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Unphased by bitter cold, Kristen Peterson gets first elite cyclocross win at Boulder Rez

December 9, 2013

Kristin Weber narrowly secures overall Cyclo-X series victory

Cyclo-X Boulder Reservoir women's elite podium (l - r) Karen Hogan 2nd, Kristen Peterson 1st, Kristal Boni 3rd

Cyclo-X Boulder Reservoir women’s elite podium (l – r) Karen Hogan 2nd, Kristen Peterson 1st, Kristal Boni 3rd

Call it nutty at least. Super-skinny women lined up for a bike race on a gray morning when even bunny rabbits hunkered down in their dens.

To ward off frostbite in the three degree Fahrenheit weather they wore goggles, face masks, two layers of leg coverings and winter jackets, many unidentifiable except for their helmets, logoed outerwear, and the pitch of their voices.

Except for a few like Evol Foods’ Kristen Peterson. She wore two base layers and a skinsuit with tights. The only thing she did out of the ordinary for extra heat at Saturday’s Cyclo-X Boulder Reservoir event was to slip hand warmers inside her gloves.

Later she guessed she might run a little hotter than most of the others in the elite/open race. Possibly the empty course before Peterson acted as another log on the fire – that and a shot at her first elite category cyclocross win. She hustled after that prize from the moment the race ref signaled “Go,” capturing the holeshot and laying down tracks on snow ahead of the rest of the field.

Kristen Peterson en route to her first elite cyclocross win

Kristen Peterson en route to her first elite cyclocross win

One by one she peeled away the laps that stood between her and victory. She crossed the finish line first, somewhat stunned by her accomplishment, although two weeks prior she’d earned a second place in Westminster.

The ladies leading the Cyclo-X series had all shown up for the double points awarded at the series’ final test: Judy Freeman (Crankbrothers Race Club), winner of the last four Cyclo-X races, Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport), series leader coming into Saturday and recent Schoolyard Cross winner at the same venue, and several others who are always a threat such as Karen Hogan (Team Kappius), Kristal Boni (Rapid Racing), and Melissa Barker (GS Boulder / Studio 1 Dental).

Weber, twice just one step away from becoming a cyclocross world champion, arrived feeling like the underdog. Freeman’s string of wins in the series and recent domination of elite ‘cross races on the Front Range made her a favorite to win at the reservoir or place high enough to claim the series overall.

But a crash in front of Freeman early on left her extracting a foot from another rider’s spokes and subsequently near the back of the field. That “little twist of luck” as Weber called it, together with her strong performance in the chase group behind Peterson, helped the Boulder Cycle Sport lady take the series overall by just half a point over Freeman.

At the finish line Peterson lingered to share thoughts on her win. “It’s great. Surprising, but I’ll take it. I love it. Racing out here is always fun and I think everybody was dreading this race a little bit just because of the cold, but I don’t know. It was fun and it’s always great to have the girls out here racing no matter what the temperature.”

Race action

The field started off the line on pavement covered with patches of packed snow. Peterson led the way into an almost immediate left-hand turn.

“I got the hole shot which was great, which I was kind of surprised at. I think everybody was a little scared with the ice on the pavement,” she said after the race. “I had a great line from the start that was a little bit drier than I think some of the others…”

Boulder Reservoir under snow and frost

Boulder Reservoir under snow and frost

The circuit traced the edges of a field then exited onto slippery rising pavement before curving onto frozen ground and a collection of turns.

Concerns about safety were well placed. Many crashes occurred throughout the day’s racing on one particular off-camber turn. A member of the medical crew attempted to de-ice it by roughing up the ground with her boots.

Peterson later described the course as a mix of icy corners and tacky straight-ways. She seemed to thrive on the diverse conditions. “It was kind of fun having the difference between some parts of the course that were really fun and some places you were like ‘Ah!’ a little sketched out,” she said.

The circuit carried the field down to the edge of a reservoir completely covered with hoarfrost. By the time Peterson climbed up from the beach on frozen sand she had accumulated a lead of over ten seconds half-way into lap one. She later attributed her early gap to the freedom of first on course. “Being on the front in this kind of stuff is really beneficial…I think that’s where I got a lot of time on the first lap was just being able to ride my own style and my own pace.”

Weber and Barker appeared next on course. After a small gap Jess D’Amato (Evol Foods) paced a large group that included Hogan and Boni. Freeman rode in twelfth place.

Jess D'Amato leads a group away from the reservoir beach

Jess D’Amato leads a group away from the reservoir beach

The ladies entered another section of turns on snow layered over packed sand. That led to the course’s only planned dismount, the boathouse stairs, and then a concrete ramp back onto the sand.

Boni and Hogan joined Weber in pursuit of the leader by lap three while Barker fell back to the next group with Mina Anderberg (Team FUJI), Laurel Rathbun (Exergy Twenty16), and D’Amato. Freeman kept on in twelfth as four laps remained.

Hogan recognized she felt confident in the dicey conditions and used that to move into second in lap four, distancing herself from Weber. Boni now chased Weber and the several bike lengths between them. Peterson’s lead was now twenty-five seconds.

The following lap Hogan still held second on course. However Weber kept her on a short leash.

Another lap later and the situation up front was unchanged, but a larger group had consolidated behind Boni. It included Barker, Katie Clouse (Canyon Bicycles), D’Amato, Rathbun, and Ann Trombley (Tokyo Joe’s). Feedback Sports rider Emma Dunn trailed them. As the race went on and more sweat seeped through clothing, crystalline white lines grew thicker on arms and legs. Frost gathered on hair and lengthened into icicles on faces.

Kristal Boni, right, placed third

Kristal Boni, right, placed third

With two laps to go Freeman moved up several spots. Hogan, later citing a loss of focus, lost her advantage on Weber and provided an assist to Boni who gained speed in the final two laps.

“I made a couple of mental mistakes to let them back in or even in the last lap in a corner right in the beginning I went down and they caught right back up to me,” Hogan explained. “And then Kristal was encouraged…”

Hogan’s strength in wintry conditions – she won a snowy Frisco Cross earlier in the season – helped her retain second on the line. Boni followed four seconds later for third. Weber got fourth. Clouse snared fifth ahead of Barker and Rathbun. Freeman emerged for eighth which secured her second place overall in the series.

Weber expressed gratitude about coming out on top of the series. “I didn’t have an epic race today by any means, but yea I’m really excited,” she said. “You gotta have the good skills on a day like today and I got lucky. A little bit of luck – it’s always good in a cross race.”

When Peterson arrived at the finish, her face radiated an indoor shade of pink. “I think I had the right layering on. Nothing went too numb,” she said, except for her hands in lap two. “But you always know they’ll come back eventually.” And during the race, they did recover.

“I’m nice and toasty now,” she added. “Everything’s nice and warm. I could keep going.”

For full results from Cyclo-X Boulder Reservoir see the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado’s website.

Find the overall series standings at Without Limits Productions.

2013 Cyclo-X women's elite series overall top 5 (l - r): Melissa Barker 4th, Judy Freeman 2nd, Kristin Weber 1st, Kristal Boni 3rd, Kristen Peterson 5th

2013 Cyclo-X women’s elite series overall top 5 (l – r): Melissa Barker 4th, Judy Freeman 2nd, Kristin Weber 1st, Kristal Boni 3rd, Kristen Peterson 5th

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