Eric Thompson Bests Founder, Wondergem in Johnson City MSG

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MSG #4 Johnson City Cyclocross.         © Bart Nave

Eric Thompson summits 'The Wall'. © Bart Nave

by Dwayne Letterman

(Johnson City, TN)- The fourth installment of the 2009 Mud, Sweat and Gears Cyclocross Series was welcomed by warm sunshine and blue skies- the complete opposite of the Halloween race that was cold and muddy. MSG #4 saw another record crowd with 173 entries.

A first for MSG, was playing host to an SEC Collegiate Series Race. This being the first year of an SEC conference series turnout was light but competition was fierce. With local ETSU rider, Gregory Kaufman, winning the Collegiate C race.

The much and anticipated Redline run-up made it’s fourth appearance in the six years that Winged Deer Park has hosted our event. The run-up also known as “The Wall” is one of the most feared features of any MSG course.  At 25′ long and 45 degrees, just running up it a few times beats you down, and riding it is nearly impossible! New features included the “Drop” and “Ring Around the Oak Tree”. Aside from the three technical features of the course the rest of the course was wide, with sweeping turns that required no braking, just railing through. While this should have provided much needed recovery, the pace was so high riders had to “stay on the gas” the whole time.

MSG #4 Johnson City Cyclocross.  © Bart Nave

Race organizers planted dollar bills along the run-up. © Bart Nave

To encourage riders to attempt to ride the run-up, two subscriptions to Cyclocross Magazine, an MSG sponsor, were on the line. At the top of the run-up, crowds gathered under Michael Viertal’s Lynskey tent (Viertal, a Lynskey rep also won the CX4 race) and behind the Cyclocross Magazine banner to ring bells and yell at riders attempting the challenge.  Lap after lap, DJ Carroll Pleasant chided the riders for failed attempts, as they became “just another brick in the wall”.  One of the event directors was even seen seeding the run-up with dollar bills to tempt riders who failed to pedal to the summit. Eventually two riders were able to best the Wall and snag the subscriptions, one on single speed!

By far the most exiting race of the day was the Masters 35+ race. Soon after the start, a heated battle erupted as a three-man break left the 27-man Masters field. The run-up became the key battleground of the race as the fastest runners proved to gain the advantage.

Soon the break unhinged one rider and it was a man on man battle between Bert Hull (Multisport Direct) and Jacob McGahey (Industry Nine). The run-up, being at the beginning of the paved start/finish stretch, meant that the battle was going to come down to the wire!

The final ascent of the run-up saw Hull with a slight lead.  As he re-mounted, McGahey launched a blistering attack from behind and rocketed toward the finish line 100m away.  But, he went too soon and Hull was able to grab his wheel and come around him on the up-hill finish with enough time for a victory salute.

“He was really strong out on the long stretches and sweeping turns, he really put it to me on the last lap but a hung on.” said Hull of his opponent. Knowing he had a good sprint Hull just had to make it to the top of the run-up where his ability to “drag race” gave him the victory.  In his first ever cyclocross race, Hincapie/GaryFisher pro rider, Chris Harkey finished in third.

MSG #4 Johnson City Cyclocross.  © Bart Nave

For most riders, 'The Wall' was nearly impossible to ride. © Bart Nave

The pro race saw a respectable field of local and regional men. From the gun, the race exploded and the field was strung out. The pace was extremely high and favored the powerful riders who could push a big gear and get through the technical sections without incident. Lees McCrae, rider, Eric Thompson (not riding collegiate) rode away from the race by successfully riding the Wall on each of the eight laps in the 60 minute race. The battle for second place was handily won by, MSG founder Eric “The Belgian” Wondergem.

The MSG #4 course took inspiration from the Nommay World Cup course and was a complete surprise from the track that was used last season and a change from the tight, technical courses preferred by the course designer.  After the race, Wondergem commented to the course designer “Why didn’t you tell me the course was perfect for me?”

The Single Speed category is one that continues to grow at MSG.  A motley crew of classes and categories, these guys make rolling over one big gear seem easy. Three years ago when MSG first added SS, there were only 6 riders on the line.  This week,  21 riders lined up for SS action.

Next up MSG #5 in Bristol, TN.  This course features the now legendary spiral dubbed “The Lynskey Helix” this year in honor of Lynskey Performance Designs, handmade titanium Bicycles from Chattanooga, Tn.

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Cyclocross Magazine, Issue 22, Print and digital subscriptionsHave you subscribed yet? You're missing out if not. Get all-original content and your cyclocross fix throughout the year with a subscription and Issue 23 back copy, with features on Lars van der Haar, Jonathan Page, Elle Anderson and more!
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