RENO, Nevada (VN) — Under the lights in Reno, Nevada after day two of the Interbike tradeshow, two emerging cyclocross stars were victorious on the grassy course in Rancho San Rafael Park Wednesday. Maghalie Rochette (CX Fever-Specialized) dominated the women’s race wire-to-wire. Lance Haidet (Donnelly Sports) beat Jamie Driscoll at the very end of the men’s race.
Rochette solos to victory
Canadian Maghalie Rochette took control of the women’s race from the start on the loose dusty straightaway.
The 25-year-old admitted she had no intention of riding a solo time trial race from the gun, but she had an unexpected opportunity when Katerina Nash (Clif Bar) tripped and fell on the barriers early in the first lap.
“That was not only very embarrassing because it was right in front of everybody but definitely not a good start to a race,” Nash said about her mishap. “I went way back and I had to work my way up. I think I tried a little too hard and just had to settle in a manageable pace.”
Nash won Cross Vegas 2017 before the race moved to Reno along with Interbike, so she was a top favorite.
Rochette knew that her former Clif teammate Nash was still a threat and kept the pressure on throughout the 45-minute race.
“I know Katerina really, really well and I know she’s a fighter,” Rochette said. “I know she’s strong and I know that she’s one of the best riders in the world.”
Nash chased alone for virtually the entire race, while a group of four riders behind vied for third place.
For Rochette, it was a matter of staying concentrated and focused.
“What was going through my mind was next turn, pedal, next turn, stand up,” she added. “I was really trying to stay in the moment and not trying to think about anything else outside of this.”
The plan worked and she won by a comfortable margin. Nash rode to second alone, and Sofia Gomez-Villafane (Pivot-Stan’s No Tubes) took third.
“The final three laps, I was in a chase group and I just wanted to split it up a little bit from four to two,” Gomez-Villafane said. “I ended up just riding off the front. I rode my own race, pedaled my little butt out on the flats and got to recover on the turns.”
Haidet wins tactical battle
Haidet took his first career C1 victory at Reno Cross after attacking breakaway companion Jamey Driscoll (Pivot-Maxxis) in the race’s waning moments. The victory marks Haidet’s first major win since his U23 national title in 2017.
“All day, it would get strung out when guys would go hard on the front, and then the slow grass and the headwind would just neutralize it. It was sort of a yo-yo all day. When everyone would swarm, it would definitely get stressful, the fight for position was pretty gnarly sometimes. There were a couple of rubbing of wheels, and I think a couple of guys went down which is a bummer. Definitely had to pay attention all day,” said Haidet.
The Reno Cross men’s field was missing some notable riders, namely reigning U.S. champion Stephen Hyde (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com), Kerry Werner (Kona Factory Racing), and Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing) who bowed out due to an infection in his mouth. With the World Cup opener in Madison, Wisconsin on Sunday, many athletes opted to avoid extra racing and travel.
Yet the men’s race turned into a strategic battle early in the event, as a group of 10 riders surged to the front. The group included Driscoll, Haidet, Bjorn Selander and Tobin Ortenblad (both Donkey Label Racing), Anthony Clark (Squid Bikes), Michael Van Den Ham, Stephen Davoust, Allen Krughoff, and Geoff Kabush (OPEN-Maxxis). The group spent much of the hourlong race attacking and regrouping on the fast, grassy course.
With three laps remaining, Krughoff and Clark tangled and crashed, which caused a split — both Haidet and Driscoll made the front group of seven, which rolled away.
It was Driscoll who made the crucial move on the final lap. The Utah rider didn’t like his chances in the sprint and put in an attack after the group exited the course’s long sand pit.
“I decided to go for the long bomb on the hardest part of the course,” Driscoll said. “Lance just had the leg speed to go with me.”
With Driscoll at his full effort, Haidet made a final surge inside the waning meters to get his winning gap and crossed the line just a few bike lengths ahead of Driscoll.
Similar to Rochette and Nash, Driscoll and Haidet were longtime teammates on the Clement and then Donnelly Racing teams. When Haidet joined the team — he was just 18 years old at the time — Driscoll was amazed at the teenager’s maturity and skills.
“I was the experienced racer and he was still a junior, and he was already dialed in at 18,” Driscoll said. “There was no babysitting him.”
Driscoll left the squad for the 2018 season to form his own racing program, and will likely battle with Haidet at the country’s other UCI C1 and C2-rated races.
“My protégé kicked my butt today,” Driscoll added. “And I’m super excited for him.”