Team Gates Carbon Drive was out in force last weekend as the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross came to their home turf on a twisty hill-side course in Fort Collins, Colorado. Racing against the nation’s most elite singlespeeders, the team didn’t get the win but did place three riders in the top five on Saturday, and three in the top six on Sunday.
In uncharacteristic Colorado fall weather, the skies opened up Saturday morning, drenching the course with rain and creating ideal cyclocross conditions just in time for the Single Speed race. The twisty track quickly became muddy and wet with puddles, but that only gave an advantage to the belt drive riders. Much like Cross Vegas, it was quickly a battle between Team Gates Carbon Drive’s Jesse Swift and Craig Etheridge from Seattle. The team also had Taylor Nye and Carlos Casali right there, pushing the pace hard. In the end Jesse took second with a small gap to first place, officially starting a friendly rivalry between these two awesome riders! Taylor and Carlos didn’t let up for even a moment, and finished just seconds behind in 4th and 5th, giving the team 3 out of the top 5. Additionally, Craig Etheridge was riding his Raleigh with Gates Carbon Drive, meaning 4 out of the top 5 positions at this muddy race were on belted Raleigh Hodalas–the new race favorite for singlespeed cyclocross.
Our favorite female racer Cristina Begy was giddy all day at the thought of facing off against some of the top women in the world on a rainy and muddy course in the Women’s Elite race. And while Cristina was flying through the technical slippery conditions, she unfortunately suffered from a bit too large of a gear, which slowed her on the hilly sections of the course.
On Sunday, day two of the USGP, the rain stopped and the air warmed slightly, but the course had evolved into a greasy singletrack, forcing the riders to balance their outright power and speed with their ability to keep their bikes upright. Carlos and Taylor were flying right from the gun, fighting to get cleanly into the twisty course. I was just a few bikes back, and behind me Mitch Westall was stuck behind some traffic but marking Saturdays winner Craig Etheridge. After three hard crashes in as many weeks, I hadn’t picked the best course to build my confidence back, and I was struggling to commit in the slippery conditions. Carlos and Taylor were working well together, but it wasn’t long before Craig came flying past me, followed not long after by Mitch, both on a real tear towards the front of the pack.
In the slugfest at the front, Taylor made a slight mistake, sliding in the mud and tangling with the course tape, but fighting back for third place. Mitch fought traffic for most of the race, and with late-race lap times significantly faster than those around him, he won a tight sprint for fourth place. After two days of pulling hard for the team, Carlos held strong for 6th, and I finished up mid-pack but feeling better for the coming races!
Cristina was anxious to make amends for Saturday’s race, and did just that, fighting some of the top women in the sport who were racing on geared bikes while she competed on her belt drive singlespeed. Even though she was sad the conditions were not as muddy, she had a much better race and continues to build for the biggest races yet to come.
A bunch of our “brothers” from Seattle were out for the weekend, and I am sure I’ve never been in a race with so many sweet Raleigh cross bikes or as many Gates Carbon Drive bikes. The guys that are serious about single speed cyclocross know that there is only one drive train for the ultimate bike.
Next week will bring two local races in Boulder and Louisville, which both offer points for the Colorado Best Cyclocross Rider and Team competition. Come check out the team bikes, and cheer the guys on both days! Thanks to photographer Stephen Fitzgerald for the great photos.