by Jamie Mack
Last season a new name appeared in the MAC Series start lists at races throughout the mid-Atlantic; not only did it appear, it usually topped the results as well. The young rider was a virtual unknown to the US when he arrived, but by the end of the season everyone around knew the name Valentin Scherz. The U23 Champion hails from Switzerland, and having come back across the pond to spend another season making the rest of the mid-Atlantic pros suffer, he’s now making his second round of the MAC series. Given the results he put up last year, he’s not likely to need any help, but just in case he’s brought reinforcements.
Coming with Scherz this year is another U23 rider, Anthony Grand. While he’s only been tearing through the mid-Atlantic races for a couple of weekends now, it seems as though Scherz has chosen well. In fact, the only one that seems to be giving Grand consistent trouble in getting to the top of the podium is Scherz himself, though Davide Frattini did establish that he may be the strongest Euro around by winning both days of Charm City. Scherz and Grand seem to be running neck and neck in the race to see who can cause the most suffering in the elite fields this season.
When asked about his goals for his return to the MAC, Scherz initially told Cyclocross Magazine that “I think I’ll need some time to get back in it…my good friend and teammate Anthony Grand will be the guy to follow.” Scherz went on to explain that his fitness was not where he hoped it would be, as he spent four months in mandatory service in the Swiss army since we last saw him. “I gained a lot of weight, lost my fitness, and was feeling really slow on a bike. But I trained hard for two months and now I want to see if I have my fitness [from] last season,” Scherz said. “Sure I’m hoping to repeat my success. I’m here for that… Just to win! Seriously, it’s really important for me to get good results and race experience here.” Given his success thus far – podiums in most races and the current leader of the MAC series – Scherz appears to be on the right track.
Having spent last season here, Scherz has a little more loft in his goals for this season than his teammate. While Grand is happy to be here, riding, gaining experience and preparing for his first race back in Europe later this year – the World Championships in St. Wendel – his goal is simply to win a race in the MAC series. From the fan’s perspective, it’s always exciting to root for the underdog, and that is exactly the role Grand finds himself in when faced with his teammate.
But Grand is not the only support behind Scherz this year. Jed Kornbluh and his partner David Berson have pulled together a team based around the Swiss duo. Scherz and Grand headline the team, Cyfac-Champion Systems, which also includes Matt Spohn and director sportiff/racer David Sommerville. Cyclocross Magazine was able to speak with Kornbluh to get the drive behind their effort to support the young European racers.
CXM: What are the goals of the Philadelphia Cross School?
Jed Kornbluh: Our goals for 2010 were quite simple: Field a mixed team of foreign and domestic Elite riders and support them on a campaign to win the MAC series, while fleshing out the season with additional races (both local and national). With our limited budget, comprised of product and financial support from donors and ourselves, we put all of our energy into getting our team supplied for a successful campaign. Now that the riders are all here, we’re ready for action and have a great web of supporting sponsors.
CXM: And are Val and Anthony the only “students” this year?
JK: We’re now realizing that our team name is a little limiting, as we’re not a traditional school – more a program to source riders from Europe to ride on our Elite amatuer squad while rounding our the roster with top talent from the region, including Kyle Peppo (a resident of NYC currently riding for GS Mengoni), Matt Spohn (from West Chester, PA and formerly of Richmond Pro Cycling), David Sommerville (also from NYC and former DS of Sommerville Sports), and Julz Meier (of Wayne, PA and 2009 MAC Junior Champ). Our eventual goal in years to come will be a program that offers a full cultural exchange – sending riders back to Europe to race for 4-6 weeks with our Euro team members after the US Domestic season comes to a close in December. We’ve got to build the program up and make that a reality and we’re thinking this year will be a great start.
CXM: What’s the first race for the guys this season? Nittany?
JK: Nittany will be our first event this season and we’ll continue with the rest of the MAC series, along with some USGP events and other UCI races mixed in between now and December. Some of our riders will also head out to CrossVegas, including Kyle Peppo, who will be taking a short vacation from his day job in quantitative risk management to mix it up under the lights of Vegas.
CXM: What type of bikes and other equipment will the guys be using this season?
JK: Cyfac MegaCross built with Sram Rival, Force, and Red and Revolution Wheelworks wheels. We’re also using Thorne chainrings, thanks to our friend Stu Thorne over at cyclocrossworld.com.