by Ken Getchell
The MAC Powered by SRAM Cyclocross Series visited New Jersey today for the Beacon Cyclocross and it’s iconic “Amphitheater of Pain.” In a switch from past years, the event was run under domestic sanctioning instead of its traditional UCI sanction. But the lack of international stature didn’t seem to hurt, as the event drew record entries and the largest Elite fields in years, which were won by the C3-Sollay.com duo of Wes Schempf and Laura Van Gilder.
One change from past years that was not planned for, nor expected, was rain. Weather forecasts were unanimous in their prediction of a dry, unseasonably warm day. But by mid morning, as the rain fell ever harder, it became obvious that the precipitation was not just a passing shower. The ground in Bridgeton, where the race is held, is typical South Jersey sandy soil, with an emphasis on “sandy”. By the end of their races, most riders looked like Shake ‘n Bake chicken, with a heavy coating of granulated grey sand. For many riders, the effect was not merely the result of road spray. For the first time, organizers dug up the beach run with a roto-tiller to soften the sand and make it un-rideable. The result was a variety of crashes, pile-ups and near misses, including a stylish barrel roll by Wade Hess in the category 2/3/4 Men’s race. Hess, of all people, should have been better prepared for the softer sand since, as the promoter of the event, he was the person responsible for making the call to bring in the roto-tiller in the first place.
The MAC Powered by SRAM Elite triple-header began with the Elite Masters. Roger Aspholm of Westwood Velo has dominated this class this year, not only by winning every race he’s entered, but by crushing the competition en-route to those wins. But today, new daddy Mike Yozell of Visit PA.com took the early lead and Aspholm didn’t see the front until the third lap. Once Aspholm did make it to the front, he and Yozell rode away from the remainder of the field, including Asphom’s teammate Troy Kimball who eventually finished third. The two riders were never more that a few meters apart for the remainder of the race, with Aspholm eventually besting Yozell in a closely contested sprint to keep his winning streak alive. Interestingly, Yozell was the last Elite Masters rider to go undefeated in a MAC Powered by SRAM season.
The Elite Women’s race was a two-rider race from the start, with Dee Dee Winfield (Velo Bella / Kona) and C3-Sollay.com’s Laura Van Gilder riding away from the remainder of the Elite Women’s field. Despite her short stature, Van Gilder was able to bound up the two-foot-high amphitheater steps as fast as any of the taller women. She and Winfield remained together to the very end when Van Gilder unleashed her legendary sprint on the slightly up-hill paved road finish to take yet another win in her rookie cyclocross season.
Like the other two Elite races, the Men’s race turned into a two-rider duel – this time between C3-Sollay.com’s Wes Schempf and Colorado’s Adam McGrath who came to New Jersey because he is sponsored by New Jersey-based Van Dessel Bikes. Schempf took an early lead and easily won the preme as first rider to crest the amphitheater on the opening lap. Behind him was an ever-changing freight train of riders. On the third lap, McGrath, Andy Wulfkuhle (C3-Sollay.com), Sean Galagher (Hunt Valley Bicycles/Marathon Roofing) and last week’s MAC Powered by SRAM winner Ryan DeWald (Battley Harley Davidson) organized a chase and made contact with Schempf, before Schempf and McGrath were able to get away on their own. McGrath rode second wheel until 30 minutes into the race, when he came to the front for the first time. Each rider had portions of the track where they had a slight advantage, but neither was able to open a sizeable gap, until the last half-lap when Schempf was able to establish a gap coming off the beach run that he would hold until the end. “There was a lot happening on that last lap,” said McGrath afterward. “Some sand kicked up into my eye on the beach run and I could barely see. I was just following a shadow of Wes. Then (because I couldn’t see) I banged my front wheel on the step coming off the beach and nearly punched myself in the face with the bike. But I think what it really came down to was the start. Since this wasn’t a UCI race, we lined up according to MAC points, which put me in the back. Wes got away and I had to make my way through the field. On the second lap, I broke clear. But just as I made contact with Wes, he attacked me and I had to use a lot of energy to keep up, and that made me use more of my reserves than I wanted to. But I’m not afraid to say the stronger man won today. We’ll have to see how it goes tomorrow, though.”
- Wes Schempf, C3-Sollay.com
- Adam McGrath, Van Dessel Factory Team
- Ryan DeWald, Battley Harley Davidson
- Sean Galagher, Hunt Valley Bicycles/Marathon Roofing
- Andy Wulfkuhle, C3-Sollay.com
- Laura Van Gilder, C3-Sollay.com
- Dee Dee Winfield, Velo Bella / Kona
- Kristin Gavin, Human Zoom / Pabst Blue Ribbon
- Nikki Thiemann, Human Zoom / Pabst Blue Ribbon
- Arley Kemmerer, Hub Racing
- Roger Aspholm, Westwood Velo
- Mike Yozell, Visit PA.com
- Troy Kimball, Westwood Velo
- Blair Saunders, Secret Henry’s
- Dave Weaver, Alan North America.