The 2018 Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series presented by Clif Bar and Cycle-Smart concluded on Sunday at the NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross. Known for a long beach run along Greenwich Bay and a rugged New England coastal landscape, the second and final day of racing at NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross also featured umbrellas as part of the soggy landscape. The weekend of racing at Goddard Memorial State Park in West Warwick, R.I. wrapped up with repeat wins by Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com teammates, Kaitlin Keough (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Stephen Hyde (Easthampton, Mass.).
Winners of the Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series presented by Clif Bar and Cycle-Smart were crowned on Sunday in the elite races. Rebecca Fahringer (Concord, N.H./Kona Maxxis Shimano) would take the Verge Sport jersey for elite women and Curtis White (Delanson, N.Y./Cannondale p/b cyclocrossworld.com) earned the jersey for elite men. The Vittoria Series is the longest standing, UCI cyclocross series in the United States.
It was the 14th year of cyclocross races in Warwick, with elite races this weekend part of the the USA Cycling Pro Cyclocross Calendar (ProCX). Saturday featured Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)-sanctioned Category 1 (C1) races, a first for the NBX Gran Prix event.
Sunday’s C2 races took place for the Elite Women with rainy conditions. While temperatures rose throughout the 50-minute contest, from 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 55 degrees, Keough was sizzling for a second consecutive day on the course. She would take the holeshot and keep contenders at bay for all five laps.
After the second lap, Keough had gained an 11-second advantage over Ruby West (Hamilton, Ont./Specialized-Tenspeed Hero). Rebecca Fahringer (Concord, N.H./Kona Maxxis Shimano) had worked her way from fifth to third.
Despite following Keough closely in the early laps, West didn’t get off to a smooth start. “I slipped my pedal at the start, and really missed it,” said West. “So I was pretty far back, but then made my way back through the first few corners. So I was like fifth, or sixth, wheel. As soon as we made the first hard right everyone kind of panicked and Kaitie was pulling away, so I knew I had to stay with her for as long as possible today. That was the goal to just try to get some distance between everyone else.”
With one lap to go, Keough had as much as 34 seconds on West. The young Canadian never relented, and pushed through the rain and mud. Keough did not make any noticeable mistakes, and carried the lead across the line for a win, 9 seconds ahead of West.
“I think after Supercross I had a bit of PTSD from all the mud,” continued West. “I was maybe not too excited on the start line today (about more mud). Then once we got into it, I think I was riding well in the conditions. Hopefully that helps when heading over to Europe, where it’s always like this.”
Fahringer, who crashed at the start, had to chase her way back through the field on lap one. “I tapped my brakes at the wrong time, lost my bike,” said Fahringer. “I was down on the ground, hunkered down, and yelled, ‘please, nobody hit me,’ as the field goes on either side. Luckily, nobody hit my bike. Nobody hit me. So I was up and clear, so that’s good, not quite last. Fought through the field, and honestly, was just thinking it’s going to be good to finish. Somebody said, ‘get that last podium spot.’ Somehow, I managed to stay on the podium despite a pretty big mistake at the start. I was pretty happy about that.”
With the rain accumulating throughout the day, the course continued to deteriorate as racing went on. “Nobody expected the sandy ground here to get slick, but it was,” continued Fahringer. “This slick mud like we’ve never seen it, in combination with the tough roots. Then you really had to choose your tire treads and your tire pressures to match the scenarios. Don’t flat on the roots, but have enough traction for the climbs and the slick corners. So pre-rides were important. This was an NBX like anyone has ever seen.”
Fahringer would finish 1 minute, 42 seconds down from Keough, but would retain the Vittoria Series lead on the final day of racing. “My overall season started a little bit slow, and that’s why I had to take Gloucester off,” Fahringer said. “I just needed to give my body a weekend of rest. I didn’t come in with really high fitness, so I didn’t want to race myself into a big hole. So I did take Gloucester off. My first race of the series would have been Northampton. Then Supercross and then this, NBX. Honestly, because I took Gloucester off, I wasn’t expecting to have contention for the overall. But when Ellen (Noble) took a day off from Northampton, that’s when the tide started to swing and I was able to come into the overall and clinch it in Supercross. Because she didn’t race this weekend (at NBX), it was pretty much locked down as long as I finished the races. I was really, really happy to be able to stand on that top step. It’s really great to be able to represent my sponsors across the Series, as well as individual races.”
For the elite men, a group of five would separate early including Hyde, White, Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano), Spencer Petrov (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) and Jeremy Powers (Pactimo/Fuji/SRAM).
“Today was a much different course,” noted Hyde. “I’m really proud to see New England holding it down, reversing the courses, and making two courses day in and day out. That’s just a really big plus for us, as racers. So the course was really heavy. It was very technical, with all the roots, ups, downs. It’s a difficult course. And it’s a big mix of really flowy turns and difficult terrain. Today’s course was more driving, big slow accelerations.”
Hyde, who would finish the 7-lap race in 59 minutes, 49 seconds, remained patient in the more group racing dynamic of the day. “It was a whittled-down group. There were gaps coming off. Kerry would leave me and Curtis. I’d say ‘OK, it’s cool. Just breathe.’ It was one of those days, patience really paid off.I was just trying to really focus on finding the good lines, and staying really consistent, so that I could just keep my heart rate down a little bit more than it could be.”
Hyde would escape Werner with two laps to go. “When we came through the up-down section after the barriers, which is difficult to ride, I came into it with a little tiny bit of a gap. I just happened to nail it on that ride. No forced acceleration or anything, I just happened to nail it. I got good speed out of it and I was able to hold that gap.”
Werner, who would finish second 28 seconds behind Hyde, also noted Sunday’s drastically different conditions. “Yesterday I felt there was tons of grip, and the turns didn’t really separate anybody. Today was a whole different ball game. It was a fine balance between putting power down and slipping out. The roots were still very much a factor today. I think some of them were more slippery. It was a good, old-fashioned mudder today.”
For Werner, it was a race of attrition in the group. “The first couple of laps, there was a group of four of us. We went out with Stephen (Hyde). Then it just split. Stephen and I were trading turns at the front early. That kind of separated Powers first, then Curtis. Later on in the race I just got a little gassed. Maybe a little bit of fatigue from the last training block, or Stephen just coming on really strong going into Nationals. The last two laps he just got away from me. That was all she wrote.”
White, who clinched the Series title after Saturday’s race, was feeling the fatigue of his efforts. “Hyde and Kerry were riding really well today,” said White. “I tried to stay with them, but I wasn’t on the best form today. I don’t think I recovered as well as I could have from yesterday. But one bad day out of the entire Series, I’m not too disappointed in the grand scheme of things.”
White claimed his third consecutive Vittoria Series title. “I think the Vittoria Series is something special,” said White. “It’s the longest-running UCI series in the U.S. They do a wonderful job for this sport in this area with the development and focus towards the elites. I just tried to bring my best to the start line. You know, this weekend with it being a C1, there were a lot of fast guys bringing their A games and getting ready for Nationals. I think it was a treat to race at that level.”
For the U23 competition, 21-year-old Clio Dinan (Independent) led the women’s competition from start to finish. Eighteen-year-old Sam Noel (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) would be awarded the Verge Sport jersey for the U23 men.
In addition to the elite and U23 competitions, amatuer racers competed for the overall Vittoria Series title in the muddy conditions. For full standings from all Vittoria Series categories visit crossresults.com.