Photo gallery from Derby City Cup // Clara's silver medal ride at U23 PanAmerican Championships
Definitively speaking, the current league of American U23 cyclocrosser women are some of the fastest in the nation, regardless of age. Check out the results of any UCI or ProCX elite women's event this season and you'll see their names concentrated in the top fifteen more times than not.
With this in mind, we knew we were in for an exciting U23 Pan-American Championship race this last weekend, with our Clara Honsinger competing for a title against the continent's best. Though Clara started this season as a bit of a dark horse, given the majority of her racing history is rooted in Oregon Bike Racing, outside of USAC standings, those days of no-notoriety were behind her. In her early season, she has stacked a podium finish at Jingle Cross' C2 alongside several aggressively ridden top-10s at CrossVegas and West Sacramento Cyclocross GP. We knew she was set to unleash a powerful ride and were hedging serious bets on a great result at PanAms.
The 2017 Derby City Cup, host of the PanAm Championships, unveiled a new venue at Joe Creason Park, and the future host of US Nationals December 2018. The course started out flat and fast before flying abruptly downhill with a tight turn at the bottom, then wending its way back and forth over this hillside, sometimes off-camber, sometimes straight up at an aggressive grade, zapping legs and spirits alike--the elevation gain per lap is impressive. Residual moisture from heavy rain leading into the weekend made any surface inherently spongy, leaving lasting effects on the body. Difficult, the way cyclocross should be.
Race day brought heavy, muggy air for November, but clear skies, and we were energized. Both Clara and Beth Ann had achieved great rides the day before in the C2 and we went into the day with positive outlooks.
The fastest continental U23 women lined up at midday, with Clara enjoying a front row start. The whistle blew and perennial favorite Emma White set a hot pace, taking the hole shot and an early lead. Clara cleanly established herself in second within the first lap and dug in to keep a leash on the leader, leaving a healthy gap between herself and the fight for third place. Four laps on this incredibly challenging course meant an early gap was a delicate advantage; a small mistake or a mismanaged effort could burn those precious seconds. Clara managed the battle fiercely, with the gap ebbing between 10 and 25 seconds over four laps, growing toward its maximum at the end of the third lap, then ultimately coming down fast in the final push to just 17 seconds by the time Clara crossed the line to earn the silver medal.
Next up this season, Clara will travel to Europe with USA Cycling's Cross Camp. She will race two national races in the Netherlands, followed by the Flandriencross DVV verzekeringen trofee in Belgium and, pending selection, the Zeven World Cup in Germany.
All photos are courtesy of our friend Adam Koble (adamkoble.com) and were taken on day 1 of the 2017 Derby City Cup. Thank you for your help in the pit and your captures of the weekend!