Barker and Weber spar for second in the wake of a gutsy Texan at cyclocross national championships
[updated 1/18/2017 with video]
A bold rider from Texas ended the winning streak of a pair of Coloradoans in the women’s 40-44 category at the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships in Hartford, Connecticut.
Regular rivals in Colorado local racing, Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport / YogaGlow) and Melissa Barker (Evol DevoElite Racing) won the title in 2015 and 2016 respectively and entered this year’s race fit and ready.
The Coloradoans looked as if they might be off in search of another win as the Texan, Christina Gokey-Smith, fell at the turn onto the approach to Bonk Breaker Hill in lap one.
“She wiped out big time in the corner,” Barker later said about Gokey-Smith’s spill. “So we all had to slow up and go around her.”
But Gokey-Smith soon surprised Weber and Barker by bombing the long descent off that hill, passing them in a stretch of deep ruts.
“She was really strong. She was flying,” Barker said.
Gokey-Smith (Matrix/RBM) padded that lead with each subsequent lap to win by 57 seconds.
Behind her, Weber and Barker settled into the battle for next best.
When asked if the pair were working together in the second lap, they described their efforts.
Barker said, “She [Weber] set a good pace.”
“We definitely traded back and forth a couple of times and I think I had Melissa through this technical section,” Weber said, pointing to turns through the trees. Then she recalled one of her challenging moments: “I bobbled one time there and you came by me,” she explained to Barker.
Barker responded, “You came be me again over there. So it was back and forth and then I messed it up [in the trees].”
“But you know,” Weber pointed out, “when you enter the mud there you almost don’t have a chance to pass until the finish line, it’s so technical. So I was just like, ride it clean, get those lines.”
Their challenge lasted until lap three when Weber gained some ground which carried her into second place. Barker finished third. All in all, the two women were satisfied with their results.
“Melissa and I went back and forth a lot this year [in local racing], instead of last year when she pretty solidly won most of the races,” Weber said. “So I felt pretty good coming in to nationals this year. I just came into the day thinking I really want to have fun. I love this kind of course. It’s super technical and my kind of thing, so I told myself just don’t screw it up and get all heady about it.
“I’m really happy. The young whippersnapper [Gokey-Smith] came in and she was pretty balls to the wall coming down that hill–and I was not. I was like, I have a job and three kids…so I just wanted to ride it smooth.” [According to the USA Cycling website, Gokey-Smith’s racing age is 44. –Ed.]
With all the ruts, a smooth ride was hard to find.
“The parts that I found to be the most challenging were the frozen ruts and the technical turning sections with the ruts,” Barker said. “If you got out of the line it was really hard to get back in, so I had a little trouble in the last lap. I had to jump off and jump back on.
“All around, it was really fun. I’m psyched—it wasn’t a win, but I know how hard it is to repeat. I feel great about third, I really do. I feel like I rode as hard as I could in the conditions today and I’m pleased with my ride.”
The Coloradoans will resume their competition next season in local cyclocross races. But they won’t face off at nationals because Weber will move into the 45-49 age group. Just maybe, she’ll miss lining up in the same row as Barker.
“Melissa [Barker] has just pushed me so much, it’s been such an awesome competition to go back and forth,” Weber said. “It makes both of us better riders.”