NORTHAMPTON, Massachusetts – This week brought an early onset to winter as many in the New England region hunkered down with the first storm of the season. But the next storm will be not snow nor rain but some of New England’s best cyclists as the swarm invades Northampton, Massachusetts for the country’s oldest UCI event, the Cycle-Smart International, on November 1st and 2nd. In its 18th year, this year’s contest will build on the prestige and popularity of previous editions and for the first time since 1996 the event will offer 2 days of racing in the Pioneer Valley. Race President Adam Myerson will have something for everyone in the layouts of the 2 courses, “We’ll use the traditional course on Saturday, and then have some big changes for Sunday,” said Myerson. “We’ll be using many of the same lanes, but will be connecting a lot of them backwards, and going opposite ways on the ride ups/drop offs. Expect a tighter course on Sunday. Our technical staff, led by longtime director J.D. Bilodeau, has worked very hard to put together 2 similar yet unique courses that I think everyone will enjoy.” And it’s clear that the riders are excited about it as approximately 1200 racers will tackle the 2 courses over the weekend. Race Director Steve Weller has also brought in some Belgian-style flair to the party to add a festival type atmosphere to the weekend, “We have brought in Boston-based Harpoon Brewery to serve some of their fine ales and lagers, and some local food vendors including a frites truck which will be stocked with mayonnaise for a true Belgian-like experience,” said Weller.
The men’s race will be a shootout to see who will take over the series lead heading into the homestretch, as current series leader Jamey Driscoll will not be in attendance for the weekend. The one rider who has a shot to wear the bullseye by Sunday is cross revelation Dan Timmerman (Reynolds/Swan Cycles), who has not finished worse than 5th in all the series races to date and will look to continue his torrid pace with the opportunity for a 1st cross victory in sight. But on his heels will be 2006 winner Matt White (BikeReg.com/Joe’s Garage), current masters national champion Andy Jacques-Maynes (Specialized/KMC p/b Cal Giant), regional up-and-comers Justine Lindine (Targetraining) and Matt O’Keefe (CCB/Volkswagen), and former series leader Chris Jones (Louis Garneau/Sonic), who returns after a trip from Australia fulfilling road duties. One thing is for sure, this weekend’s races will be up for grabs and we could see as thrilling of a race if not better than took place last year, where the 5 leaders couldn’t shake each other loose until the last lap of the race.
The women will be vying for a fresh jersey as well, as current series leader Amy Drombroski will be absent from the start line. This provides a golden opportunity to current runner-up Rebecca Wellons (Ridley), who is in line to grab her first series jersey after the weekend’s festivities. The 2 races on the weekend though are anybody’s ballgame, as riders will look to take that next step in the national spotlight. One rider who has already beaten Wellons this year and who could be hosting a coming out party is Sally Annis (NEBC/Cycleloft/Devonshire Dental), who’s strong season to date puts her right in the mix to win on this weekend. Local favorite and former series champion Maureen Bruno-Roy (MM Racing p/b Seven Cycles) will be hungry to grab her first series win of the season this weekend. Josie Jacques-Maynes (Specialized/KMC p/b Cal Giant) will be in the mix as well, adding that much depth to an already deep field. And if the competition from the local and regional riders wasn’t enough, add to the mix the returning Mackenzie Dickey (Verge Sport/Test Pilot), a former winner of this race, along with the new cross sensation Laura Van Guilder (C3 Sollay), who leads the Mid-Atlantic series, and the competition for the women’s crown will be fierce and exciting. Look for some great racing here on the weekend.
The battle for the under 23 crown is now a 3-way street fight between current leader Nick Keough (Louis Garneau/Sonic), Toby Marzot (Fiordifrutta), and former series leader Will Dugan (Richard Sachs/RGM/Boathouse), who will look to return to form after a stumble in the last series race in Gloucester. The race within the race has always been an exciting one, and this year’s threesome won’t disappoint.
The masters races this year has been the Corner Cycles show, with 35+ series leader Jonny Bold leading the pack and 45+ series leader Kevin Hines being just plain dominant. Bold will renew the season-long battle with Roger Aspholm (Westwood Velo), former elite winner Mark McCormack (Team FUJI fueled by Clif Bar), and Hines for the 35+ win, while Hines will look to fly off the radar in the 45+ standings. Look for Todd Cassan (Westwood Velo) and Mark Gunsales (Team FUJI fueled by Clif Bar) to try to keep Hines in their sights, although no one has been able to do so this season.
The under 19 junior race will have a different winner this weekend, as series leader Luke Keough is in Europe tackling with the elites of the sport. This will open the door for some familiar faces and some new ones to battle it out for the junior titles and one of the largest junior prize purses in the country. Series regulars Manny Goguen (Minuteman Road Club) and Jesse Keough (CL Noonan/KAM/Coast-to-Coast) will be battling each other for the coveted leaders jersey, but they will have to watch out for the very talented Gavin Mannion (Hot Tubes) and rising star Jeff Bahnson (Secret Henry’s/Van Dessel), who at 15 years of age has beaten every amateur rider on the Mid-Atlantic circuit so far this year.
The 2008 Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series is brought to you by Verge Sport, makers of fine cycling clothing and products since 1993; by Cycle-Smart, purveyors of personalized cycling coaching and solutions for riders across the country; by Cycle-Ops, makers of high-tech accessories to meet any indoor training plans; by Echappe, rent-to-own the latest in race wheels – try before you buy at Echappe; by BikeReg.com, the official online registration service of the NECCS; and by Paul Weiss Photo/Video, the official photographer of the NECCS. You can visit these sponsors and get more information on the series by going to the web at http://www.necyclocross.com.