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Winter is coming: Honsinger and Fix win U.S. Open of Cyclocross

Honsinger gambles on skipping the pits, and Fix finds an extra gear late to win perhaps the muddiest race of the fall to date.

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Faced with a treacherous track of mud, ice, and snow, Clara Honsinger (Team S&M CX) and Brannan Fix (Alpha-Groove Subaru) rode to victory Sunday in Boulder, Colorado after a storm dumped seven inches of snow on Valmont Bike Park.

Honsinger’s pit gamble pays off

Clara Honsinger
Clara Honsinger won two days in a row, untroubled by the muddy, cold conditions. Photo: Col Elmore

The Oregonian came into Sunday’s race hot off a victory in day one of the U.S. Open, in markedly warmer and drier conditions.

On Sunday, Honsinger took advantage of slow pit stops by her key rivals to in again.

“Initially it was cold, but the adrenaline kicks in and you can’t really feel anything by the end of it,” said Honsinger. “You’d step off [the pedals] and your cleats would fill with ice. When Katie [Clouse] and Sunny [Gilbert] went into the pit, I just [kept going]. You get back on and you can’t pedal. I just took advantage of that and ride a muddy bike for two laps.”

Gilbert (Van Dessel) and Clouse (Alpha-Groove Subaru) had traded off the lead early in the race.

Heading into the final two laps, it appeared that the teenage phenome Clouse had the upper hand, riding the perilous off-camber descents with ease. However, the inclement conditions made for unpredictable racing.

“Just a lot of back and forth,” said Honsinger. “Somebody could get 10 seconds, and one little bobble and you’d be all the way back. Whoever was clean, got it.”

After making her move at the pits, Honsinger rode with confidence off the front. Clouse had one more dig and rode clear of Gilbert to take second. Gilbert, 22 years Clouse’s senior, rounded out the podium in third.

Fix fights to first UCI victory

Brannan Fix
With a late charge on the final lap, Brannan Fix won his first UCI race. Photo: Col Elmore

The elite men’s race was also a thriller with plot twists throughout the cold, muddy race.

From the gun, Saturday’s winner Gage Hecht (Alpha-Groove Subaru) asserted himself. Out to an early lead after a lap, disaster struck right before the finish straight. He broke his chain and was forced to run a very long section of the course to reach the pits.

This left Eric Brunner (Full Cycle), Lance Haidet (Donnelly), and Troy Wells (Clif Bar) at the front.

Attrition set in after about three laps, and Brunner, who was second at under-23 U.S. nationals last January, seemed in control. Haidet faded, as did Wells.

Fix, on the other hand, was coming on strong in the back-end of the technical, heavy race.

“Really I think it was just [keeping] a consistent speed. That’s my strength in this weather, I can just ride sections clean, time after time, and just go the same pace. As long as I time it right, that works out pretty well for me,” said Fix. “I just kept moving forward and before I knew it, the last lap, I was in the lead. It was kind of a blur for most of it, but it was awesome.”

After catching Brunner, he quickly extended his lead, leaving his fellow Coloradan to settle for second place. Haidet was third, 59 seconds down.

Fix’s Alpha-Groove Subaru teammate Hecht turned around his unfortunate start, riding through most of the field to end up seventh place, proving his form and technical skills were up to the task.