Words and photos by Katrinna Roth
September 21, 2016
Having a reputation of being the biggest cyclocross race in North America, Cross Vegas made my bucket list as soon as I heard about it. I stalked the Cross Vegas website for months, waiting for updated information to be released and waiting for registration to open. I had pre-planned the entire trip in my head before I even confirmed that I’d be going. When registration day came, I registered so quickly – in fear that it would sell out and I’d be left at home looking at my bike, instead of riding my bike. I even requested to have my race license category upgraded so that I met the prerequisites to race at the cat 1-3 level.
USAC Cyclocross Race
From the moment I signed up to race Cross Vegas, until the day I showed up at the race site with my bike, I couldn’t stop thinking about how fun the race would be. I had pictured there being well over a hundred lycra-clad women showing up – elbows out, game faces on – to race their cx bikes in the Vegas heat. I pictured roaring crowds, clanging cow bells and beer hand-ups around every corner. My head-in-the-clouds version of the event turned out to be far from the reality.
In reality, we rode our bikes from the hotel to the race site, showed up sweaty and sticky from the amount of sunscreen we had to wear, and only had enough time to squeeze in two practice laps. And those two practice laps, well, heck. They were really tiring.
The course was situated on a soccer field, well off the Las Vegas strip. The grass on the field was thick and deep, making pedaling a challenge. There were multiple sets of stairs and one set of barriers. There were two flyovers and one gigantic sandpit. The course made use of the small sections of elevation it had, throwing in lots of tight turns, narrow straights, and off-camber sections.
In all honesty, people had told me that the race would be on a field, in thick grass, and that it would be slow. I figured my regular team practice in the local fields would be sufficient, especially if there was to be a hundred women to race. I figured that with a field so large, I’d be ahead of someone at all times in this race. The truth was, that I could have used another few months of training in thick grass. I delve into my entire race in the report I posted on my blog here (http://gingherontwowheels.blogspot.ca/2016/10/race-report-crossvegas-2016.html), if you’re at all curious about the details. Needless to say, there were less than 13 women at the race (not 100+) and I was number 13. I got lapped by the winning woman on my third lap. It wasn’t so much a race for me, as it was a trial to finish.
There were not many spectators for the USAC race, but the next race, the Wheelers and Dealers industry race, the crowds were growing. We got to watch the last few laps of the Wheelers and Dealers race, after taking the bikes back to the hotel and getting cleaned up. The race was a mixture of serious and fun – costumes, team kits and good old fashioned competition. It was a whole mixture of strengths and abilities and a riot to watch – and certainly far more competitors and spectators than the earlier USAC race.
UCI World Cup Races
Once nightfall came upon us, the lights around the course were turned on and the elite racers got ready to start. The race site was buzzing with anticipation, as this was the first race of the UCI World Cup race series.
The women’s elite race was first, and the field included so many incredible riders such as Nash, Compton, Lechner, Pendrel (Canadian!), and even our very own local, Walters –who races many of the lower mainland cyclocross races. The women’s race proved to be very captivating as the lead group of riders put on quite the chase with each other, and Pendrel kept quite the lead for a long time. It was impressive, watching these women race on a course that I too had rode just a few hours prior. The same course that sucked every ounce of energy out of myself, these women flew across. A good number of women rode up the stairs instead of dismounting, but no one managed to ride through the entirety of the off-camber, up-hill, deep, soft sandpit.
The women’s elite race ended with three riders having a gap from the rest of the field. These three worked so hard to try and get in front of each other on that last lap – the entire crowd was waiting and watching, and all eyes were on those three women. The sprint to the finish line, after running up one last set of stairs, was so close! Sophie De Boer took the win for the women’s elite UCI race. You can catch a snapshot of the highlights of the race on YouTube, and it’s well worth the watch.
The men’s elite race was a whole different beast in comparison to the women’s race. There was a crash right off start of the race, taking down a number of riders. Unlike in the women’s race, where a considerable gap was formed, the men stayed in a pretty large group for the most of the race. The majority of men rode the stairs and jumped the barriers, although for a few men, making mistakes on the obstacles led to crashes. The sandpit was one of the most entertaining obstacles. A good number of men managed to power through the entire sandpit, and some men who ran a portion of the sandpit did so at a faster pace than the riders, and were able to gain places in the race.
Watching a cyclocross race in the summer-like heat was certainly a different experience compared to watching races here at home on the lower mainland. There were still cow bells, beer, handouts and plenty of good heckling going on, but it felt so strange to be wearing shorts and a tee, and there being no mud!
The entire experience of watching elite racers, who came from all around the world, and racing on a World Cup course was wonderful. The race was quite the challenge for me, and if I do decide to compete again, I’ll be sure to train quite differently. I certainly wouldn’t call Cross Vegas a traditional cyclocross race, but it was worth the plane ticket and the travel, and besides, what better an excuse to go down to Vegas than for a race?
The UCI men’s full race – https://youtu.be/hZHdpNGEW4w
Women’s UCI highlights – https://youtu.be/omXFZdjkW90
Results for all races – http://www.crossvegas.com/25/results/3-website/results/255-2016-results
Some great photos from the elite races – http://www.mashsf.com/news/photo/cross-vegas-world-cup-cx-2016