The 2018 Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series presented by Clif Bar and Cycle-Smart continued with race number five at the Rockland County Supercross Cup. A significant snow storm dumped more than six inches on Suffern, N.Y. prior to the weekend. Temperatures warming in the 40s created muddy conditions where many riders were forced to run much of the course at Rockland Community College. Racers competed for the coveted Verge leader’s jerseys in the Vittoria Series, as well as for UCI Category 2 points in USA Cycling’s Pro Cyclocross Calendar (ProCX).
Ruby West (Specialized - Tenspeed Hero) fought back in the final lap to take the win on day one for the elite women and Curtis White (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) won the elite men’s competition for his fifth consecutive Vittoria Series victory of the season.
Ellen Noble (Trek Factory Racing) remains in the Vittoria Series leader’s jersey in the elite women’s competition with 150 points. White extends his lead to 250 points after sweeping the first five Series races. There are three races remaining in the Series, including Sunday’s events at Supercross Cup. The Vittoria Series follows four weekends of competition on classic cyclocross courses in the Northeast, which include Gloucester, Mass., Northampton, Mass., Suffern, N.Y., and Warwick, R.I. It is the longest standing UCI cyclocross series in the United States.
In the elite women’s race, West would lead the race early from the start. She would struggle on the course on the middle laps, falling 21 seconds behind Rebecca Fahringer (Kona Maxxis Shimano). “I got the holeshot on lap one,” said West, “and then just as soon as we went into the mud I panicked. The first lap was really rough for me, I was just not riding well. I was freaked out. I dropped my chain up at the top, and Becca (Fahringer) got a gap. I was just losing my mind. Then the second lap I kind of recollected, got into a rhythm, started riding my own race and not worrying about her. As the laps went on, I got more and more comfortable with the course and was able to kind of find my own lines and make up some time with some running sections.”
The thick mud and melting puddles throughout the course provided quite a challenge for the racers. “It was just a crazy day out there,” said West. “The conditions were changing every lap. There were really no lines to follow, just everyone fighting themselves on the course more than each other.”
It wasn’t until the final lap that West was able to close the gap to Fahringer, who is currently second overall in ProCX points and seventh in the Vittoria Series standings. “I didn’t think I would close that gap, but coming into the finish here, I got right on her wheel. I was sprinting as hard as I could. Then I got on (my bike) and rode a section and she got a little ahead. But once I got my momentum back, I was able to pass her, get off, run, then it’s all a blur. That last bit was just instinct and it worked out. I’m really happy,” added West, who finished the four-lap event in 40 minutes, 17 seconds. The Canadian improved from her fifth-place finish from last year to the top step on the podium with a final push in the closing meters.
Fahringer couldn’t hold off the charging 19-year-old and would finish second, seven seconds behind West. She is already focused on day two. “I sort of knew that a smooth race would win,” said Fahringer. “I rode really smooth from the start. Maybe halfway through the first lap I ended up taking the lead. I held a pretty solid gap until the last half of the last lap. Lost the gap to Ruby (West), and she nipped me right at the line. So the second place for Rebecca Fahringer still stands as my intro, but it’s ‘on’ tomorrow!”
Magdeleine Vallieres, who finished second to West at Sherbrooke CX, would come in third, 1 minute, 27 seconds after the winner. “I was trying to catch them since the beginning (West and Fahringer),” said Vallieres, who turned 17 years old in October. “It was like this for all of the race. It was really muddy. I like riding in the mud, so it was fun.”
Of the 28 elite women who started the race, 23 finished. It was a different scenario in the elite men’s race, as the field of 28 dwindled to just eight completing the eight laps, and two riders fighting at the front. White would make the initial selection with Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano).
“Kerry and I went back and for the first few laps,” said White. “At one point, I made a mistake and he got a gap. Then he made a mistake and I got the gap back on him. He kept me within arms reach. It seemed like 10 to 15 seconds for a while. Getting two to go, he was right there with me.”
It would come down to the final lap, where Werner’s body would fall apart in the cold and muddy conditions, unable to respond to White’s all-in effort. “With about two laps to go, I managed to kind of make contact,” said Werner, who is currently the top-ranked men’s ProCX rider. “But I spent quite a few matches and by then my appendages turned into frozen nubs. I made contact, and then I kind of just fell apart. I think the effort did me in. And the cold was starting to wear on me, so maybe I’ll dress a little bit more appropriately tomorrow. Or, maybe go harder the whole time.”
White had a 14-second advantage after five laps. It was in the final lap where White would seal the deal in 1 hour, 5 minutes, 16 seconds. Last year it was Werner who won this race and White finished second This year Werner was 1 minute, 32 seconds off he winning pace. “Just before one lap to go,” said White, “he (Werner) was pretty close and then I went all-in on that last lap. I opened the gap and sealed it for the win.”
Coming in for his first UCI podium was Merwin Davis (Cycle-Smart). “You know,” said Davis, “my number one thing today was to just try to minimize any and all mistakes. Everyone’s making mistakes on a day like today, it’s impossible not to. So just being able to minimize that to max, and went out to try to get the best start off the line that I could.”
“I saw myself right there with Curtis and Kerry on the first lap,” continued Davis. “I could tell they were both going to ride away from me eventually. But I just wanted to hang on for as long as I could. I got gapped off by them after a couple of laps. Had a pretty good gap back to Sam (Noel) and Cooper (Willsey) until I dropped my chain about the middle of the race. Sam was able to catch up to me. I could tell he had worked pretty hard to get back to me, so I just made sure to jump back in front in a couple of key spots and open up small gaps here and there. It was enough to break him, I think. I was able to ride in from there.”
Going for his first UCI podium gave Davis the extra gear necessary to overcome the muddy conditions. “This is my first podium in a UCI race, so there might have been a little bit of extra power in the legs when I realized that was happening.”
Racing will continue Sunday in Suffern, N.Y. Watch the races unfold in person or by following tweets at @VittoriaSeries. Follow on Facebook and YouTube for race weekend highlights video highlights provided by DirtWire.TV.