Buckeystown, MD, USA:  The Ed Sander Memorial saw over 350 entries at the Lilypons Water Gardens for what has turned into “the” early season objective for many riders.  Run by the National Capital Velo Club in memory of one of their own who died in a training accident, the race is made even more meaningful because it is held on the grounds that Sander himself maintained and developed as manager for Lilypons Water Gardens.  And those grounds create a unique course that, in part, meanders through and around a series of ponds and lakes where various types of water lilies are grown and harvested.

In the Elite Women’s race, Velo Bella/Kona’s Dee Dee Winfield looked like she had wings as she won the race by a convincing 3:05 in front of defending MABRAcross Champion Betsy Shogren (SoBe/Cannondale).  But it was actually Winfield’s second race of the day, having earlier competed in the Men’s category 3/4 event.  According to Winfield though, that was more about research and development in the wet and sometimes rainy weather than trying to emulate Katie Compton’s famous habit of “doubling up”.  “I haven’t had any race efforts in heavy conditions like this,” said Winfield, who missed all last season while pregnant with her second child.  “I didn’t know how my legs would react.  The only way to get a race effort is in a race, so when we got here, we decided to enter the men’s race as well.  And I got to check out some lines and see what worked, so that was a big help as well.”  Winfield will be taking a week off from racing before travelling to the Cincinnati International Cyclocross Festival October 10 through 12.

In the Elite Men’s race, a record 33 riders took to the line for the start of the Ed Sander Memorial.  Defending race champion Wes Schempf ( had a pre-race plan to ride a controlled race, get with a small breakaway group and then “use training race tactics to break it down.”  That strategy came unglued when mountain bike superstar Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW) showed up – but it wasn’t the only thing that would come unglued.
Last year, Bishop and Schempf waged an epic duel that was cut short when Bishop got airborne and sideways while coming over a lip, and ripped his clincher tire off the rim.  This year, Bishop’s strategy was obvious: go from the gun.  “Wes is a real strong rider,” said Bishop after the race.  “If it came down to a sprint, he would probably beat me.  At least I think he would.  I wanted to get a 10-15 second lead and control the race.  It’s nice to have that cushion, because even if he did put in a big sprint to catch up to me, he’d use a lot of energy and as soon as he made contact I’d pull away again.”  Bishop did indeed pull away to the early lead, but could never quite shake the black-suited Schempf who, despite being determined to ride within himself, lurked 10-15 seconds behind Bishop like a late afternoon shadow.

With two-and-a-half laps to go, however, the rematch of last year’s duel ended with an eerily similar incident to last year as Bishop rolled his rear tubular off its rim.  “That turn had a depression in it,” he recalled later, “and when you came through there, and were turning and coming out, there was a lot of pressure on a tubular.”  The resultant crash not only took Bishop out of contention, it took him out of the race as it occurred just past the pit exit, meaning he would have had to run for over a mile to the next pit entrance with virtually no chance of decent placing.  Like a wrestler who knows when he’s stuck in a position from which he can’t escape, Bishop tapped-out and called it a day, leaving Schempf to take his seond consecutive win alone in front by a sizeable margin over Scott Bicycle’s Kyle Hammaker.

“I didn’t see him go down,” said Schempf.  “I came around the corner and somebody yelled ‘he’s down’, but I just said ‘huh?’ because of the oxygen debt.  Then I saw him laying on the ground with the rear tire off and I realized what happened.  I just said ‘sweet’ and rode on.”
Race Notes:

  • Like Women’s winner Winfield, Schempf will be competing in the three-day Cincinnati International Cyclocross Festival.
  • This was Winfield’s first win of 2008
  • Kyle Hammaker finished second in only his first ‘cross race of the 2008 season
  • The next MABRAcross race is the Breast Cancer Awareness Cyclocross at the Hagerstown, Maryland, Fairgrounds on October 4.