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BEND, Oregon (VN) — To no one’s surprise Luna’s one-two punch of Katerina Nash and Georgia Gould made short work of the rest of the 36-women field that toed the start line for round one of the Deschutes Brewery Cup in Bend, Oregon, on Saturday.
Indeed, the only real drama was whether it was Nash or Gould who would cross the line first in a race that kicked off the final weekend of the 2012 U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross. That honor went to Nash, who cracked a small gap on her teammate near the end of lap four of six, then held the advantage, winning by a scant 13 seconds.
It was another 49 seconds before third-placed Caroline Mani (Raleigh-Clement) appeared. By then Gould was trembling in pain as her frozen hands began warming up after what was a frigid day of racing with temperatures in the mid-30s.
“I get really cold hands and then when they thaw out it hurts real bad,” said a grimacing Gould, who wore a similar expression during the race’s closing moments as she tried in vain to reel back in her teammate.
“In the beginning we were taking some turns, but then when we saw Caroline coming up from behind, it was time to quit messing around. Katrina got a little gap and that was it. The course had a little bit of everything, so there were tons of places where a little mistake could cost you. You really had to stay focused.”
Nash managed that feat, and was rewarded.
“We took a few turns and every time I rode behind Georgia I made a mistake,” said the Czech rider. “[So] I just went around and picked up the pace a little bit and hoped I could drop Georgia.”
Early in the race, Nicole Duke (Alchemy) managed to make the initial selection, holding third. But by lap two, Duke had been gapped off and would continue to slide, eventually settling for 10th.
Meanwhile, Mani was moving in the opposite direction, smoothly ascending the course’s tricky run-up sections, which could both be ridden by the field’s more technically apt riders. By lap three the Frenchwomen had taken sole possession of third place.
“I felt a little lonely today because I was riding alone most of the day,” said Mani, who was making her first appearance on a USGP podium. “I felt like I was going to die, but [Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld)] was behind so I could not make a mistake. Hopefully tomorrow will be the same.”
Behind, the pint-sized Antonneau had dropped a larger group of chasers, caught and passed Duke, and then settled into fourth place all alone. Optum’s Amanda Miller ended up fourth.
“I had an awesome start and then crashed and lost a bunch of spots,” said Miller. “Maybe if I don’t crash I’m third, but the top three were pretty unreachable. I was losing time in the long power sections.”
In the chase for the overall series title, Gould earned 40 points for second place, slicing her deficit to an absent Katie Compton down to just 32 points. That means as long as Gould finishes in the top three tomorrow, she’ll pass Compton, who chose to skip the series-finale weekend to focus on her pursuit of the World Cup title.
“Winning races is the most important thing to me, but of course I’d love to win overall, too,” said Gould when asked whether it was bittersweet to conceivably capture the series crown by default. “I can only focus on who shows up. I can’t worry about who isn’t here.”