Days of rain that soaked the Washington, DC metro region relented just in time for the Tacchino Cyclocross, the MABRA Super 8 series opener, but the deluge was still evident just below the surface of Rosaryville State Park in Upper Marlborough, Maryland. The soggy ground, high humidity, and the churning wheels of some 600 racers combined to create malleable course conditions that challenged riders from the Cat 4s at 8:30am straight through to the afternoon tandem race finale.
Lucky contestants faced a generous helping of off cambers rendered slick by long, wet grass and mud, a leg-sapping back-half climb, and the lengthy, log-strewn “Alpe d’Woez” runup. Luckily a festival atmosphere and dry skies helped mitigate the pain for participants and aggrieved family members alike. Funk band Gallons to Ounces provided the sonic backdrop at the barriers, where spectators could enjoy sausage, frites, and beer, and competitors could vie for donut grabs and turkey-slap primes courtesy of the race’s Tacchino mascot. (Tacchino is Italian for turkey, a dual homage to the race’s original Thanksgiving weekend date and host club Squadra Coppi’s Italian influence). A DJ and beer tent at the top of the run-up ensured adequate encouragement – and refreshment – was available to frontrunners and backmarkers alike.
Traction failures and the ability to quickly adjust lines to avoid trouble accounted for a number of position changes throughout the day, and on a course that placed a premium on both raw power and technical skill, the top of the results sheets showed a who’s who of MABRA ‘cross talent.
Road racing standout Erin Silliman (Alan North America) got the better of Van Dessel’s Jennifer Maxwell in the elite women’s race, with Libby Sheldon (Four Boys Racing) in third. Allyson Tufano (Sportif Coaching), who later went on to shame much of the men’s 3/4 field, and Laurel Larsen (November Bicycles) rounded out the podium in fourth and fifth.
The sun finally broke through the clouds for the men’s elite race, illuminating a battle of regional strongmen. The trio of Jared Nieters (XO Communications-Battley Harley Davidson), Greg Wittwer (Alan North America), and Weston Schempf (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes) secured an unassailable gap in the opening laps, with only Steve Cummings (C3) and Ben Frederick (Team Traveller) within shouting distance. Behind, the rest of the best kept a raucous late-afternoon crowd entertained with bunnyhops and dollar-grabs over the barriers. Nieters fell off the pace of the lead group after several laps, leaving Wittwer and Schempf to fight out the win. Wittwer carried off the spoils to make it a double elite-win day for the Alan North America squad.
The day closed with the Tandumb tandem event, pitting four intrepid teams against the course, the competition, and each other in a big-bike throwdown. Adam Driscoll and Pat Blair (Adventures for the Cure) successfully defended their 2010 Tacchino tandem title, besting Nick Taylor and Andrew Shelby (North Tek-Aria) as well as a dangerous pairing of elite race winners Wittwer and Silliman. 2010 elite men’s winner Joe Dombrowski (Trek-Livestrong) passed most of the day as an observer, but finally relented to ride the tandem race with Money n’ Stuff’s Christopher Wynnyk, showing promise in a new specialty his road sponsors will surely appreciate.
MABRA Super 8 competition resumes October 2 with the Winchester Apple Cross in Winchester, Virginia.