by Alan Atwood

The oldest UCI cyclocross race in North America has showcased some of America’s best talent in the sport.  After this weekend, you can add 3 more names to that list, including a star in the making in Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld’s Jamey Driscoll, who chalked up UCI wins 4 and 5 this weekend at the Cycle-Smart International.

Driscoll’s formula for success this year has been a steady start on lap 1 and then turning on the pressure for each lap after that until he finds himself alone.  Saturday was no exception as the first move of the day was made by Happy Valley native Matt White (Bikereg.com/Joe’s Garage), who looked to do the same he did in 2006 when he won the event.  But White was eventually caught by Driscoll, Andy Jacques-Maynes (Specialized/KMC p/b Cal Giant), and Dan Timmerman (Reynolds/Swan Cycles).  Once this lead group was established, Driscoll continued to apply the pressure until Timmerman and Jacques-Maynes were spit off the back, and eventually a game White succumbed to the momentum of Driscoll.  With Driscoll in the clear, Jacques-Maynes made his own move on the penultimate lap to get away from White to claim the 2nd spot; White claimed 3rd comfortably over Timmerman.

Sunday saw the same style of race but the players shifted around a bit.  Day 2 saw Timmerman take a quick advantage as he looked to go out like he did in round 2 in Vermont a month earlier.  But the chase group would have none of it, as a larger group this day caught up to Timmerman on lap 4 including Jacques-Maynes, Justin Lindine (Targetraining), White, Driscoll, and Chris Jones (Jittery Joe’s/Sonic).  Once together, Driscoll turned on the gas again and within 2 laps the lead group was whittled for a familiar foursome, Driscoll, White, Jacques-Maynes, and Timmerman.  As can happen, pressure by one can cause mistakes by another; and first to bobble was Timmerman, as a crash in the sand pit took him out of the group and held back White and Jacques-Maynes, giving Driscoll the margin he needed to walk away from the rest of the group and a ticket to win #2 on the weekend.  A game Timmerman made it back to the chase group, but was out of gas as White managed to outsprint Jacques-Maynes for 2nd on the day.

With women’s leader Amy Dombroski in Boulder to defend her NACT lead, it was a wide open women’s race on the weekend with the stage ready for another rider to shine.  And the talent that came to Northampton this weekend mixed New England regulars Rebecca Wellons (Ridley), Maureen Bruno-Roy (MM Racing p/b Seven Cycles), and Sally Annis (NEBC/CycleLoft/Devonshire Dental) with mid-Atlantic veteran Diedre Winfield (Velo Bela/Kona), cross rookie Laura Van Gilder (C3-Sollay), and Ontario veteran Natasha Elliott (EMD Serono/Stevens).  This combination of talents was sure to produce a couple of excellent races on the weekend, and they did not disappoint.

Winfield started out well on lap 1 on Saturday with all the regulars sans Wellons in tow chasing.  Once together, Elliott showed she had the good form on the day regularly taking turns out front with Winfield, who prefers to take control of a field during the race.  The 5 riders were eventually brought back to 3 as Bruno-Roy and Annis succumbed to stumbles, but meanwhile Elliott turned up the volume in the engine room leaving Winfield and Van Gilder in an unfamiliar position of chasing. The two eventually caught up, but simultaneous bobbles at the barriers by them was enough to send Elliot away for good and she took the win. Van Gilder sprinted away from Winfield to secure 2nd on the day.

Day 2 started out with Annis taking the hole shot and the lead going to the lower section, but after lap 2 it was the same group of 5 seeking the win on the day.  Once again Elliott charged on the front to break up the group, but unlike yesterday only Annis was spit off the back; Bruno-Roy was able to hang on and the lead group of 4 kept it together until the end of the race.  While Elliott appeared to be the dominant racer on the weekend, Van Gilder was able to run mistake free on day 2 and showed the group why she is the best sprinter in the women’s game, easily taking the win on the final 200 meters of the course.  Elliott was able to hang on to 2nd with Winfield rounding out the podium.

In other races, Will Dugan (Richard Sachs) was motivated to get his U23 jersey back, and did so on Saturday with a powerful performance, but Nick Keough (Jittery Joe’s/Sonic) ripped it right back on Sunday to setup a 3-way showdown for the series crown between the 2 and Fiordifrutta’s Toby Marzot.  Jonny Bold (Corner Cycles) dominated the weekend with a sweep on the Masters race with Mark McCormack (Team FUJI fueled by Clif Bar) and local veteran Dan Coady (We Love Bicycles) cornering the podium spots on the weekend.  The juniors race was dominated by a couple of newcomers to New England cross, with the mid-Atlantic cross rising star Jeff Bahnson (Secret Henry’s Team/Van Dessel) winning on day 1 and New England road star Gavin Mannion (Hot Tubes) gaining revenge on day 2 handing Bahnson his first major race loss of 2008.

The series resumes on November 29th as Tom Stevens hosts the Bay State Cyclo-Cross Classic in Sterling, Massachusetts the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Day 1 Photo Gallery by Paul Weiss: