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FORT COLLINS, Colo. (VN) – Katerina Nash (Luna) won a wet, windy and wild day one of the New Belgium Cup in Fort Collins on Saturday. The Czech national champion bounced back from a hard crash in training Friday to win the New Belgium opener for the second consecutive year.
Nicole Duke (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) took the $250 SRAM holeshot. Compton and Nash led the front of the field onto Duke’s wheel on the long climb at the center of the course and when Nash’s Luna teammate Georgia Gould crashed in a greasy corner, Nash and Katie Compton (Rabobank-Giant Offroad) found themselves handed an instant gap.
From that point on it was a two-woman race, with Gould in third.
“The (corners) were all slippery,” Gould told VeloNews. “Katerina slipped out in front of me. Nicole crashed into the back of me. It was just one of those things.”
Compton also crashed soon after, but quickly regained contact. Nash suffered her own miscue, dropping her bike going into the barriers, giving the U.S. national champion a gap of a few seconds.
“I had a little work to do to get back, but she was still going super strong,” Nash told VeloNews. “Halfway through the race she kind of slowed down and I get more comfortable. Then she made a mistake and I took off.”
Nash, who crashed hard Friday on a high-speed descent on the backside of the course, had been nervous over her ability to start. She only felt better after riding to the venue Saturday morning.
“I was stressed out last night and could barely bend my knee,” said Nash. “I rode out here and knew that if I could ride here, I could do it. … Then it got better after warm-up.”
Compton led Nash by perhaps three seconds going through the start-finish for the start of lap three, but the Luna rider fought back up to her wheel as the two hit the flyover.
Compton showed up to the Friday night number pick-up sporting significant bruising on her right cheek, the result of a crash last weekend in a local race.
“I lost front end and face planted into a rock,” she told VeloNews.
Compton said she felt no ill effects from the crash on Saturday.
All day Nash cut through the mud more smoothly than Compton, but the U.S. champion would outdo the Czech champ on the long power sections. Nash employed the “slow down to go faster” tactic in a number of the course’s slick, off-camber corners.
“You definitely have to be kind of careful,” said Nash. “I’ve learned over the years to slow down some times.”
With two laps to go the women remained evenly matched, Nash parked on Compton’s wheel. Gould was more than a minute behind the leaders.
And then Compton hit the deck in a tight S-turn — the same place Gould fell on lap one — and Nash raced away, quickly building a lead of more than 10 seconds.
“I just kind of kept riding,” said Nash. “I expected her to come back and she never did.”
Her advantage would only grow — with a half lap remaining, Nash was a half-minute in front of the national champ, and she padded that gap all the way to the line.
“I went down a couple times toward the end of the race. I was struggling with the front end today,” said Compton. “She got a gap and I couldn’t close it after that.”
Compton would have to settle for second, 46 seconds down. Gould took third, more than two minutes back.
“I’m having a super good start to the season,” said Nash. “I’ll come back tomorrow and try to do it again and if not, oh well, I’ve given it my best.”
Compton, on the other hand, looked ahead.
“Definitely my skills aren’t there yet,” she said. “(Nash) was just stronger today. I can usually make it up power-wise, but my fitness just isn’t there yet. I’m just a little bit behind the eight ball right now. I could have used more power and finesse out there today.”
Duke crossed the line in tears for eighth place.
“The ligament that is torn (in my right index finger) hasn’t healed and in a race like this I couldn’t hold on, I couldn’t brake,” she said. “It was really frustrating. It was probably mentally one of the toughest races I’ve ever done.”
- 1. Katerina Nash, (CZE) Luna Pro Team, 44:02:00
- 2. Katherine Compton, (USA), at 0:44
- 3. Georgia Gould, (USA), at 2:05
- 4. Mical Dyck, (CAN) Pro City Racing, at 2:58
- 5. Caroline Mani, (FRA), at 3:38