by Ken Getchell

The final two race weekends of the 2008 MAC Powered by SRAM season were at polar geographic opposites of the large Mid-Atlantic Region, but shared the same cold and very windy weather. As in the Hamptons of Long Island two weeks previous, the winds were the biggest course obstacle that the riders dealt with. “It was like a slow-motion race,” said road pro Tyler Wren of the Colivita Olive Oil / Sutter Home Wines team. “The wind really sapped your energy today. On some of the uphills into the headwind on the grass you’re going, like, six miles per hour but putting out 500 watts.”

In a story line that has repeated itself many time throughout this 2008 season, team swept the top of the podium with Wes Schempf dominating the Men’s SRAM Classic and new Pennsylvania State Champion “Bad Andy” Wulfkuhle finishing a convincing second. For Schempf, his first UCI victory was a goal, but it came with some outside encouragement. “I was a little disappointed when I saw that Jeremiah Bishop and Steve Tilford were signed up. But I’ve been talking with some people who have taught me to not get discouraged and to believe in myself. Whenever Jeremiah had been around, that was my previous thought. I was like, “ahh, I’m racing for second.” So I believed in myself today. I wanted to win, but I said “whatever happens, happens” and I ended up the holeshot and stuck it from there.”

Ironically, Schempf’s nemeses, Trek VW’s Jeremiah Bishop, actually contributed to his win. Bishop crashed near the run-up on the second lap, not only taking himself out, but also delaying most of the field. Coming out of the pits in front of Tyler Wren, the two worked together to catch Ryan Dewald (Batley Harley Davidson) and close the gap on Wulfkuhle. But the day, like so many others this year, belonged to the two riders, who were also preparing for the team’s celebration dinner later that evening. The now two-time Elite MAC Powered by SRAM Champion Schempf smiled when he recalled some heckling from one of his teammates during the race, “As I was riding, Marc Vettori was yelling at me that I’m buying the first round tonight. So I’ll happily do that.”

With the Women’s MAC Powered by SRAM season championship already locked-up, sent Laura Van Gilder to Rhode Island to further expand the black-and-blue empire. And with Melanie Swartz (Velo Bella / Kona) a scratch due to illness and Hub Racing’s Arley Kemmerer nursing a surgically-repaired broken finger, Velo-Bella / Kona’s Dee Dee Winfield figured to be the favorite for the REI Women’s Classic. She didn’t disappoint, as she led the race from wire-to-wire. “I just tried to get out ahead early because I knew the wind would be a factor and I didn’t want anybody drafting. So I tried to save it where I could and push it where I thought I was strongest.”

Though nearly a minute behind, second place Kristin Gavin (Human Zoom / Pabst Blue Ribbon) was elated as she came across the line. It was the best UCI finish ever for first-year Elite rider. In third place, Arley Kemmerer battled not only her competitors and the elements, but also injury. “Three” seems to be Kemmerer’s number of late, as it not only represents her finishing position, but also the number of screws holding together her surgically-repaired left pinky finger that was injured by one of the same wooden posts that snared Tim Johnson’s knee at the USGP in New Jersey. With a hand brace protecting her finger, Kemmerer lost the ability to fully grasp the handlebars, which made remounts more difficult. Compounding the full-time law student’s handicap was that she wasn’t able to ride outside since the injury three weeks ago and all of her training has been done inside.

In the end, the biggest battle may have been man and woman against the elements. “At the start, I didn’t even feel like I was moving,” laughed Winfield referring to the headwind at the start. Kristin Gavin said the cross wind played havoc with her barrier dismounts, “the wind blew the bike into you and carried you. I was like “Ohhhh” because it caught me by surprise.” Jeremiah Bishop simply said “I’m still shivering,” 40 minutes after the race, the majority of which was spent indoors. What about Arley Kemmerer, surely years of alpine ski racing gave her an advantage? “It doesn’t help. The cold air feels like it paralyzes your lungs. It’s totally different (from ski racing). We’re spending so much time outside compared to ski racing. In skiing, you go out and take a few runs, but you can always go back in the lodge to warm up. And when you’re racing, your run takes a minute-and-a-half and you go right back into the lodge. So to be out there 40-45 minutes, it wears on you.” Tyler Wren was asked what elements of pro road racing could compare to the cold, windy Capital Cross Classic, “Maybe riding on rough roads like in Belgium, but nothing on the road is this bad. But it’s tons of fun.”