If I were to start talking about cyclocross most people would imagine competitors racing in the cold, wet, rain, and snow with crazed fans cheering them on. Las Vegas then probably isn't the first place that comes to mind for a cross race, but over the past few years Cross Vegas has established itself as the season opener of the discipline. And with this growing reputation the race has also attracted more and more top competitors. This year's Elite rider roster almost read like a who's who of the sport, all coming to Sin City to test their mettle on a hot dry course.
The calm before the storm...
The Cross Vegas course is a 3.3 km loop with several sets of barriers, stair run ups, and bridges as well as some tight corners and a couple of sand pits. All designed to challenge the riders and make the grass course more interesting for racers and fans alike.
Fresh off her World Championship XC victory only a week before, Team Luna's Catherine Pendrel practices a run up on some sand stairs. While many cross stairs are fairly solid, the ones in Vegas were basically sandboxes.
While we're used to Mountain and Road groups from component manufacturers, most people might be unaware that there are specific CX groupos. SRAM was doing everything to make people aware of their CX1 kit.
Cross fans come in all shapes and sizes, and costumes...
For those of you that are still new to the concept of cross, or CX for short, it's basically an event that's a cross between road riding and cross country racing. Competitors race road bikes with knobby tires and cantilever or disk brakes up and down hills and over obstacles including barriers and stairs. The season runs through the fall and winter, often when the streets are too wet and the weather is too cold for traditional road racing. The sport is nothing new, it's been around for over a hundred years, and probably even puts into question the story of the first mountain bike. Think about the fact that over a hundred years ago people raced knobby tired 29ers down gravel roads and through farmers fields, and some of them even had flat bars. It makes for some interesting thoughts...
While there were several categories that raced in the afternoon the first big race of the evening was the Wheelers and Dealers event. This is a race that is open only to full time employees of of the bike industry, and anyone with a UCI license is not welcome. Shop employees, bicycle media, and bike company employees all racing for the bragging right of being the fastest non UCI pro in the industry...
Logan VonBokel of Velo News leads out the first lap of the Wheelers and Dealers event.
Tara Picklo trying to hold onto a podium position in the Wheelers and Dealers race women's category. She ended up placing second.
Even Tippie was there! #justthetip
Tim Allen leading the Wheelers and Dealers race through the first sand pit, followed closely by Craig Etheridge. Craig and Tim both rode single speeds and would go on to take 1st and 2nd place respectively.
Sean Rudzinsky didn't end up on the podium, but he's got some CX bunnyhop skills.
Craig Etheridge and Tim Allen crossing the line for first and second in the Wheelers and Dealers race. Both of them rode single speed cross bikes...
Who better than the King to welcome everyone to Las Vegas!
A huge golden moon rises over the start of the Elite womens race... #nofilter
The Elite women stand at the line, waiting for the green light...
Green means go and Gabriella Durrin of the Neon Velo Team was quick to get out in front, followed closely by Katie Compton in the stars and stripes on her right.
By the mid point of the first lap it was European CX champ Helen Wyman out in front by herself. Unfortunately she blew up part way through the race and didn't finish.
By the second lap the race was down to Katerina Nash, Kate Compton, Catherine Pendrel and Meredith Miller. Four top women cyclists all pushing each other and trying to come up with winning strategy for the race.
Meredith Miller takes the lead part way through the race. This is Meredith's first season racing for the Noosa Yoghurt Team that she started with teammate Allen Krughoff.
Katerina Nash takes a turn at the front. While the lead changed multiple times throughout the race the lead group remained the same.
With one lap to go Catherine Pendrel crashed on a paved section, leaving Meredith, Katerina and Katie in the race for the win. Third going into the last twisty section of the course, Meredith pulled off an amazing sprint for the finish passing Katerina and Katie in the final hundred yards to take the win.
Lars Van der Haar leads Jeremy Powers and Marcel Wildhaber down the start straight.
Quinten Hermans and Ben Berden lead the group up the stairs a lap into the race.
Simon Zahner takes the lead through one of the sand pits.
CLIF Bar is the title sponsor of the event and they sponsor their own team as well. Brady Kappius of Kappius Components racing for CLIF.
Sven Nys moving up through the ranks. Multiple time World Champion and probably without a doubt the winningest cross racer ever, Sven was one of only a few riders to consistently bunnyhop the barriers. It paid off for him as he made his way to the front of the lead group.
Sometimes things go wrong... Troy Wells of Team CLIF Bar misjudged the spacing on the barriers and didn't get his second bunnyhop in time.
Ben Berden out in front.
Sven Nys' bunnyhop skills finally move him to the front of the pack as the other riders run over the barriers.
While a bit of heckling and excitement makes for an interesting race the USA has seen a growing amount of rider abuse from fans. These guys were simply drinking their beers and ringing cowbells, but some fans got a little out of control. While the idea of beer and cash hand ups seems to be a big part of cross racing at the local level, it's actually against the UCI rules, and any rider that even accepts a hand up can be disqualified. And some fans went way beyond offering dollar bills and beers to the racers, spraying beer and throwing other objects at the racers. There were more than a few of the top riders that commented on it, and several expressed that they may not come back because of it. Not cool...
Troy Wells, trying hard to work his way back up after his crash over this barrier a few laps before...
Zach McDonald, proving that you can still get media coverage even if you're not winning...
Adam Craig is always a guy to watch for in Cross season.
Derek Zandstra deciding that it might be faster to ride up the stairs rather than run up them. The look on his face here isn't convincing.
Two laps to go and Sven Vanthourenhout leads the pack ahead of Lars Van der Haar.
With just one lap to go it looks like Sven and Sven, with Jeremy Powers sitting comfortably in third...
No sprint to the finish line in this race, Sven Nys simply rode away from the rest of the field on the last lap, celebrating his victory with still almost 50 yards to go.
The women's podium from Cross Vegas 2014. Meredith Miller, Katerina Nash and Katie Compton.
The men's podium from Cross Vegas 2014. Sven Nys, Lars Van der Haar and Jeremy Powers.