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IOWA CITY, Iowa (VN) — Iowa native Amanda Miller (Hudz-Subaru) wove the perfect homecoming tale Saturday, climbing away from teammate Nicole Duke early on Mt. Krumpit to take the win on day two of Jingle Cross Rock.
Devon Haskell took third after leaving Friday’s winner Meredith Miller when she dropped a chain late in the race.
It was the third mishap on the day for the Cal Giant-Specialized rider — she also missed her front-row call-up when only one call to staging went out on the loudspeaker and rolled a tire high on Mt. Krumpit early in the race.
“I can’t believe I (missed my call-up),” she said. “By the time I got over there they’d already done call-ups.”
Sunday’s race is Amanda Miller’s final UCI event of the year, and with Duke headed for nationals, the pair debated sharing points in Sunday’s Jingle Cross finale.
More like a slow jog
Saturday’s course made use of much of the grass criterium section of Friday’s night’s opener in Iowa City. The addition of a 200-vertical-foot run-up in the mud was the most significant change of the day — and one that pushed riders into survival mode as early as the first lap. The deep, slick mud brought riders to the ground and sent heart rates over the redline every lap.
A pair of stables on the fairgrounds property — one with a straight, shallow sandpit and the other with four tight hairpins — blasted the soundtrack to “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”
The temperatures neared 40 degrees Fahrenheit at start time, with clear skies and a moderate wind facing riders in a number of sections.
Hudz to the head of affairs
Much like Friday night, it was a Hudz tandem on the front of the race early, with Amanda Miller grabbing the hole shot headed into the criterium corners. Duke followed closely with Samantha Schneider (Tibco-To The Top), Meredith Miller and Teal Stetson-Lee (Cal Giant-Specialized), Haskell and Kaitlyn Antonneau.
“It’s been my goal at every ’cross race,” said Amanda Miller of the hole shot. “Finally I got a front-row start and it worked out well.”
She put the hammer down on the run-up in the opening circuit and gapped the group. Duke was able to catch on the long, straight descent from the summit, but when her teammate surged again in the criterium corners, Duke could not follow.
“I know she’s a really good technical rider, so I knew I could be right behind her and there wouldn’t be any issues,” said Duke, a former elite gravity rider. “She was just really strong today and started to pull away. I knew if I tried to stay with her I’d pop, so I tried to just ride my pace.”
Alone on the front, Amanda Miller — who grew up an hour from the race venue — focused on keeping a steady pace and avoiding a repeat of Friday night when she crashed hard in the gravel near the finish line.
“I just tried to have a smooth race and not make too many mistakes or crash again,” she said.
Mechanicals mess up a Miller
Meredith Miller caught and gapped Duke in the grass after two laps and took a lead to the top of the run. An intermediate descent carried riders for five seconds to a sharp left-hander onto a second climb, and in that corner Meredith Miller rolled a rear tire.
“I got it back on, but I had passed Nicole and she came around me just before the descent,” she said.
Haskell passed Meredith Miller when she pitted, but the Cal Giant rider chased back onto the former collegiate cyclocross national champion. Up ahead Duke honed in on her second podium of the weekend.
“She caught up and I was just trying to stay on her wheel,” said Haskell, who is building for her first masters nationals next month.
Meredith Miller was reticent to take on her road teammate Haskell in a sprint and attacked on the grass, taking a five-second gap. But the former road national champ overcooked a corner, slid out and dropped her chain. The podium was gone, but UCI points were still on the line. She was able to hold onto fourth, but was disappointed to miss out on a second win in as many days.
“I slid out and Devon passed me and that was it,” said Meredith Miller. “I didn’t want to have to sprint with her, so I opened up a little gap and tried to stay on it, trying to keep the speed up, and I had a little bit too much speed.”
Sharing points in the team?
The win is Amanda Miller’s first UCI win of the season and it comes in her penultimate race. The new HTC-Columbia road hire will report to training camp next week and will miss the U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross finale in Portland, Oregon, as well as nationals up the road in Bend.
With that in mind, when asked about the points on the line Sunday, she said she would talk with Duke about splitting prize money and what to do in the event that the two riders come to the line together.
“That’s something I would have thought about harder if she was with me and it was just us two,” said Amanda Miller. “As far as prize money, we haven’t done that all year.”
As for Duke, who will also skip the Stanley Cup USGP but plans to contest nationals, she said she would not accept such a gesture from her teammate.
“I don’t think that she should do that. I think the place difference is so negligible that I don’t believe in that. If she’s having a good day, she should stay up there,” said Duke. “I don’t think it’s going to make that big of a difference. What, would I be one row behind or something? I don’t think she should do it.”
Saturday’s win was especially meaningful for Amanda Miller, who left eastern Iowa a few years ago to attend Colorado State University in Fort Collins, where she shifted her focus from the mountain bike to road racing. Jingle Cross is a fitting way to close out her ’cross season on a high note.
“I know a lot of people here,” she said. “It’s good to come back to Iowa and race and see all the people I grew up racing with.”