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by Lee Waldman
Saturday, January 14. 4:00 p.m.
The story line for all of the races today was incredibly similar. The first few riders coming off of the start straight were the race. Behind them, the consistent pattern was chaos, causing the races to blow apart within the first three minutes of the Women’s 35 – 39 race, the Men’s 50 – 54 and 45 – 49 races. They were won, by Lyne Bessette, Steve Tilford and Don Myrah respectively. Those were the stories, but the course conditions truly contributed to the story line today. Not that Bessette, Tilford and Myrah wouldn’t have won anyway. They were clearly the strongest riders in each of their fields stamping their authority on the races early on.
Bessette came back from a mechanical on the first lap while already in the lead, to catch and pass Kristin Weber and Lisa Hudson. Weber was able to keep the gap to the Canadian reasonable, always in the hunt so that Bessette could never relax. Hudson rode a strong race for third, finishing with room to spare. Behind them the rest of the women’s field was scattered.
The plot was similar in the next race. Coming off of the pavement Tilford grabbed the hole shot with Kevin Hines and Gunnar Shogren hot on his heels. By the end of the first lap it was a one man race for first and a dogfight till the end for the next two podium placings. Ultimately Hines took second with Shogren third. Again, the gap to the remainder of the field was substantial.
In the men’s 45 – 49 race, like in the previous races, the lead group was determined by the time the race hit the pits the first time through with Myrah firmly in the mix. By the time one more lap had passed he’d taken over the lead and held it for the rest of the race.
In the men’s 40 – 44 race Peter Webber and Brandon Dwight battled each other for the entire race with Webber taking the victory. The difference between the two Colorado riders and the chasing field was the smooth bike handling that both men demonstrated, something that was crucial today as the conditions were certainly a challenge.
Riding first thing in the morning with sunshine and chilly temperatures, the women battled frozen ruts and, in spots, pools of ice. Picking good lines was critical as the rock hard course was unforgiving and the slightest loss of focus was disastrous.
By the time the first group of men lined up at 11:20 the sun had softened the ruts enough to cause immediate build up on the bikes. The ruts, which hadn’t disappeared, became slick and greasy adding another dimension of challenge to a course that was already challenging enough. The difference between the leaders in each race and the chasers became apparent in the ability that those riders had to keep the pressure on the pedals and simply float over the sections that challenged other riders.
Even good bike handlers, if they found themselves in the wrong place, had a difficult time. One bobble from a rider in front caused devastation to the following racers.
All in all, a great day of racing. We saw stellar bike handling, continually changing true cyclocross conditions and worthy champions.