September 20, 2008; Conshohocken, PA, USA: Against the stunning backdrop of the Lehigh Valley’s South Mountain, the best of the MAC Cyclocross Series opened their 2008 season with the UCI Nittany Lion Cyclocross at Penn State University’s satellite campus in Fogelsville Pennsylvania on Saturday. By the end of the day, some of the results were as stunning as the scenery. Though the UCI races were the main event, the most lasting memory of the race may turn out to be the performance of Jeff Bahnson (Secret Henry’s/Van Dessel Factory Team) in the men’s “B” race. Unlike many series, MAC’s secondary men’s division includes Category 2 men, as well as the usual category 3 and 4, because of the high percentage of UCI-listed races that make up the series. Yet the 15 year-old high school sophomore, who many have tagged as a future superstar, convincingly beat some of the fastest racers in the Mid Atlantic at an age when he should be competing for a spot on his school’s Junior Varsity sports teams. It was the Junior 15-16 National Champion’s first outright win against adult competition, and it came before he’s even eligible to apply for a learner’s permit to drive a car.
Like Bahnson, Laura Van Gilder (C3-Sollay.com) took a stunning first win. With a grand total of just three cyclocross races under her belt, two them years ago before her professional career began, Van Gilder toed the line for the first-time at a big-league ‘cross race to start a new chapter in her legendary cycling career. One of her main rivals would be defending MAC Champion Maureen “Mo” Bruno-Roy, who was once Van Gilder’s soignier on the dominating Saturn road team. Bruno-Roy took the hole-shot and deliberately extended her lead throughout the early portion of the race, with Van Gilder and the Velo Bella teammate of Dee Dee Winfield and Anna Milkowski forming the chase. For both Winfield and Milkowski, the race marked the return to top-flight competition following layoffs: Milkowski after suffering a broken leg in a racing crash in the spring and Winfield after giving birth to her second child late last year.
Bruno-Roy seemed to have the race under control when she started getting visibly tired. “I’m at the very end of a four-week training block,” she said afterwards. “I was really tired. It’s too early in the season to peak for ‘cross yet.” Winfield drove the chase and even broke free at one point. But with two laps to go, Winfield, Bruno-Roy and Van Gelder were all together. Ten seconds after the announcers, alluding to Van Gelder’s road sprinting prowess, said “two of those three riders don’t want this race to stay together”, Winfield crashed at the tricky double sand pit. “I don’t know what happened,” she said later, “but my bike got wrapped up in the course tape and I was yelling ‘get off my bike!’ at the tape.” Bruno-Roy was unable to escape the ever present Van Gelder, who took the sprint easily.
Afterwards, Van Gelder said that she had first contacted her C3-Sollay.com team as far back as July after deciding to pursue ‘cross. “I’m really happy at C3-Sollay.com because it’s a cyclocross focused team. I wanted a team with the experience and guidance to really help me.”
The UCI Men’s race turned out to be a two-act play, with Matt White (BikeReg.com/Joe’s Garage) and Jamie Driscoll (Cyclocrossworld.com/
Runner-up White summarized the end game, “When Jamie took off and we sped up, it was just a matter of time before one of use screwed up. I was hoping it would be him, but is was me who spiked a pedal (into the grass) and I was done.”
In the Elite Masters Race, defending series champ Roger Aspholm dominated the proceedings and led his Westwood Velo teammates Troy Kimball and Ralf Warmuth to a podium-sweeping 1-2-3 finish.