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Caitlyn Vestal wins from strong lead group at Cross of the North day 2

October 12, 2014
Caitlyn Vestal leads junior Katie Clouse and Amanda Miller midway into the women's elite race at 2014 Cross of the North day 2

Caitlyn Vestal leads junior Katie Clouse and Amanda Miller midway into the women’s elite race at 2014 Cross of the North day 2

[updated 10/13/2014]

Two of the threesome had met the night before.

In late evening coolness Amanda Miller (Boulder Cycle Sport) and Katie Clouse (Canyon Bicycles) left narrow knobby tracks that connected pools of light with lengths of shadow at the Cross of the North Friday night cyclocross contest in Loveland, Colorado. The rest of the field behind could no longer hear the two leaders breathe or the click-thunk of changing gears on their bikes.

The pair arrived together at the start/finish stretch of pavement and sprinted for the line where thirteen year-old Clouse beat Miller by less than a second. Miller, 26, has represented the US at road world championships.

Shift forward to Saturday afternoon.

In the daytime race yesterday it seemed like the two took up where they had left off, together again at the front of the elite women’s race, though now on a drier, faster course. However this time they had company.

Just after the start they trailed hole shot conqueror Laurel Rathbun (Raleigh-Clement) who came to the start line after a spill Friday night that t-boned her bike and forced her to pull out of that race.

Rathbun charged onto the steep run-up on the south side of the course first. Footholds had taken shape in the soft ground thanks to hundreds of riders who raced earlier in the day. From there the circuit wound north then switch-backed downhill into a sunken section of the venue where runoff from the power washer pooled around the pit, creating a large puddle and expanse of mud inches deep.

Melissa Barker running the pitside mud

Melissa Barker running the pitside mud

By well into the first lap Caitlyn Vestal (Feedback Sports) made herself at home with Friday night’s top two and Rathbun.

“I just tried to keep them in sight,” Vestal said post-race. “And people on the course were really pushing me to bridge the gap.”

After they dropped Rathbun early in lap two, for the better part of thirty minutes threesome Vestal, Clouse, and Miller tried to shake each other but couldn’t.

In the second lap Miller took charge at the front. She and Clouse opened a gap of five seconds on Vestal. While a brief burst of rain and wind gust buffeted the open venue, Clouse passed Miller on an uphill portion of track cut by multiple railroad tie barriers. Vestal caught back on, making up time in the corners and going hard on the flats.

“Katie [Clouse] and Amanda [Miller] were kind of playing cat and mouse. I think they were slowing down a tiny bit so I would jump and get them and I don’t mind pulling,” Vestal later recounted. “I’ll just do it, just go fast. Then I was able to stay with them and kept feeling good.”

Miller gained a little separation from Clouse in lap three. The junior closed the gap on one of several rideable pitches that rose out of the low section that housed the pit.

In lap four Vestal shot off the front. She gained a handful of seconds on Clouse with more to Miller. According to the junior, Miller had experienced mechanical problems and Vestal took advantage of the delay and surged. Clouse tried to pass the Feedback Sports Rider at the barriers, but Vestal dodged to the right and blocked her.

Meanwhile behind them riders worked single-handedly on the well-packed nearly all dirt and turf surface. Rathbun held on to fourth on course until the last lap when Evol Racing’s Melissa Barker, who finished third the night before, slipped ahead of her after passing Boulder Cycle Sport’s diligent Kristin Weber. Going into last trip around the three km circuit Ksenia Lepikhina (SDG Factory Team) and then Evol Racing’s Kate Powlison and Jess Case pursued next on course.

In that fifth and final lap Miller lost time. Vestal and Clouse seemed set to repeat Friday night’s two-up sprint scenario Then when about a third of the lap remained, Clouse flew over her bike’s handlebars.

“Caitlyn [Vestal] got a little away from me so I was trying to catch back up,” Clouse said after the race. “I was I guess a little tired. On the single log I got up [over it] and I must have twisted my wheel…I’m OK. It was actually fun.”

Vestal crossed the finish line alone, taking her seventh win so far this season. Clouse came in twenty seconds later for second, happy from her day’s effort and the experience of contending for the win versus her two main competitors.

Miller claimed third one minute after Vestal’s win. Barker finished fourth and Rathbun fifth.

Even though Vestal’s season to date shows more wins than losses, she said she hadn’t expected to come away with the victory. “I really just rode my heavy mountain bike and had fun all summer, so I started training end of summer. I just try to stay positive and calm…and have fun. It helps.”

The Feedback Sports rider, who started racing at about Clouse’s age of thirteen, praised the Utah junior’s performance on a course she perceived as the toughest to date on the Front Range calendar.

Vestal now leads the Colorado Cross Cup competition by twenty-one points over Barker.

See the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website for full results from Cross of the North day two. A third day of racing takes place Sunday.

2014 Cross of the North day 2 women's elite podium (l to r): Melissa Barker 4th, Katie Clouse 2nd, Caitlyn Vestal 1st, Amanda Miller 3rd, Laurel Rathbun 5th

2014 Cross of the North day 2 women’s elite podium (l to r): Melissa Barker 4th, Katie Clouse 2nd, Caitlyn Vestal 1st, Amanda Miller 3rd, Laurel Rathbun 5th

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