Raleigh-Clement pulls double duty at Major Taylor and Ruts N’ Guts
After a quiet mid-season, the Raleigh-Clement crew was spread out and making waves this past weekend between Indiana and Oklahoma. Laurel Rathbun, who has missed the first two thirds of the season due to an injury she sustained while road racing this summer, made her return to UCI racing at the Major Taylor Cross Cup in Indianapolis. Jamey Driscoll and Lance Haidet were at Ruts N’ Gut in Tulsa tackling the last C1/C2 weekend on the USAC Pro CX calendar.
At the Major Taylor Cross Cup Sofia Gomez-Villafane (Tenspeed Hero) earned the win on Saturday with Courtenay McFadden (Zones) taking over the top step on Sunday. Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz Factory Racing) scored big with back-to-back wins at the Ruts N’ Guts C1/C2.
Racing on “home” turf at the Indy Cycloplex, Rathbun was so excited to line up for her first UCI race of the season that she took the holeshot on Saturday. The Marian University junior settled into the lead group of seven before a mistake on a steep climb cost her a few places. In the sprint to the line, Rathbun was the best of her group to finish ninth on the day. Having very little racing in her legs, Rathbun was thrilled with the result and was eager to take more places the next day.
“My lungs hurt a lot more than my legs so that’s good,” Rathbun said. “That will come back quickly if I keep racing! Fitness is really good. Cornering is getting back to where it used to be. Tomorrow will be even better. A few silly mistakes today cost me a lot. I was only about 20 seconds behind Emma Swartz (Marian University) compared to like 3 minutes two weeks ago.”
Sure enough, Rathbun delivered on her word on Sunday when she went four places better to finish fifth. Day two was like a dream come true for most ‘cross racers. Rain turned a tacky track on Saturday into a sloppy, muddy mess. Many riders were unable to keep it together in the wet, technical conditions, but Rathbun rode smooth and nimble to stay near the front of the race and made up places on the tough run-up each lap.
Nearing the end of the race, Rathbun was situated to move into third but a run-in with course tape thwarted her podium attempt. Needless to say, Rathbun was exuberant about her return to top level ‘cross racing.
“What an awesome race,” said Rathbun. “The exact same people were here today.It was pouring down rain the whole time. My face was covered in mud. I forgot how much I love racing. I had a great race with no crashing. It was just unfortunate that I rode into some course tape, but I am so stoked!!!!”
A few states away in Oklahoma, Driscoll and Haidet were racing on a twisty and technical track that many riders said was their favorite of the year. Although there was a drizzle of rain for much of Saturday, the course stayed mostly tacky and fast. Conditions were bone dry on Sunday.
Multiple sections took the racers through a dried river bed in which they had many line options over the roots and rocks. Out of the river bed, the track sped through open grass areas and forested pine decorated for the holidays.
Haidet, who has been plagued with back issues all season, had a good start to the race but eventually faded to the top 20.
“I was seventh wheel going into the first corner but was 16th coming out after some chopping going on,” Haidet said. “I had a couple OK laps and was back onto the lead group, but then I started yo-yoing and went backwards. I was suffering quite a bit and didn’t have the power or strength.”
For Driscoll, it was a tactical race from the beginning which saw him finish fourth out of four at the line. With two laps to go, Driscoll tested his legs against the rest but it was too far from the finish to drop the competition. Through the final corners before the sprint, a little too much contact pushed Driscoll out of contention.
“I felt like I had pretty good legs,” said Driscoll. “I tried to make a separation with two laps to go but in hindsight I should have waited to go full throttle on the last lap. I wasn’t that much stronger than anyone to create a gap. Tobin [Ortenblad] (Santa Cruz Factory Racing) and Danny [Summerhill] (Maxxis-Shimano) were really getting argy bargy in the last two corners. The last time I got really agressive with anyone in a ‘cross race I ended up with a broken arm. I was more out of the fight. I was kicking myself for how the tactics played out because I had pretty good legs.”
Day one hasn’t seemed to go well for Haidet very often this season, but day two seems to be a different story. In historic fashion, the 19-year old was able to bounce back from a disappointing day one to finish the weekend with a solid eighth on Sunday.
“Today I felt quite a bit better,” said Haidet. “I was able to ride in the lead group for about a lap and a half. I felt like I actually got to ride second or third position for awhile before I got relegated to the back of the group. Then I yo-yoed off them. Cody [Kaiser] (LangeTwins/Specialized) and I rode hard to keep the chase group from catching us. I attacked through a techy section and opened a gap to Cody that I was able to hold for the last half lap.”
Driscoll was right where he wanted to be from the start, but a mechanical on lap three sent him to the pit and then on a wild goose chase to catch the leaders. He made contact with the leaders but the effort from the chase left him with too little gas in the tank to contest the sprint in the end. Driscoll finished fifth.
“It was tough because the front group was group racing while I was going full throttle,” Driscoll said. “It was a fast course and hard to make up seconds so that was more or less my whole matchbook. When I caught them with a lap to go, I was too gassed to overtake anyone on the straightaways. It was single file and faster today.”
Images from Ruts N’ Guts provided by Dejan Smaic.