Meredith Miller won CrossVegas on Wednesday night over Katie Compton and Katerina Nash with a patient ride and big sprint

Katie Compton (Trek) came to the front with about 200 meters to go, hardly the only time she’d touched the front of the heated CrossVegas race, and it seemed all but over. Compton has been so dominant in past years that it seemed safe to start writing headlines.

No one told Meredith Miller. She had sat third wheel for the last lap, surged into the final corner, and used a long, grinding sprint to win CrossVegas in her new Noosa Yoghurt team kit (and on her new rider-owned team), becoming only the second woman in 10 years to defeat Compton on American soil.

“I’m as surprised as you are,” Miller said after the race. “I didn’t take a lot of pulls at the front, a lot of the credit goes to those girls.” Credit, yes, but victory? No.

Miller found herself up against ‘cross specialist Compton and the fleet Katerina Nash (Luna), as well as Catharine Pendrel (Luna), who was fresh off a mountain bike world title. But the Boulder, Colorado-based rider used a perfectly calibrated sprint to notch a huge result for herself and her new team. Nash finished second and Compton third.

“I never could have told you this … it’s just not knowing where you are at the beginning of the season,” Miller said. “We came into it really late,” she noted of her Noosa squad.

CrossVegas’ grass course puts a huge premium on fitness and pedaling, as opposed to the more technical, muddy courses later in the year. It was, simply, a throwdown.

Compton and Nash proved to be the early class of the field when Miller bridged, making it a three-woman race, and then Pendrel closed and appeared the strongest in the race.

With one lap to go, Pendrel went down on the bell lap at the merger of grass and concrete. Nash took the front, with Compton second wheel. It was three-up on the long grass climb, and Compton displayed brutal patience that would most times pay off for her. But it wasn’t to be.

“I don’t have that road or mountain bike fitness right now. I was struggling a bit in the corners, riding really heavy. I tried to do as little work as possible … I didn’t quite have it at the end. I’m happy to be on the podium. It was a good start to the season for me,” Compton said. “This race is always very different, because it’s early in the season … I never know what to expect here.”

Nash was also happy with her result, though she takes away some lessons for her next chance at a sprint finish.

“I’m excited. Obviously it would be better to win. But second place was great,” Nash said. “I made a little mistake at the finish, just kind of got myself shut down with those two girls. Just something to learn from and prepare myself for the next race.”

CrossVegas serves as the opening salvo to legitimate cyclocross racing here in the United States, and the sport’s stars came out to play on a hot evening in the desert. Only one walked away sublime.

“Someone asked me earlier today what my goals were. I was like, I don’t know, man. A top five? You never know. … I really wasn’t sure,” Miller said. “It’s the first race of the season, you never know how everyone’s riding. I knew I was feeling pretty good, but that’s … relative.”

From here, it’s on to Boulder, Colorado, for two races this weekend, with the Boulder Cup on Sunday in Valmont Park, site of last year’s national championships.