile Baestaens’ Dutch partner Worst made the trip over from Europe this week and showed no jetlag as she clinched a first win of the season.
She was firmly in control of the women’s race from start to finish with Caroline Mani (Alpha Grove Silverthorne) in second and Austin Killips (Nice Bikes) third.
The Rochester course took place in the Genesee Valley Park which started on a fast grass section, into wooded switchbacks and then the main feature was a steep drop down to the Genesee River followed by a steep run up and some off-camber descents as riders swept up and down.
Worst and Baestaens will return to Rochester again Sunday for day two hoping for a weekend double in the USCX Series.
Baestaens survives late shoe-change
Belgian Baestaens won the opening round of the USCX series last weekend in Virginia when a last-lap attack took him clear of Brunner.
However, away on the asphalt start, Baestaens was swamped on the fast start and pushed down to eighth as the hard ground in the park resulted in dust coming off the surface.
American national champion Brunner was alert to the fast start and seeing his Belgian rival was further back, set a ferocious pace in his stars and stripes kit on the opening section into the woodland.
However, a problem on the technical wooded section resulted in Brunner having to run as others rode, resulting in him losing position, out of the top-10 on the fast course.
After the opening lap, there was little to separate the leading riders who were strung out due to the fast nature of the ground conditions.
White was the first rider to force a split after 13 minutes of racing taking a group of three riders clear including Caleb Swartz (Giant/ENVE) and early protagonist Lance Haidet (L39ION of Los Angeles), while Baestens was in the chasing group behind.
Duanesburg rider White was too strong for his breakaway companions and pulled out a gap alone on the following lap as Baestens joined the chasing duo.
With Brunner also bridging back across to the chasers behind Baestens forced the pressure and went in pursuit of lone leader White.
The pace of the Belgian soon took him clear of the chasers with Swartz following as they bridged across to White with 30 minutes of racing, and as the pace eased Brunner also reached the leaders making a group of four.
Despite having half of the race remaining, Baestaens went straight on the attack and pulled out a gap on the other three riders.
After struggling on the technical section earlier in the race, Brunner went down holding up the chasers, and then hopping the hurdles caught his back wheel and went down, ending his hopes, eventually finishing sixth.
Belgian rider Baestaens was in firm control at the head of proceedings while White started to gap Swartz in the battle for second with three laps remaining.
However, the following lap White had closed the gap to 11 seconds behind Baestaens as the course style allowed the American to keep an eye on the gap.
On the final lap, Baestaens had a fast shoe change keeping his lead but allowing White to claw back within touching distance.
However, the Belgian was too strong for his tiring rival and celebrated victory by 17 seconds ahead of White while 23-year-old Swartz took his first USCX podium in third a further 39 seconds back, celebrating with a wheelie.
“The first two laps I didn’t feel very good,” Baestaens said. “Curtis (White) kept me pushing from the beginning and I kept getting each lap better. At the end I was about 90 percent of my race ability.
“I think the plate from my shoe came loose on the last two laps or a stone or something was in there because I almost slipped out a couple of times which was the reason I changed shoe on the last lap.”
Worst the best in elite women
Worst made the trip over to America after finishing second in the Exact Cross at Kruibeke last weekend.
The 777 CX Team rider looked in control on the opening lap taking a group of three riders clear but coming out of a technical section slid out under the course tape and then lost her footing remounting.
However, the Dutch woman quickly rejoined the leading of seven riders headed by Madigan Munro (Trek Factory Racing CX) to complete the opening lap.
After 16 minutes of racing Worst tested her competitors, taking the front and powering up some short banks which put her rivals on the back foot.
Last season Worst didn’t win until November after coming back from an injury suffered while mountain biking, but she has arrived in 2022 in top-form, quickly pulling out a gap in Rochester.
Colorado rider Mani led the chase behind and was joined by Killips and Raylyn Nuss.
Consistent lap times by Worst kept her gap growing and by the 30-minute mark she had an advantage of 20 seconds on the chasers.
With three laps remaining Mani, who won in Virginia last weekend, put the pressure on her other two chasers.
Nuss had been responding to Mani until a problem on the technical section of the course resulted in her losing time while Killips stayed in contention.
With two laps to go, Mani attacked on a short bank and Killips slid into a course marker giving her rival an advantage.
Taking the ball, Worst was in control sitting 21 seconds ahead of Mani who was seven seconds ahead of Killips in the podium battle.
Worst had time to celebrate her first win of the season with 35-year-old Mani in second, 23 seconds down, increasing her lead in the USCX series, while Killips was third.
“I liked it, it was very different racing from in Europe but I really like it,” Worst said.
“The park is different to the ground in Belgium and the type of racing is different. Some of the girls I know but I didn’t know what to expect and after the trip to America I didn’t know how I’d feel.
“The race went OK. On the technical part I rode away, with a few laps to go I was alone.”