The Masters Mens' race snakes through the pines at race #8 in the Tailwind series © Andrea Tucker 2009

The Masters Mens' race snakes through the pines at race #8 in the Tailwind series © Andrea Tucker 2009

by Matthew Ashley

The penultimate race in the Tailwind Enterprises cyclocross series was held this weekend at Bloomer Park in Rochester, Michigan. Bloomer Park is the site of Michigan’s only velodrome and hosts weekly events, including 3-day and 6-day track races, which draw racers and fans from around the country. On this weekend, however, the racing action would stay on the surrounding fields and mountain bike trails and would not hit the 44-degree banking of the track.

Riders awoke to thick fog and wet grass which made for slippery conditions. First up were the C-women and Laura Melendez (West Priority Health) got off to a great start, putting twenty-three seconds between herself and Amy Gluck (Westland, MI) after two laps. Gluck, however, was able to claw her way back into the race, pulling all of that time back on the fourth and final lap. The two women were neck-and-neck at the line, with Melendez taking the win by less than a second. Adrienne O’Day (Ypsilanti, MI) finished third to narrowly hang on to her series lead going into the last race of the season.

Another great race got underway when the Killer B’s lined up this weekend. Paint Creek Bicycles rider Clint Verran and Dan Gerrow from Wolverine/American Cycle & Fitness raced side by side for the second week in a row, trading blows back and forth for the entire race. The showdown came down to the last lap with Verran laying it all out on the course and getting a small gap with just a few turns to go. Gerrow did all he could to hang on to the more experienced Verran, but came up just short at the line, finishing two seconds behind. Rounding out the podium and riding in alone was Team Sandbag’s John Osgood. Osgood sits comfortably in third in the series standings, but has no chance at Verran, who put the series win virtually out of reach.

In the Elite Men’s race, former Master’s National champ Jeff Weinert (Wolverine/American Cycle & Fitness) took the lead after the first set of barriers and did what he could to immediately split the field up. This early move didn’t last long as Tim Saari (Essex Brass) and Michael Wissink (Specialized) caught Weinert’s wheel heading into the very fast, tree-covered downhill section that scared a lot of riders throughout the day. Wissink laid down a blistering pace on the third lap to put a small gap into Saari that continued to grow for the remainder of the race. Wissink went on to claim his eighth Tailwind Series win in a row, and now has the chance to become the first rider to win every race in the Tailwind Cyclocross Series since Jeff Weinert accomplished the feat in 2000.

The next race of the day was the Masters 35+, which has been thrilling all season long. The winner was anybody’s guess. Terry Ritter (Team Giant – Michigan) came out gunning for his first win of the season and had to be the odds-on favorite going into the last lap. However, Mark Wolowiec of the Flying Rhino Cycling Club wasn’t going to let Ritter have the top step without a fight. After a forty minute battle between six riders, the duo of Wolowiec and Ritter were able to get a gap on the other four riders. Wolowiec, who was racing with men that were ten to twenty years younger, showed that experience counts and took the win in the final sprint by less than a bike length.

The race behind for the series lead was between Pete Thompson (Flying Rhino C.C.) and Patrick Russell (Wolverine/American Cycle & Fitness). Russell was able to extend his lead over Thompson by a few more points by finishing in third, just in front of teammate Scott Fabijanski.

The Elite Women were the next to start just behind the Masters. Anne Schwartz from the Flying Rhino Cycling Club was welcomed back to the start line after suffering from back pain the last few weeks. In Schwartz’s absence, Marne Smiley (Scott Bikes/Ollette Coaching) has taken the reigns of the Women’s Elite field and rode away with three wins in a row. With the two women lining up next to each other, many spectators were expecting the showdown of the season. Schwartz had a great start and had a small gap over Smiley right from the whistle. After a mishap later in the first lap, Smiley was able to latch back on and passed Schwartz soon after. On the next lap it was Smiley’s turn to hit the deck, and Schwartz took advantage and powered away from Smiley, never looking back. Schwartz’s win catapulted her back into the series lead and she is expected to finish it off in two weeks’ time.

Bloomer Park is never a disappointment and brings many different types of riders together at one venue. Rochester Bike Shop deserves a big thanks for sponsoring this event, as do the dedicated folks at Specialized for all of their help throughout the season. The last race of the series will be the Michigan State Cyclocross Championship, held at
Springfield Oaks County Park in Davisburg. Expect food, drinks, cake and ‘cross. For more info check out the Tailwind Series webpage and be sure to visit Andrea Tucker’s photography.