by Richard Carman
JACKSON, Miss. – Providence Hill Farm, situated in the gently rolling hills outside of Jackson, provided the most scenic race location thus far in the Delta States Grand Prix (DSGP).
Skies were overcast, and in a shocking development at this latitude, cooler temperatures were on hand as riders took to the course for warm ups. But, for the spongy grass and soft earth it floated atop, this would have been the fastest DSGP course yet. Instead, this very “Belgian” course was a brutal energy drain.
The wide-open field, dotted with humongous hay bales, was a playground for course designers Skip Town and Wes McWhorter to carve out a large, loose circuit with fast sweeping turns. A dirt descent leading up to a small roller created a passable jump, where many riders took the opportunity to put up some style points.
One barrier, hidden behind a hay bale in the middle of a blind hairpin, nearly took out several Cat 4/5 riders who did not pre-ride the entire course. Barriers seemed to be key to the challenge of this race. Positioned uphill and downhill, as well as on flat areas and in turns, the multiple barrier sections tested a variety of skills and seemed to be where racers either caught or ditched each other.
Since race two in Baton Rouge, several shakeups have occurred among Cat 4 and Cat 5 riders. Ryan Barnes (S3 Racing) received a mandatory upgrade to Cat 3 before announcing he would be taking a break from cyclocross to prepare for road season. Matt Gandy (The Bike Crossing) voluntarily upgraded to Cat 4. Gandy and Graeme Preston (4th Dimension Racing) have both opted to abandon Cat 4/5 races and race the Cat 4 races only. All of this shuffling has thinned out the Cat 5 field, made the Cat 4 race a hair more competitive with Gandy replacing Barnes, and perhaps prompting Preston to begin racing singlespeed in order to run two races.
Cat 4/5 Men
The holeshot was essentially a race to the first set of barriers, less than 100 meters from the start line. Because there was no tight bottleneck, the pack stayed together for most of the first lap. Micheal Boedighemier (Rouler Racing) and Jonathan Crain (The Forge) broke from the pack to put down a considerable lead. Christopher Snider (Rouler Racing) and Richard Carman (Rouler Racing) battled for third place in lap two until Snider encountered pedal issues following an uphill barrier section, allowing Carman to pull away. Injured from a washout in race two, Snider was ultimately unable to close the gap to the leaders, but finished in third place uncontested.
Boedigheimer led Crain through much of the race, anxiously anticipating an attack that never came. With the pressure on Boedigheimer to make a move, he attempted a break in a downhill left-hander, resulting in a wash out and subsequent dropped chain. The crash cost him the lead for half a lap, but steadily, he chewed up the gap and overtook Crain for his first victory; beer hand-up and all.
Masters / Singlespeed / Women
Shayne Smith (Los Locos) made his DSGP debut in Jackson, swiping first place in the Masters race. In a race of debuts, dark horse Murat Celebi (Semi-Tough Cycling Club) rode into third place in his first competitive cycling event ever. Jeremy Polk (Revolution Racing), who graciously provided beer and meat for the riders, bested Celebi to finish second. The arrival of these newcomers bumped Masters podium mainstays Rusty Bernard (Nola Lending Racing) and Matt Kyte (Semi-Tough Cycling Club) off the steps this week. Louisiana-Mississippi Bicycle Racing Association (LAMBRA) president Randy Legeai made a cameo on a vintage steel frame, sporting a wool New Orleans Bicycle Club jersey of similar throwback status.
In the singlespeed category, Graeme Preston (4th Dimension Racing) and Adam Morris (Absolute Racing) took off and shuffled positions several times. Preston remarked that he was having difficulty gaining traction on the bumpy stretches, and suspected Morris’ suspension fork was a useful asset for keeping the rubber on the dirt. Singlespeed fixture Matt Gandy (The Bike Crossing) was unable to keep up with the leading pair, but received little opposition. In typical Gandy fashion, more than enough showmanship was provided to make up for any shortcomings on the leaderboard. In the final lap, Morris turned it all the way up to defeat Preston by a narrow margin.
Samantha Stein (Raising Cane’s Racing) had another smooth race, once again taking home first place. Rosanne Simons (Nola Lending Racing) continued to be Stein’s main opposition. Unattached rider, Allison Brown, stole third place in her DSGP debut. Brown took the podium spot riding a full carbon Litespeed road bike on slicks, sending a lesson to anyone who would blame poor performance on their equipment being ill-suited to cross.
Cat 4 Men
The Bike Crossing team (TBC) brought the cavalry this week, fielding a formidable squadron. Gandy and TBC cohort Stewart Patrick took the holeshot, with Preston and Morris hot on “their six.” As the race progressed, Patrick led Gandy away from the pack. The pair set a furious pace, while keeping relaxed enough to snatch hand-ups and dollar bills. With derailleurs at his disposal, Preston was able to drop the hammer on Morris and set the score straight after their singlespeed duel, cruising to third.
Cat 1/2/3 Men
Jaden Kifer (4th Dimension Racing) hit the ignition, and bid farewell to the rest of the field. With this first place finish arriving on the heels of his win at race two, Kifer distinguished himself to be the man to beat, and a clear contender for taking the overall series win. Unattached rider Ed Novak put the pressure on Kifer a handful of times, but in the end was not able to overtake him, crossing the line to finish second. The real battle in this race was fought between Andrew Sorey (Absolute Racing) and Ross Livingston (The Bike Crossing) over the third place finish. Sorey led Livingston for the first half or so, and managed to evade for a good bit as Livingston attacked. Sorey was, however, finally overtaken, and never seemed able to reclaim the upper hand.
After a two week rest, racing will pick back up in Monroe, Louisiana. Racers are being warned well in advance to expect Saharan quantities of sand. Plan accordingly. Overall series leaders are solidifying their positions, but Monroe presents one last opportunity to shake up the field before the district championship in December.