by Ken Getchell
Fair Hill, Maryland – On a warm day under clear skies, Melanie Swartz and Ryan Dewald stormed to victory at the Wayne Scott Xross in Fair Hill Maryland on Saturday. The long and relatively flat course through the Cecil County Fairgrounds was fast and technical with few opportunities to recover.
In the Elite Men’s race, Greg Wittwer (ALAN North America) took a lead on the first lap and made the rest of the field, and himself, suffer. “I was going real hard,” he said after the race. “I saw from the earlier races that the races were staying together in the front and I wanted to spread it out. Wittwer stayed away for two laps, before Ryan Dewald (Battley Harley Davidson, Stephan Kincaid (Fuji) and Andy Wulfkuhle (C3-Sollay.com) joined him to form the lead group. Behind them, a battle of the road pros saw Jonny Sundt (KBS/Medifast) and Bobby Lea (T.EA.M. Fuji) engaged in their own turf that would eventually be won by Sundt. Meanwhile, C3-Sollay’s Michael Gallagher was on a mad chase through the field after flatting on the first lap that eventually netted him eighth place.
Wulfkuhle was the first of the leaders to falter at about midway through the race. A lap later, Kincaid was showing signs of weakness and Wittwer, sensing it, accelerated and took Dewald with him. But already, Dewald had his strategy set and made his move with three laps to go. “Greg had a lot more torque in the tight sections and out of the corners, but whenever it (the course) opened up, I just put in some more wattage and tried to get away. He must have had a little bobble because I heard the announcer say ’30 seconds’, so I rolled from there. I figured I better get a cushion in case I bobbled.”
The Women’s race was a tight, tactical and entertaining battle. Vanderkitten’s Patty Buerkle was the pre-race favorite after her impressive win in Washington DC last week, but she was a non-factor after missing a turn and going off-course and eventually DNF’d. Up front a three-rider selection was made on the starting prologue loop with first-year Elite Kristen Gavin (Human Zoom/Pabst Blue Ribbon), Arley Kemmerer Hub Racing and Melanie Swartz Velo Bella/Kona), with Kenda Tire’s Jennifer Maxwell lurking 15-20 seconds behind the entire race to keep the pace honest. While Kemmerer and Gavin preferred to lead so they could take their own lines through the technical sections, Swartz was content to stat at third wheel. “I was hoping that the three of us could work together to stay away from fourth place,” said Kemmerer later. “Kristen and I kept going back and forth and, I don’t know, Melanie just waited.”
Swartz waited until less than a quarter mile from the end to make her move when she took a self-described “funky line” through a section of exposed tree roots and attacked. “I raced with these riders before and I came in third,” said Swartz. “It was a risk because Arley and Kristin were stronger than me through the barns and I didn’t want to have to sprint them, so I went as hard as i could, leaning the bike more and pedaling a hard gear, really letting it all hang out hoping to make it to the finish maybe in first. I thought if they caught me, I’d still be third, so that’s why I gambled.” Indeed Gavin admitted that she wanted to keep everybody together and lead into the last corner, “but Melanie made a smart move behind the shed and I couldn’t get back on her wheel.”
For Swartz it was an emotional first victory in the MAC series after nine years of trying, and those near her after the race risked over-exposure to the energy radiating off of her. This win means a lot to me and is first win in the 9 years I’ve been racing this MAC series. I’ve had a rough start to this season with mechnicals, falls and bad starts. I took the weekend of Granogue and Wissahickon off as a mental and physical break after racing a full road season with Team Cyclelife. Today was a great day and this win means a lot to me and is a nice way to thank all those that have supported me.”
Next week, the MAC Powered by SRAM Series moves to New Jersey for two days of racing at the Beacon Cyclocross in Bridgeton and the HPCX in Jamesburg. Details are available on BikeReg.com