Todd Wells (Specialized Factory Racing) and Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) won the final round of the USA Cycling US Cup Pro Series presented by Sho-Air Cycling Group in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Saturday afternoon. In the final series standings, Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox) and Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) won the USA Cycling US Cup Pro Series title belts.
The Elite women started off for seven laps of the high altitude course around the spectacular Pulpit Rock on CCSU land, with Pike’s Peak as a backdrop. The start was a predictable sight, with Luna Pro Team’s Catharine Pendrel and Katerina Nash leading the large field up the first climb. However, it would be Mexico’s Daniel Campuzano first down the hill after the tricky mid-course tight climb and it’s tricky descent. Campuzano had crashed while training earlier in the week and sported some nice road rash, but rode a tough, gutsy race throughout the day.
After stringing a lead group of fifteen into the back section on city land, where Nash and Gould forced a selection that only Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) could close down. Gould slalomed into the lead just outside of the start/finish area, while a chasing Pendrel fought back to rejoin near the hairpin turn towards the first passage of the finish line. Erin Huck (Tokyo Joe’s) briefly chased onto this elite group only to drop off the pace on the second descent. She would spend the rest of the race in no-woman’s-land, fighting the wind, heat and altitude alone.
Gould would attack hard on lap two, only to pay for the effort by dropping back on lap four. By the fifth lap, a regrouping took place to give Luna a three-to-one advantage over Batty. At this point, Gould pushed hard again to gain a sizeable lead. On the next lap, Nash attacked hard, possibly sensing Gould slowing, but certainly knowing that Batty couldn’t follow her. Her attack was so fierce that she clipped a fence, momentarily bobbling before regaining speed in pursuit of teammate Gould. Nash would catch and then clear past her teammate to take the win ahead of Gould, Batty and Pendrel.
Behind, Huck pushed hard to hold off a late challenge for the final podium spot from Campuzano, while Backcountry.com teammates Evelyn Dong and Chloe Woodruff joined forces to pace home in seventh and eighth place, respectively.
The women’s overall standings for the USA Cycling US CUP didn’t change at all in the final round other than point totals, with Nash (137 points) staying in the lead ahead of teammate Pendrel (117 points), with Batty (107 points) spoiling the Luna Pro Team’s party ahead of Georgia Gould (97 points). Backcountry.com’s Evelyn Dong (80 points) confirmed her breakout performance with a fine fifth overall.
Katerina Nash: “We obviously have the numbers and were riding super strong and you have to be respectful of your teammates. It was pretty clear that Emily wasn’t going to be able to chase so at one point I felt I had enough in the tank to get away from Emily and Kathy. Georgia did a great job and I barely got to her in the end, so a great day for the team. The overall win is kind of emotional for me. I’ve raced for a really, really long time and it’s the very first time I’ve won an overall cross country series. I’m excited that the series came back the way it used to look. After all these years, it’s kind of humbling to come back and have and awesome series with a great payout and to hopefully do my job to inspire young racers.”
Georgia Gould: “The course was really hard… it was a really tactical race. People would go hard at the start and it would come back together on the flatter faster parts. I’ve had an on and off year don’t have the confidence I was hoping for. I just wanted to make it a good hard race and prepare for the national championships that are coming up.”
After a fast start, it was Colombian Colorado Springs local Hector Fernando Rivero who emerged first out of the tricky climb and bomb the downhill, followed by another local in Russel Finsterwald (SRAM/Troy Lee Design), Keegan Swenson and Max Plaxton (both Cannondale Factory Racing), and Todd Wells (Specialized Factory Racing). These five were quickly joined by another five to form a ten-man lead group that would stay together for most of the first lap.
Swenson, Finsterwald and Raphael Gagne (Rocky Mountain Factory Racing) then got a gap, with Plaxton, series leader Geoff Kabush (Scott 3 Rox Racing), Mitchell Hoke (The Pro’s Closet/Stan’s), and Kabush bringing up the chase group. Plaxton would be first to make contact until Wells took the lead to force the pace on lap two.
The surprise of the early moves was that series leader Kabush had missed out on the lead group in the early laps.
On lap three, Wells and Finsterwald pressed on to gain a lead and were subsequently joined by Plaxton and Gagne, all riders who either live at altitude or were recently at altitude in preparation for the Colorado Springs finale. The next time through, the two again forced a move, with Plaxton finally forced to chase it down. Plaxton had to this point been content to stay just off the third wheel, but when the move went, he was forced to come around fellow Canadian Gagne to pull it back.
Finally, Wells attacked hard on a false flat to go off alone. At the start of last lap, Wells flew through the start/finish in his best aero position with a minute lead. Plaxton and Finsterwald were left to chase in vain, as Wells showed no signs of tiring.
With the Specialized riders clearly out front and headed toward the victory, Kabush seemed to have found another gear, steadily working his way up to give the calculators and spreadsheets a rest. The Canadian clawed his way past rider after rider to eventually take second with a sprint to the line with Gagne. Plaxton would finish in fourth, making it a very Canadian podium with riders in second, third and fourth. Filling out the day’s podium was Finsterwald who rode a gutsy race.
The day’s result would be the final standing of the top two overall, with Kabush (121 points) taking the overall win of the USA Cycling US CUP Mountain Bike Race Series, just twelve points in front of Wells (109 points). Plaxton took third (92 points), Zandstra fourth (69 points) and Sho-Air / Cannondale’s Jeremiah Bishop rounded out the podium in fifth (62 points).
Geoff Kabush: “I felt pretty steady but not super so I was being conservative for a few laps but by the middle of the race I felt stronger and stronger. I was surprised the gap got out to over a minute but I knew I could keep those guys in sight and I’d be ok… I’m really excited for my Scott 3 Rox Racing Team to take home the belt for this first US CUP. It’s great to see the excitement building for cross country racing here in the US and I’m also excited to take home this title. It’s definitely great to take home a big check as well, so big thanks to Scott Tedro for putting all of this together.”
Todd Wells: “I got a small separation on the fourth or fifth lap and I was hoping Finsty would come back but I think it took a bit too much out of him. I knew Kabush needed to finish eleventh or worse and he doesn’t finish eleventh on even his worst day.”
Russell Finsterwald: “I had high ambitions here as this course is only thirty minutes from my house. The goal was just to be at the front and push it hard to put pressure on everyone. Todd hit it super hard and I just had nothing in the tank to go with him.”
Colorado Springs Cross Country Brief Results
1 Katerina Nash (Czech Republic) Luna Pro Team 1:43:42
2 Georgia Gould (United States) Luna Pro Team 1:43:43
3 Emily Batty (Canada) Trek Factory Racing 1:44:28
4 Catharine Pendrel (Canada) Luna Pro Team 1:44:31
5 Daniela Campuzano (Mexico) Mexico National Team 1:46:22
1 Todd Wells (United States) Specialized Factory Racing 1:29:53
2 Geoff Kabush (Canada) Scott 3 Rox Racing 1:30:14
3 Raphael Gagne (Canada) Rocky Mountain Factory Racing 1:30:14
4 Max Plaxton (Canada) Cannondale Factory Racing 1:30:57
5 Russell Finsterwald (United States) SRAM / Troy Lee Design 1:31:20
USA Cycling US Cup Series Final Overall Standings
1 Katerina Nash (Czech Republic) Luna Pro Team 137 points
2 Catharine Pendrel (Canada) Luna Pro Team 117 points
3 Emily Batty (Canada) Trek Factory Racing 107 points
4 Georgia Gould (United States) Luna Pro Team 97 points
5 Evelyn Dong (United States) Backcountry.com 80 points
1 Geoffrey Kabush (Canada) Scott-3Rox Racing 121 points
2 Todd Wells (United States) Specialized Racing 109 points
3 Max Plaxton (Canada) Cannondale Factory Racing 92 points
4 Derek Zandstra (Canada) Scott 3 Rox Racing 69 points
5 Jeremiah Bishop (United States) Sho-Air / Cannondale 62 points
Photo by Philip Beckman/PB Creative