The 2018 Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series presented by Clif Bar and Cycle-Smart continued with day one of the NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross. Round seven of the eight-race Vittoria Series kicked things up a notch for the final weekend with Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) sanctioned Class 1 (C1) racing at Goddard Memorial State Park in West Warwick, R.I. A dry and seasonably mild day kept the root-strewn course fast for racers on the New England-style course, known for its legendary long beach run along Greenwich Bay.
With a commanding victory in the elite women’s race, Kaitlin Keough (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) earned a decisive victory, finishing 36 seconds over her closest competitor. Her teammate, reigning U.S. Cyclocross National Champion Stephen Hyde, would return from a four-week hiatus from racing and remind fans and competition alike who is the boss of ‘cross, claiming the C1 victory for elite men. Both elite races were the sixth of seven C1 races of the USA Cycling Pro Cyclocross Calendar (ProCX).
The Vittoria Series began in mid October in Gloucester, Mass., followed by events in Northampton, Mass. and Suffern, N.Y. in November. With a total of eight races at four venues in the Northeast, the Vittoria Series is the longest standing, UCI cyclocross series in the United States.
At this weekend’s NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross, athletes compete for ProCX points, as well as for the Vittoria Series overall competition. A final Verge Sport jersey will be awarded to the winners Sunday in Rhode Island.
Saturday’s second-place finisher in the elite women’s race was Rebecca Fahringer (Kona Maxxis Shimano), who would extend her Series lead with a total of 200 points. For the elite men, Curtis White (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) would suffer his first Vittoria Series defeat of the 2018 season, finishing in second on Saturday, only eight seconds behind Hyde. Even with one race to go on Sunday, White would clinch the Vittoria Series overall title for elite men with 350 points.
In the elite women’s race, Keough would lead the 40-rider field from start to finish. “I was going to try to be a little bit more conservative at the beginning,” said Keough, “just because I hadn’t raced these girls in a couple of weeks. I had a gap on that first lap and I just took off. I made a couple of little mistakes here and there, but that’s, for the most part, normal. This is my last race weekend before Nationals, so I was just trying to get a hard day in. This is my first time racing at NBX. It was a lot of fun. It was flowy and fast, and kind of ‘mountain-bikie,’ which I like doing. “
Fahringer, who finished 36 seconds behind Keough in second place,, was focused on having a smooth race on the tricky course at Goddard Memorial State Park. “The course always intimidates me,” said Fahringer. “I knew if Kaitie (Keough) wasn’t having a good day, if I could keep the course at bay, that I might be able to battle for the win. I had a really bad start. Literally, people’s rear wheels were in front of my front tire before I even decided it was time to pedal. Not only did I miss my cleat, I missed my shoe. It was a bad thing.”
Recovering from a rocky start, Fahringer fought her way through the pack to the front of the race. “So, I dealt with some traffic on the first lap and I found myself in second. I knew Kaitie was gone. She was riding smooth, she was so far up. It was a race for second place. And it was a race! Both Arley and Ruby, they were coming up from third, battling it out for third. I worked really, really hard and kept it together for second. I rode smooth, which is a rarity for me on this course. It’s always hard to keep it clean when you have people that are closing it in really closely. This is not a fun course to be hunted down on.”
Ruby West (Specialized - Tenspeed Hero) would finish 52 seconds off the winning pace by outkicking Arley Kemmerer (Fearless Femme Racing) to the line for third. The 19-year-old Canadian noted the fast, dry conditions and the talented field, all which made for a challenging race. “Kaitie (Keough) was here, so that also made it a super fast race. She just kind of got the holeshot and rode away from us right away,” said West. “So I tried to stay with her for as long as possible because I knew she was the strongest one out there.”
West, who had a breakthrough race at NBX last year winning the Saturday contest when it was still a C2 event. She was familiar with the course, but still had challenges. “You know, I think I found every single root in the park to hit on the first few laps,” said West. “It took me a while to kind of get the lay of the land and figure out where I could NOT hit my rims. I got passed by Rebecca (Fahringer) and then I fell when I was with Arley (Kemmerer), so I was just falling further back and further back. But then finally with the last few laps I was able to work my way back up and get back with Arley, then pass her. I thought I was closing on Rebecca, and I was trying really hard to get back to her, but then she accelerated and stayed away for second. Yeah, finished up with third and I’m pretty happy with that.”
For the elite men, similar to what we have seen all season, Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com took early control of the race with three riders in contention. The only difference today was the face at the front of Hyde.
“Man, there was a lot of nervous energy for me today,” said Hyde. “This is my first race back in four weeks, I think. And before that I did two race weekends, and it was six weeks off for the injury. You know, I’ve had a lot of anxiety about racing, and getting back to it. I was so excited today.”
Hyde would lead from the holeshot, setting a quick pace. “I knew I needed to lead on this race. There are some really heavy pedaling sections where you can draft, but there’s so many sections to make tiny mistakes. The sand, you always want to be first going into something like that. Yeah, I just wanted to ride at the front. I honestly had no idea where my fitness is at, because I haven’t been racing and everyone else has. And always puts a big question mark in your head.”
As the laps went on, teammates Hyde and White would escape the chasers and work together. “I had a little bit of cramping going on in my legs. I just haven’t had the intensity. I haven’t been able to get behind the scooter because of weather. I have been trapped in the basement for a lot of weeks. Curtis really pushed me hard. He pushed me very, very, very, very hard in the beginning and I needed that. He was my human scooter today.”
White would finish second, 8 seconds behind Hyde. “He and I were feeling good, driving the pace early, taking pulls and just being smooth and sharp. I think the difference was (when) he started to stretch it out probably two and a half laps to go. I came back to him, tried to get in front of him before the sand pit, but he took back the lead. He just opened up the gap slowly.
“I think in working together we were able to figure out where each other was strongest,” added White. “He was able to carry his speed really well through the technical sections. That forced me to accelerate just a little bit harder here and there, which added up over the course of the race. He’s back and riding well. It will make tomorrow interesting.”
Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano) would finish third, 1 minute, 27 seconds behind the winner. “Stephen (Hyde) had a good start and I think he was looking to make things happen early,” noted Werner. “So he and Curtis (White) took control of the front for the first two laps. I was struggling on these longer, power straights. A gap would open and those guys would stay on it at the front. And I was just struggling to hold the wheel and claw myself back. So after two laps, those guys got away from me. I was riding by myself for a lap or two. Then Spencer Petrov came up, and we kind of started working together. I was thinking we can’t let a Cannondale podium happen.”
Werner would fend of 19-year-old Petrov, another Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com rider, in the final sprint to the line. “Pre-riding the course, I kind of knew that coming out of pit two there was a big straight that paralleled the finish straight. I knew coming into the finish you wanted to be in the front. And I knew to do that you had to come out of pit two just smokin’. So I did that. Spencer actually came inside of me onto the final corner and had me by half a bike length or so. But I was able to get on top of it and hold him off.”
The NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross will continue on Sunday with UCI C2 and amateur racing for the final day of competition in the Vittoria Series. 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 DirtWireTV.