Tobin Ortenblad and Kaitie Keough win the opening round of the KMC Cross Festival on Friday night at the Thompson Motor Speedway

THOMPSON, Connecticut (VN) — Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz Bicycles) and Kaitie Keough (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) won the first day of the KMC Cross Festival on Friday night at the Thompson Motor Speedway in Thompson, Connecticut. The weekend is the opening round of the new Sho-Air U.S. Cup-CX series, which runs through November.

Both the elite men’s and women’s races came down to a sprint on the motor speedway’s tarmac. In the women’s race, Keough won a two-up battle with Canadian Maghalie Rochette (Team CLIF Bar). In the men’s race, Ortenblad won from a group of nin riders that came into the final few hundred meters together.

Top-10 men’s elite results

Top-10 women’s elite results

Both races featured road cycling tactics, with riders attacking and regrouping on the course, which featured grass, dusty dirt, and long sections of pavement on the motor speedway’s racing track. In the women’s race, Rochette was the early aggressor, surging to the front of an 11-woman lead group which formed on the first of five laps. The Canadian national champion attacked the group on the third lap and opened a five-second lead on Cannondale duo for more than a lap.

“I was getting a gap on the run-up and off-camber section, Rochette said. “So every lap I was able to get a gap and rest while the others were trying to catch back on.”

The Cannondale duo eventually pegged back the Canadian, and as the trio slowed, more riders began to catch on. For the final two laps, Cannondale took turns attacking the group, with Keough surging up the final run-up, which drew out Rochette.

Keough was able to hold Rochette in the final straightaway.

Keough won the women’s race after attacking on the final lap. Credit: Wil Matthews

“The last lap Maghalie and I were pretty much sprinting the entire lap,” Keough said. “It was a tough course because it was nothing that was splitting it up. It was group racing the entire way.”

Ortenblad unleashes sprint to win men’s race

The group racing dynamic was even more evident in the men’s race, which saw a group of 10 riders riding at the front of the group in the early laps. Kerry Werner (Kona), Curtis White (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com), and Bjorn Selander (Borah Teamwear) took turns attacking the front of the group, yet no rider was able to gain a sizable gap. The group contained all of the pre-race favorites except Jeremy Powers (Team Aspire), who chased in arrears.

Powers came into the race battling a head cold and said he suffered along the dusty course.

“I was blowing the cobwebs out,” Powers said.

At the race’s midpoint, Ortenblad attacked alongside reigning U.S. champ Stephen Hyde (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld) and Jack Kisseberth (JAM Fund) and built a 10-second gap on a chasing group of eight. The three appeared to be gone for good, but a late surge by Petrov pegged the group back together.

In the final lap, the group surged to cover attacks by Hyde, and the group came into the final section of grass chicanes strung out. Ortenblad muscled his way to the front of the group and won the sprint for the final left-hand turn, and held a small gap in the sprint to the line.

Behind him, Petrov outkicked Kisseberth for second.

Ortenblad said the key to his victory was “argy-bargy” riding style in the final section of turns. He also swapped his traditional 42-tooth chainring out for a 44-tooth chainring for the sprint.

“I figured I’d lead into that or else it would be elbow-to-elbow,” Ortenblad said. “I just came around into the downhill, put it in the biggest gear, and didn’t turn around.”

The 2016 U23 national champion, Ortenblad said the victory is the first time he has won against Hyde, Powers, and the sport’s other domestic heads of state.

“I’m right where I need to be,” Ortenblad said. “I had good starts at the World Cups and then faded. I had a good feeling I was coming onto good form and tonight is the solidifier of that.”