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Nicole Duke and Danny Summerhill raise the stakes at Cyclo X Flatirons

September 29, 2014
Nicole Duke and Karen Hogan complete a treacherous U-turn at Flatirons

Nicole Duke and Karen Hogan complete a treacherous U-turn at Flatirons

[updated 10/3/2014]

When pros like Nicole Duke and Danny Summerhill and Mitch Hoke show up at a local cyclocross race the amateurs have more to fight for.

It’s a chance to stretch personal limits and explore capabilities. To savor the satisfaction from a speedier start, capturing the hole shot, and taking slippery corners faster. To feel good about the time and effort socked away into training and optimizing the bike.

The local Colorado amateur race, fiercely fought to begin with, becomes that much harder.

And so with more at stake the elite men and women took the start on Sunday at Cyclo X Flatirons. Duke (Marin-Spy) and Summerhill (K-Edge / Felt) established early leads and won. The toughest struggles played out behind them.

Spencer Powlison on a steep hill just before the finishSpencer Powlison rides the steep hill just before the finish

Spencer Powlison rides the steep hill just before the finish

In the men’s race Hoke (The Pro’s Closet CX Team), Spencer Powlison (Evol Racing), and Tim Allen (Feedback Sports) competed for the remaining podium spots after some early re-shuffling of places on course.

Powlison, who took the hole shot, appeared to have second place locked down.

But in the last lap Allen and Hoke found a way around him and Powlison came in fourth.

Allen crossed the line second, 39 seconds after Summerhill. “I was thrilled to finish second behind the world class Summerhill,” he wrote after the race. “It was a hard fought battle and felt so good to have a strong finish.”

The rain that started during the men’s last lap continued through much of the elite women’s race. A predominantly grassy course, already slippery in off-camber corners, became slicker. Karen Hogan (Team Kappius) moved into second with Duke always visible ahead.

Just before the finish line Duke replaced a victory salute with a few words to race announcer Larry Grossman. “Hogan crushed it,” she said.

Evol’s Melissa Barker confirmed her early season form with a strong third after going down four times in a close contest with Feedback Sports’ Caitlyn Vestal.

But Barker had forgotten to wear a timing chip. After going as hard as she could, she was disqualified. She left with grass and mud-encrusted bike and shoes. She left disappointed about forfeiting points for herself in the Cyclo X series and for her team in the Colorado Cross Cup best team ranking.

Hogan, who placed next best after Duke, was able to absorb the meaning of her achievement yesterday. When asked what it was like to score her result, she said, “Well that’s super fun. Any time you can even see Nicole in a race, that’s a huge accomplishment in my mind.”

Danny Summerhill won Cyclo X Flatirons

Danny Summerhill won Cyclo X Flatirons

Men’s race action

Less than one minute into the men’s elite race at least two riders in the field of 37 slid out in a set of off-camber grassy switchbacks on the Flatirons course hillside. The first of those mishaps held up Summerhill but only briefly; he quickly joined the three men on front: Powlison, Allen, and Clif Bar’s Brady Kappius.

Following the leaders in a loose group were junior Eric Brunner (Boulder Junior Cycling), Brandon Dwight (Boulder Cycle Sport), Ken Benesh (Evol Racing), Hoke, Boulder Cycle Sport’s Johs Huseby and Pete Webber, and Taylor Carrington (Turin). In the first half lap they had a small gap to next set of riders which contained junior Gage Hecht (Alpha Bicycle Co.).

Summerhill owned the lead early in lap two as he reached the north end of the course where more off-camber turns would pop several riders out of the saddle. Powlison tailed him. Ten seconds separated them from Allen, Kappius, and Brunner. Hoke pursued them alone, followed by riders near the front in lap one. Carrington punctured and lost time.

Mitch Hoke at top of climb

Mitch Hoke at top of climb

As lap three began Hoke moved into third on course, fifteen seconds behind Summerhill and Powlison. Allen arrived ten seconds later ahead of a group containing Benesh, Kappius, Brunner and Hecht.

Then Summerhill poured on the speed. Midway through the ten lap race he preceded Powlison by 45 seconds. Hoke and Allen now rode together just a few seconds behind the Evol rider.

While spectators wondered who would be next best after Summerhill, Powlison held his gap until the last lap. Hoke, who said later that he slid out a couple of times during the race, almost pulled away from Allen but didn’t succeed.

Less than one minute after Summerhill took the victory Allen stunned the crowd by cresting the top of the hill and claiming second. Hoke, who later said he felt good fitness-wise but struggled with driving the bike that day, finished seconds later for third. After all his efforts, Powlison got fourth. Hecht came in fifth over a minute later, with Benesh sixth.

As the riders told it, two factors affected the outcome during the last circuit. Rain commenced and lapped riders created a decent amount of traffic. Powlison described the latter situation as “a mess” with guys who should have been pulled not giving way to the leaders.

Tim Allen second at Flatirons

Tim Allen second at Flatirons

In that tenth lap Allen snuck ahead of Hoke in the off-camber switchbacks located early in the course while  also passing a lapped rider.

“Then I just buried myself to try to bridge up to Spencer [Powlison]…It was not easy to get around Spencer – he was riding super aggressive (the good kind of aggressive) sprinting every time I tried to come around,” Allen wrote after the race. Just ahead of the steep climb before the finish he passed the Evol rider.

Meanwhile, Hoke made it back to Allen. On the dirt-surface climb now brushed with rain, Spencer slipped. “He was running pretty slick tires,” Hoke said, “and had to run it. I rode the last part so I was in my pedals and came around him. Tim was right there, but I couldn’t close it to him.

“We were coming through a lot of lapped traffic, but there’s nothing you can do – somebody’s going to get lucky and someone’s going to get unlucky.”

See the WithoutLimits website for full results from Cyclo X Flatirons.

Women’s race action – a tale of five slick laps

What was it like when you all were getting ready to start and rain came down?

Karen Hogan answers the question, speaking after finishing second: “Kris Weber said she’d never raced in the rain before, which surprised me. But then when I thought about it, I haven’t raced much in the rain either. We had lots of sprinkler water; it just made it a little more dicey, which I kind of like. It was super fun.”

Jess Case, Karen Hogan, and Caitlyn Vestal prepare lines around a switchback

Jess Case, Karen Hogan, and Caitlyn Vestal prepare lines around a switchback

Lap one: off-camber switchbacks on the wet grass hillside quickly sort out the early leaders. Duke enters the section first. Boulder Cycle Sport’s Kristin Weber is the only woman close to Duke as they exit the turns and point their bikes back uphill toward the barriers. Kristen Legan (Evol Racing) and Hogan are next on course.

Lap two: Hogan advances while Duke maintains the lead. Ten to twenty seconds separate each of the top four on course. Weber rides third; Caitlyn Vestal (Feedback Sports), fourth.

Lap three: the best five shifts and Barker moves up. Hogan refuses to allow the space between her and Duke to expand. Barker catches on to Vestal and Weber. The rain lets off for a bit but one slippery corner in particular still requires hugging a tree.

After the race Duke will say, “Oh my God, that was the hardest local race I’ve ever done. Karen [Hogan] pushed me so hard. And so I didn’t get to rest really at all and then I was like, all over the place. I didn’t have mud tires on and it was super slippery.”

Lap four: Barker proves strongest in the chase group. She advances to third while Duke slides in the switchbacks and Hogan draws closer to the leader.

Lap five: Duke finds better lines that help her gain on Hogan and reach the finish line first. Hogan places second twelve seconds later. One minute passes. Barker gets third a few seconds before Vestal; but she’ll lose that result to the Feedback Sports rider after being disqualified. Weber finishes fifth after another forty seconds.

“Today was great because I kept Nicole [Duke] pretty much in the same place,” Hogan said. “Then I heard she fell on this side of the course and I got a couple of seconds closer, but I could never close the gap.”

Duke recalled Flatirons had hosted a UCI race, about 2009, when she rode to third place.

“I’m happy to win in front of all my peers and friends,” she said, about Flatirons 2014. “It was great to have a win, and have a win that was actually so hard to win. It was hard-fought because Karen was so strong.”

Nicole Duke wins Cyclo X Flatirons and praises Karen Hogan's ride

Nicole Duke wins Cyclo X Flatirons and praises Karen Hogan’s ride

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