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Andrea Smith (LadiesFirst Racing) and Luke Keough (Champion System-Keough Cyclocross) each won by a whisker on Saturday as the final weekend of the Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series kicked off with a bang.
Clear skies and temperatures in the upper 40s graced Goddard Park in Warwick, Rhode Island, for the NBX Gran Prix of Cross. The challenging course included a steep ride-up, long sections of deceptively tricky woods, a sand run on Narragansett Bay and an extremely fast downhill finish.
Laura Van Gilder (C3-Mellow Mushroom) has dominated women’s racing this season in New England, sweeping last weekend’s Bay State Cross, and held a sizable lead in the series coming into the final weekend.
In Warwick Maureen Bruno Roy (Bob’s Red Mill-Seven Cycles) took the holeshot and was first out of the sand, driving the initial selection of eight women. Van Gilder took over and lifted the pace, trimming the lead group to five: herself, Sally Annis (Crossresults.com-JRA Cycles) and the LadiesFirst trio of Smith, Crystal Anthony and Elle Anderson.
For the first time this season, the LadiesFirst riders worked as a group to bedevil Annis and Van Gilder. Anderson attacked, Van Gilder shut it down, and then Anthony went, putting the pressure on Annis. Meanwhile, Smith sat safely in the group, clearly biding her time.
As the race went on, Anderson launched a final attack and, once reeled in, fell off the back. With the group reduced to four, Anthony took off with little more than half a lap to go, putting Van Gilder and Annis in the hot seat once again.
When Anthony was reeled in, Van Gilder stayed on the front, leading out the sprint. She hit the pavement first, but Smith came in hard and shot past, picking up a great victory. Van Gilder held off Annis for second.
The men’s race was likewise a nail-biter. Series leader Keough held a slim lead over Justin Lindine (Bikereg.com-Joe’s Garage), and the racing was furious from the gun.
Dylan McNicholas (Cyclocrossworld.com) took the holeshot and led the field into the sand. For the first few laps the front group contained 12 racers with leadership switching among McNicholas, Mike Garrigan (Lapierre Canada), Shawn Milne (ECV-Mazda) and Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com teammates Christian Heule and Jamey Driscoll.
Keough was rarely on the front, but never sat less than third wheel and was quick to cover all moves.
The pace slowly began to shed racers as Driscoll turned on his big diesel engine, trimming the group to seven — himself, Heule, Keough, McNicholas, Lindine and SmartStop-MOB teammates Jerome Townsend and Adam Myerson.
With four to go Heule, Driscoll and Keough went off the front, forcing the other four to chase. At two to go, thanks to some chess-playing at the front, the two groups reunited and a sprint seemed inevitable.
But a half-lap from the line Heule attacked out of the sandpit and Keough dug deep to stay with him. McNicholas was gapped slightly but fought back up with Driscoll behind him.
On the final 180-degree turn onto the pavement, six-time Swiss national champ Heule was at the front with Driscoll second, looking ready to pick up his second series victory of the season.
But Keough uncorked a terrific sprint, coming around Heule for the most prestigious victory of his career. Heule held on for second ahead of Driscoll. Lindine finished sixth.
The Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series concludes Sunday in Warwick.
- 1. Luke Keough, Champion System-Keough Cyclocross, 1:01:49
- 2. Christian Heule, Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld, 1:01:50
- 3. Jamey Driscoll, Cannondale Cyclocrossworld, 1:01:51
- 4. Dylan Mcnicholas, Cyclocrossworld.com, 1:01:52
- 5. Jerome Townsend, Smartstop-Mockorangebikes, 1:01:58
- 1. Andrea Smith, LadiesFirst Racing, 37:05
- 2. Laura Van Gilder, C3-Mellow Mushroom, 37:06
- 3. Sally Annis, Crossresults.com-JRA Cycles, 37:06
- 4. Crystal Anthony, LadiesFirst Racing, 37:11
- 5. Elle Anderson, LadiesFirst Racing, 37:29