The Elite Men battle the barriers. © Anne Rock

The Elite Men battle the barriers. © Anne Rock

by Anne Rock

PHILADELPHIA – The Fuji MAC Series Present by SRAM delivered two edge-of-your-saddle exciting days of racing at this weekend’s FSVS CX (Fair Hill) and HPCX (Highland Park), races six and seven of the series.

Sadly for the “mudders” another dry weekend greeted the Mid-Atlantic crew that, with the exception of a mud pit at Fair Hill, was bone dry.  The colorful autumn leaves, brisk winds and cool temps were the only evidence of cross season.  Mud tires are crying from neglect in basements all over the Mid-Atlantic.

In the Elite Women’s races, both days saw a lead group break away early and stay away for the duration of the race.  At Fair Hill, Arley Kemmerer (C3 Twenty20 Cycling), Nicole Thiemann (Team CF) and Stacey Barbosa (Colavita) chased each other around for six laps.   Kemmerer always maintained a slight gap while the rest of the field pursued to no avail.

On Sunday HPCX, a UCI 2 race, saw tough competition from New England racers and the arrival of Laura Van Gilder (Van Dessel p/b Mellow Mushroom), absent from Saturday’s bout.  In a near replica of Saturday, a lead group of five emerged immediately that included Kemmerer, Van Gilder, Barbosa, Thiemann and Cassandra Maximenko (Rare Vos Racing/Van Dessel) and remained in tact until Barbosa popped.

“I just couldn’t hold on. The pace was blistering,” Barbosa explained after the race.  She bravely battled on her own between the lead group and the rest of the field, earning a respectable fifth place overall.

The Wens Elite podium. © Anne Rock

Sunday’s Elite Women’s podium. © Anne Rock

In the Elite Men’s field the seemingly unbeatable Cameron Dodge (Scott Racing) racked up two wins in as many days.  After getting the hole shot, he led Fair Hill by an insurmountable margin, leaving the battles for the podium in the sadly ubiquitous dust.

Despite the benign conditions, accidents and mechanicals prevailed, sending potential podium-toppers Ryan DeWald (Team Skyline) and Travis Livermon (Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis) home early. Muddy or dry, ’cross can be cruel.

Sunday’s UCI 2 race presented more of a challenge, with a talented field that included eventual podium sharers Anthony Clark (Jam Fund/NCC) and Jerome Townsend (Bikereg / Joe’s Garage).

A strong lead group grappled for the entirety of the race, with eventual top finishers trading point position.  Near the end of the final lap, a dropped chain or some other cruel twist of ’cross fate shattered the lead group and allowed Dodge to make his move.

The final section of the course featured a twisty downhill leading to a sharp left hand turn, a punchy climb, a quick right, back down the hill, then right onto the straightaway to the finish. After 60 minutes of riding wheel-to-wheel with his competitors, Dodge emerged alone at this final stretch victorious.

The Elite Men's Podium. © Anne Rock

The Elite Men’s Podium on day two. © Anne Rock

Clark and Townsend made the final turn onto the tarmac together. Fans held their breath as the two came to the line together, throwing their bikes over the line in a final burst of effort. Townsend threw his bike just a bit harder and grabbled second.

Overall, it was a glorious, albeit dry, weekend of racing for the Fuji Bikes Mid-Atlantic Cyclocross Series’ final UCI race.