(June 30, 2014) -- Todd Wells (Durango, Colo./Specialized Factory Racing) and Katerina Nash (CZE/Luna Pro Team) won the final round of the USA Cycling US Cup Pro Series presented by Sho-Air Cycling Group Pro Series in Colorado Springs, Colo., on June 28. In the final series standings, Geoff Kabush (CAN/Scott-3Rox) and Nash won the USA Cycling US Cup Pro Series title belts.
Katerina Nash, Catherine Pendrel and Emily Batty ride in the US Cup Pro Series finale in Colorado Springs. (photo by Casey B. Gibson)
The Elite women started off for seven laps of the high-altitude course around the spectacular Pulpit Rock Open Space near the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) with Pikes Peak serving as a backdrop. The start was a predictable sight, with Luna Pro Team’s Catharine Pendrel (CAN) and Nash leading the large field up the first climb. However, it would be Mexico’s Daniel Campuzano (Mexico National Team) first down the hill after the tricky mid-course tight climb and it’s tricky descent. Campuzano had crashed while training earlier in the week and sported some nice road rash, but rode a tough, gutsy race throughout the day.
After stringing a lead group of 15 into the back section on city land, where Nash and Georgia Gould (Fort Collins, Colo./Luna Pro Team) forced a selection that only Emily Batty (CAN/Trek Factory Racing) could close down. Gould slalomed into the lead just outside of the start/finish area, while a chasing Pendrel fought back to rejoin near the hairpin turn toward the first passage of the finish line. Erin Huck (Boulder, Colo./Tokyo Joe’s) briefly chased onto this elite group only to drop off the pace on the second descent. She would spend the rest of the race in no-woman’s-land, fighting the wind, heat and altitude alone.
Gould would attack hard on lap two, only to pay for the effort by dropping back on lap four. By the fifth lap, a regrouping took place to give Luna a three-to-one advantage over Batty. At this point, Gould pushed hard again to gain a sizeable lead. On the next lap, Nash attacked hard, possibly sensing Gould slowing, but certainly knowing that Batty couldn’t follow her. Her attack was so fierce that she clipped a fence, momentarily bobbling before regaining speed in pursuit of teammate Gould. Nash would catch and then clear past her teammate to take the win ahead of Gould, Batty and Pendrel.
Behind, Huck pushed hard to hold off a late challenge for the final podium spot from Campuzano, while Backcountry.com teammates Evelyn Dong (Salt Lake City, Utah) and Chloe Woodruff (Prescott, Ariz.) joined forces to pace home in seventh and eighth place, respectively.
The overall women's podium of the US Cup Series (l to r): Evelyn Dong, Emily Batty, Katerina Nash, Catherine Pendrel, Georgia Gould. (photo by Casey B. Gibson)
The women’s overall standings for the USA Cycling US Cup Pro Series didn’t change at all in the final round other than point totals, with Nash (137 points) staying in the lead ahead of teammate Pendrel (117 points), with Batty (107 points) spoiling the Luna Pro Team’s party ahead of Georgia Gould (97 points). Backcountry.com’s Evelyn Dong (80 points) confirmed her breakout performance with a fine fifth overall.
“We obviously have the numbers and were riding super strong and you have to be respectful of your teammates," said Nash. "It was pretty clear that Emily (Batty) wasn’t going to be able to chase so at one point I felt I had enough in the tank to get away from Emily and Kathy (Pendrel). Georgia did a great job and I barely got to her in the end, so a great day for the team. The overall win is kind of emotional for me. I’ve raced for a really, really long time and it’s the very first time I’ve won an overall cross country series. I’m excited that the series came back the way it used to look. After all these years, it’s kind of humbling to come back and have an awesome series with a great payout and to hopefully do my job to inspire young racers.”
“The course was really hard, it was a really tactical race," Gould added. "People would go hard at the start and it would come back together on the flatter faster parts. I’ve had an on-and-off year and don’t have the confidence I was hoping for. I just wanted to make it a good hard race and prepare for the national championships that are coming up.”
Nash's win also gives her a 400-point lead over Pendrel (1200 to 800) in the Pro XCT women's standings with two events remaining on the calendar. A third-place finish in Colorado Springs moved Batty up to third in the standings with 675 points and knocked Dong (665) down to fourth. Gould re-entered the top five with 625 total points. A second-place showing in Missoula vaulted Evelyn Dong (Salt Lake City, Utah/Backcountry.com) from fifth place to third place in the standings with 545 points.
US Cup Pro Series overall podium (l to r): Jeremiah Bishop, Max Plaxton, Geoff Kabush, Todd Wells, Derek Zandstra. (photo by Casey B. Gibson)
After a fast start, it was Colombian Colorado Springs local Hector Fernando Rivero who emerged first out of the tricky climb and bomb the downhill, followed by another local in Russel Finsterwald (Colorado Springs, Colo./SRAM-Troy Lee Design), Keegan Swenson (Park City, Utah/Cannondale Factory Racing) and Max Plaxton (CAN/Cannondale Factory Racing), and Wells. These five were quickly joined by another five to form a 10-man lead group that would stay together for most of the first lap.
Swenson, Finsterwald and Raphael Gagne (CAN/Rocky Mountain Factory Racing) then got a gap, with Plaxton, series leader Kabush and Mitchell Hoke (Boulder, Colo./The Pro’s Closet-Stan’s) bringing up the chase group. Plaxton would be first to make contact until Wells took the lead to force the pace on lap two.
The surprise of the early moves was that series leader Kabush had missed out on the lead group in the early laps.
On lap three, Wells and Finsterwald pressed on to gain a lead and were subsequently joined by Plaxton and Gagne, all riders who either live at altitude or were recently at altitude in preparation for the Colorado Springs finale. The next time through, the two again forced a move, with Plaxton finally forced to chase it down. Plaxton had to this point been content to stay just off the third wheel, but when the move went, he was forced to come around fellow Canadian Gagne to pull it back.
Russell Finsterwald rides in the US Cup Pro Series finale in Colorado Springs. (photo by Casey B. Gibson)
Finally, Wells attacked hard on a false flat to go off alone. At the start of last lap, Wells flew through the start/finish in his best aero position with a minute lead. Plaxton and Finsterwald were left to chase in vain, as Wells showed no signs of tiring.
With the Specialized riders clearly out front and headed toward the victory, Kabush seemed to have found another gear, steadily working his way up to give the calculators and spreadsheets a rest. The Canadian clawed his way past rider after rider to eventually take second with a sprint to the line with Gagne. Plaxton would finish in fourth, making it a very Canadian podium with riders in second, third and fourth. Filling out the day’s podium was Finsterwald who rode a gutsy race.
The day’s result would be the final standing of the top two overall, with Kabush (121 points) taking the overall win of the USA Cycling US Cup Pro Series, just 12 points in front of Wells (109 points). Plaxton took third (92 points), Zandstra fourth (69 points) and Jeremiah Bishop (Harrisonburg, Va./Sho-Air Cannondale) rounded out the podium in fifth (62 points).
“I felt pretty steady but not super so I was being conservative for a few laps but by the middle of the race I felt stronger and stronger," said Kabush. "I was surprised the gap got out to over a minute but I knew I could keep those guys in sight and I’d be ok. I’m really excited for my Scott 3-Rox Racing Team to take home the belt for this first US Cup. It’s great to see the excitement building for cross-country racing here in the U.S. and I’m also excited to take home this title. It’s definitely great to take home a big check as well, so big thanks to Scott Tedro for putting all of this together.”
I got a small separation on the fourth or fifth lap and I was hoping Finsty (Finsterwald) would come back but I think it took a bit too much out of him," Wells commented. "I knew Kabush needed to finish 11th or worse and he doesn’t finish 11th on even his worst day.”
“I had high ambitions here as this course is only 30 minutes from my house," added Finsterwald. "The goal was just to be at the front and push it hard to put pressure on everyone. Todd hit it super hard and I just had nothing in the tank to go with him."
The top four of the men's Pro XCT standings remained unchanged following the battle in Colorado Springs. Wells remains on top with 900 points, followed by Kabush (815), Plaxton (665) and Derek Zandstra (CAN/3-Rox Racing) with 560 points. The only newcomer to the top five is Gagne who takes over the fifth spot in the standings with 420 points.
Team The Luna Pro Team strengthened its grip on the top spot in the Pro XCT team standings with a strong showing in Colorado Springs that brought the team's total to 2050 points. Specialized Racing is in second place in the standings with 1240 points, followed by Trek Factory Racing with 1125 and Sho-Air/Cannondale with 749 points. SRAM/TLD Racing holds the fifth-place spot in the team standings with 402 points.