by Peter Sullivan and Jeff Bramhall
STERLING, MASSACHUSETTS – For the first time this season, cold and wind greeted racers for the seventh round of the Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series and part one of the NACT finals.
Laura van Gilder (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes) used her much-feared finishing kick to take the win out of a small lead group in Day 1 of the NACT weekend in Sterling, Mass. 2009 NACT series winner Natasha Elliot (Garneau-Club Chaussures) finished second, with Sally Annis in third.
Jeremy Powers (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) put in a dominating performance in the Elite men’s race to take the win going away. Luke Keough (Champion System-Keough Cyclocross) put in a valiant chase and held second place until mechanicals took him out of the running. Derrick St. John (Garneau-Club Chaussures) recovered from a rough start early on to battle all the way back to second place, claiming the Most Aggressive Rider award in the process.
Once again the grounds of the Chocksett Middle School in Sterling, Mass., played host to the UCI Baystate Cyclocross weekend – a long-held New England classic. Traditionally the penultimate stop (rounds 7 & 8 ) in the New England Verge Cyclocross Series, this year Baystate also served as the last stop in the North American Cyclocross Trophy (NACT) series after some late-season negotiations following the dissipation of the Southampton, NY venue. Biting New England winds and cold temps assaulted riders throughout the day on what was already a challenging course. Typical of a Tom Stevens-designed footprint, Day 1 consisted of plenty of straights with flowing chicanes peppered with tricky off-camber sections and uniquely-placed obstacles. It was a design that favored power, but by no means at the expense of finesse.
The Elite Women’s race was expected to be hotly contested with the participation of two of North America’s finest in Laura van Gilder and Natasha Elliot, who were both tied for fourth in the NACT standings. Not to be outdone were New England notables Andrea Smith (Ladies First Racing) and Sally Annis (Crossresults.com-JRA Cycles), who were first and second in the Verge Series, respectively, going into the race.
As has been the case in all the Verge Series races this year, the Elite women had a tight group at the front from the beginning to the end. Initially, the lead group was made up of eight racers, but eventually pared itself to a group of five with van Gilder , Elliott, Annis, Arley Kemmerer (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes) and Maureen Bruno-Roy (Bob’s Red Mill-Seven Cycles).
With a little more than three laps to go, an elite selection of Elliot, Annis and van Gilder was made and the battle remained relentless right to the finish. Despite a brief reshuffling following a minor crash on a slippery off-camber, Elliot pushed the pace from the front position for most of the race, which appropriately earned her the Most Aggressive Rider designation.
“I didn’t know how hard they were going … am I just pulling them or are they just resting?” Elliot later wondered after the hard-fought battle.
As the race wore on, Elliott constantly pushed the pace, driving the group on all the open sections of the course. She was eventually able to shed Kemmerer and Bruno- Roy. Reduced to three, the women seemed content to ride tempo, holding the chase at a consistent 15-second gap, waiting for mistakes to be made.
Elliot, fearful of a final sprint finish, especially with the likes of the speedy van Gilder, doled out punch after punch coming out of the tight and twisty turns, but that opportunistic gap remained elusive. It was Annis who actually made a last-ditch attack just before the slight uphill section leading into the final straight. The cagey veteran van Gilder would have none of it though and quickly covered, only to then pull away easily in the final sprint to take the win. Elliot just barely edged out Annis at the line for second with Arley Kemmerer (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes) coming in just ahead of Bruno Roy 20 seconds back. Andrea Smith was next over the line in sixth, which consequently put the Verge Series jersey onto the shoulders of Annis. Smith, who has been a force to be reckoned with this season and who is looking to soon best her sixth-place showing at Nationals last year, was gracious with regards to losing the series lead, “Sally is great, she has had an amazing season.”
With many of the nation’s top Elite racers opting to not come to Sterling to contest the NACT final, Jeremy Powers, who is one third of the dominating Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com team, looked to be the clear favorite. He didn’t disappoint. Powers, racing alone in New England as teammates Tim Johnson and Jamey Driscoll were in Belgium and Iowa, respectively, came into today motivated to pick up his first-ever national series win. With a finish of fourth or better, Powers would clinch the overall in the NACT series, but like any other champion, Powers came to win. Shortly into the race, a select group of Luke Keough (Champion System-Keough Cyclocross), Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart) and Justin Lindine (bikereg.com-Joe’s Garage) formed with Powers to lead the charge.
This set the stage for some very exciting dynamics within the closely-contested Verge Series Standings. Lindine was the current holder, with Myerson just 32 points behind in second and Luke Keough not far behind in third.
From the gun, Powers was on the front of the race, quickly shedding Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart), Justin Lindine (bikereg.com-Joe’s Garage-Scott) and Christian Favata (Favata’s Tablerock Tours and Bikes). The only person able to hold on to the Cannondale racer’s wheel was Luke Keough (Champion System-Keough Cyclocross). The young and determined current USGP U23 jersey holder is coming off two dominant wins at the Cycle-Smart International (Verges series stops #5 and #6) and is having what could only be considered a breakout season.
With a herculean effort, Keough was able to keep the pace for the first half of the race. But with four laps to go, Keough ran into some trouble when he rolled his rear tire. He was able to roll it back on and ride the same bike, but the incident initiated Power’s solo effort to the finish—perhaps a little earlier than Powers had planned: “I was waiting and trying to stay as consistent as I could and with four to go I rode that hard section on the top and came across the bottom, made a little effort when we came back down through the pit and I had a small gap. I didn’t want to really open it up that early. It was good to ride with Luke but the gap opened up and I am not going to wait.”
Keough’s problems wouldn’t end there, as he then rolled his front tire and had to run to the pits to exchange bikes. This allowed Myerson and a hard-charging Derrick St. John (Garneau Club Chaussure-Ogilvy) to pass him.
“I felt really good, and Jeremy was taking it easy,” said Keough. “He was just riding steady and taking some of the wind for me. It came down to four to go, and I rolled my rear tire down by the gravel and he just went. Obviously, I couldn’t hold him back. I pulled it back on and stayed on the same bike, and then I rolled my front tire. I had to run to the pit, and that is when Derrick and Adam caught me.”
Keough slid backwards past Myerson and St. John, but managed to hold on for a very impressive fourth place and U-23 victory.
Behind Powers, Myerson and St. John were punishing each other in hopes of picking up the remaining podium spots. All was going well until Myerson missed a pedal after the barriers, giving St John the small gap he needed to make a move. In the blink of an eye, St. John put 10 seconds into Myerson, and the two held their places to the finish.
St John’s valiant ride back onto the podium after a poor start and some early troubles ultimately earned him the Devonshire Dental Most Aggressive Rider. Keough and Lindine came in 20 seconds back to round out the top five. Lindine retained the Verge Series jersey, but Myerson’s strong ride and continued consistency has put him within a mere 15 points of the top spot.
Powers, who just came off of a big training week with sights set squarely on Nationals, was his usual wry self as he reflected on his effort, saying “It’s all good, very straight forward.” He will reunite with his teammates Jamey Driscoll and Tim Johnson next weekend in Portland, Oregon, to contest the finals of the USGP, followed by the National Championships in Bend.
Racing will start up again Sunday morning in Sterling with the NACT series final awards being presented at the end of the day to the men and women.
|UCI Elite/U23 Men||35 starters|
|Place||U23||Bib||Time||First Name||Last Name||Team|
|2||4||0:56:48||Derrick||ST JOHN||Garneau Club Chaussure-Ogilvy|
|5||2||0:57:26||Justin||LINDINE||BikeReg.com / Joe’s Garage / Scott|
|6||10||0:58:02||Travis||LIVERMON||Mock Orange Racing|
|8||5||0:58:26||Andrew||WULFKUHLE||C3-Athletes Serving Athletes|
|9||6||0:58:28||Christian||FAVATA||Favata’s Tablerock Tours and Bikes|
|10||8||0:58:53||Alec||DONAHUE||Wheelhouse / NCC|
|12||13||0:59:26||Jonny||SUNDT||Kenda Pro Cycling|
|15||11||0:59:26||Daniel||CHABANOV||NYCROSS.com / CBRC|
|16||16||0:59:53||Thierry||LALIBERTE||Xprezo – Borsao|
|17||3||9||0:59:53||Manny||GOGUEN||BikeReg.com / Joe’s Garage / Scott|
|20||7||1:01:06||Josh||DILLON||RICHARD SACHS – RGM WATCHES – RADIX|
|21||25||1:01:16||Ryan||KELLY||crossresults.com p/b JRA Cycles|
|25||22||1:02:14||Adam||SULLIVAN||Embrocation Cycling Journal|
|26||23||1:02:27||Greg||WHITNEY||B2C2 p/b Boloco|
|27||28||1:02:37||Stephen||PIERCE||Cambridge Bicycle / Igleheart Frames|
|31||14||3 laps||Cary||FRIDRICH||EMBROCATION CYCLING JOURNAL|
|32||7||35||3 laps||Collin||Huston||CL Noonan/Bay Hill Capital/Corner Cycle|
|33||18||3 laps||Rodrigo||MORAES||Edgartown Bicycles|
|34||26||3 laps||R. Michael||MCKITTRICK||Cambridge Bicycle / Igleheart Frames|
|35||24||3 laps||Steven||HOPENGARTEN||Wheelworks Racing|
|UCI Elite Women||22 starters|
|Place||Bib||Time||First Name||Last Name||Team|
|1||101||0:40:31||Laura||VAN GILDER||C3 Athletes Serving Athletes|
|2||103||0:40:31||Natasha||ELLIOTT||Garneau Club Chaussure-Ogilvy|
|3||102||0:40:31||Sally||ANNIS||crossresults.com p/b JRA Cycles|
|4||105||0:40:51||Arley||KEMMERER||C3 – Athletes Serving Athletes|
|5||106||0:40:51||Maureen||BRUNO ROY||Bob’s Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles|
|8||120||0:41:36||Linnea||Koons||Embrocation Cycling Journal|
|13||122||0:43:07||Arielle||Filiberti||Specialied Designs for Women / Bicycle H|
|19||119||0:46:46||Jessica||Hayes-Conroy||North Atlantic Velo/ClassBook.com|