Ellen Noble sweeps the weekend, continuing her win streak that started in early October. Werner out-sprints Hecht after tactical battle.

Ellen Noble (Trek Factory Racing) extended her win streak to six races Sunday at Cincy CX as the weather cleared and conditions became tacky. In the men’s race, Kerry Werner (Kona) got the better of Saturday’s winner Gage Hecht (Alpha Bicycle-Groove Subaru) in a sprint finish in Mason, Ohio.

Noble stays unbeaten in October

Ellen Noble
Ellen Noble won her sixth UCI cyclocross race in a row, sweeping the Cincinnati weekend. Photo: Bruce Buckley

The elite women’s race began with a sizeable group of about 10 riders at the front early in the race.

Kaitie Keough (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) struck first, taking the holeshot and leading the selection that included Noble.

“It’s just positioning, holding the wheel and being in the right place in the technical sections and stuff like that. Just using your head a little more so it was good.” Keough said about riding in a big group.

In the early laps, things would separate momentarily, but then the large pack would regroup, making Noble nervous.

“I obviously really wanted to win today and that’s something I had to remind myself: ‘Remember how badly you want this and don’t let previous wins take away from how badly you want the future ones,'” Noble said. “I never want to lose that fight. … With that in mind, I was actually really nervous early on in the race — I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’ especially I think on lap three, the group came back together and it was a big group of six or seven, and that kind of freaked me out.”

However, she soon was able to break clear of the bunch, joined by Keough and Katerina Nash (Clif Bar).

In the final laps of the 45-minute race, Keough and Noble used the course’s one steep climb in the woods to escape.

“I was proud of myself because I was riding the hill in the woods, and I think Ellen [Noble] and I were the only ones riding it. And that’s where we got our gap from Katerina [Nash],” said Keough. “Then the next lap I bobbled there and that’s where Ellen got her gap.”

Noble kept her lead on the final lap to win ahead of Keough who was second, nine seconds slower. Nash held on for third.

“For me, I’ve really enjoyed the last six wins, it’s been a different win every single day,” Noble said. “While a couple of them have been start-to-finish and a couple have been strategic, I feel that the course and the conditions and the way that I wanted it have been different and that bodes well. I think it’s easy for riders to get pigeon-holed and for people to say, ‘Oh they’re only a sprinter or whatever,’ so I’m really proud of myself to feel that I’m racing smart enough to not just be this watt-machine — I hate that word.”

Werner wins by a bike throw

Werner

The elite men lined up as the wind began to whip across Kingswood Park. That didn’t discourage Werner from taking the holeshot right away, leading a large front group into the first lap. In fact, it might have been advantageous for the Pennsylvanian to be on the front.

“The front guys would get slowed down and the back guys would get pushed up so it really shuffled the field going into the first lap and there was a lot of mixing going on but I ended up fighting back into the group by the second lap, kind of being back and part of the race,” said Hecht. “That was the biggest factor there and staying on wheels was a big thing today.”

The building winds brought in the rain, and as things got wet on lap three, a trio broke clear of the 10-man bunch. Hecht and Stephen Hyde (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) were the only riders who could follow Werner’s acceleration.

“As soon as it started to sprinkle, it seemed like everybody was going into the pit,” Werner said. “So I just laid down a little bit of an effort just because I didn’t know if everybody else was also going to pit so I wanted to have a little bit of a buffer when I did pit. I went in, and then the next half a lap, other people went it. I think the pit actually opened up some of the gaps that then stayed true to the end of the race.”

The three riders tested each other, trying to determine the right moment to attack. Hyde thought he saw an opportunity on a high-speed section and punched it.

“I went on the front through the tailwind section, and tried to give it,” the national champion Hyde said. “When we got back to that pond area, they both went around me into the woods and I was like, ‘Okay that’s it.’ I tried to stay with them, I tried to be smooth, but honestly, I was in over my head at that point fitness-wise and I just started making mistakes. I was like, ‘Alright, if I’m going to make it to the end of this, I’ve got third and that’s great.’”

As he faded out of the picture, Hecht was setting up for a big move.

“Gage [Hecht] poured it on with a quarter of a lap to go so I jumped on his wheel,” said Werner. “He opened up a bit of a gap on me, maybe two or three seconds by the time we hit pit two. I managed to pull out of my pedal as he laid down some power. It wasn’t a lot but it was enough to stretch that gap out a little bit more.”

While Hecht ran the barriers, Werner chose to bunnyhop the planks, which helped him close down the gap.

“We hit the pavement and he sat up for a split second,” Werner added. “Right when he sat up, I touched his wheel and I went. I knew all I needed was a little bit, and man I was a little nervous, he was coming up on me and I was putting in all in. It came down to a bike throw, probably half a wheel.”

Hyde ended up third behind Hecht.