Nittany Lion Cross, day one: Zaveta and Werner take the spoils

Zaveta banishes fear of losing to take the win while Werner wins on home turf

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After a one-year absence from the USA Cycling Professional Cyclocross Calendar (ProCX), the Nittany Lion Cross returned Saturday.

Erica Zaveta (Garneau-Easton Cycling), currently sixth in the ProCX women’s standings, took her first win this season for the elite women. Men’s ProCX points leader Kerry Werner (Kona-Maxxis-Shimano) won the elite men’s race, continuing his streak.

Zaveta attacks on foot

Erica Zaveta
Erica Zaveta took the win by four seconds. Phot0: Bruce Buckley

Erica Zaveta took a narrow win over Laura Van Gilder (Mello Mushroom/Van Dessel).

Arley Kemmerer (Fearless Femme Racing), winner of the 2016 Nittany Lion race, took the early lead on the first of six laps and was joined at the front by Regina Legge (Green Line Velo-Zipcar) and Erica Zaveta after a few more circuits. With three laps to go, the early leaders were joined by Emily Shields Werner (Amy D. Foundation), Rachel Rubino (Fearless Femme Racing), and Van Gilder.

With two-and-a-half laps to go, the field had fractured, leaving three out front to battle for the podium: Zaveta, Van Gilder, and Kemmerer. Van Gilder and Kemmerer launched attacks, but it was Zaveta that made the telling move.

“When it was the three of us, we just maintained it as a group. Everyone was being tactical,” said Zaveta. “Then with two to go there were a few moves. Laura attacked, Arley attacked. I attacked right at the stairs, it was a running attack. I was running from my fears of losing. It worked out.”

Zaveta, who had two fifth-place finishes at Rochester Cyclocross last weekend, took the win in a time of 49:41. Just four seconds back was Van Gilder for second, and Kemmerer would take third.

“I feel very comfortable on this course. There’s also a lot of pressure that comes with that,” said 54-year-old Van Gilder about her six wins since the Nittany Lion Cross started 13 years ago. “I think today’s field was one of the most competitive depth-wise.”

Werner uses the home advantage

Kerry Werner
Kerry Werner took advantage of knowing the course. Photo: Bruce Buckley

Kerry Werner took a narrow win on home turf over Matthieu Boulo (Team Pays de Dinan) in the men’s race.

Curtis White (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld) went out to an early lead, and Werner joined soon after. Boulo closed the gap to the two leaders on the second lap.

On lap five, three laps later, Werner attacked off the front but failed to gain a significant gap over Boulo. In the final three laps, Buolo gained the lead when Werner slid out on a muddy off-camber section. The final attack from Werner was on the bell lap, giving him the win in 58:07, 21 seconds over Boulo.

Meanwhile, White lost time on the two leaders with four laps to go but retained his position. He finished third, 1:48 back.

“I always like working on technique out there, so I was really trying to push the corners and take a few risks here and there,” Werner said. “And that’s kind of where I attacked, kind of did it on a turn. I tried to push the pace. It worked out.”

“In training and everything, I felt rested and recovered,” White said. “I think it was just the first ‘cross race of the year. Tomorrow hope I’ll be a bit sharper, and certainly next weekend I will be.”