by Keith Hower

Halloween weekend appears to be one of the climaxes of the season in the sport of cyclocross, and ABRA Racing and crew had quite the weekend in store for the ghouls and goblins of cyclocross. Marilla Cross Carrera De Los Muertos, or “Race of the Dead” for all of you non-bilinguals out there, is in it’s fourth year and has become a major favorite of both the racers and fans for its technical layout and “Hill of Death” run-up. On a week where the Northeast experienced almost every single season possible, the stage was set for a perfect cyclocross weekend.

Single Speed Open class took the course early, conditions were still very wet and muddy which made line choice key to success. Gunnar Shogren (Dynamic Physical Therapy) is the master of choosing the best lines on any given course, and Marilla Cross was no different. Gerry Pflug applied the pressure early, but Shogren was able to escape and built a solid lead before the midway point of the race. The field spaced out early on the muddy technical course, and every rider took the mentality of “no one to catch, and no one to catch me.” Gunnar Shogren took the win and now looks to have the series overall in his hand, Gerry Pflug came in a solid second, and William Westover (Thick Bikes) rounded out the podium in third.

Betsy Shogren (Dynamic Physical Therapy) has raced every edition of Marilla, won every edition of Marilla, and this year’s race proved no different. Betsy got out to an early lead and looked like she would once again ride away with the race with ease, but Rachel Weaver (Steel City Endurance) gave it her all in the muddy conditions. Weaver moved ahead of Gray Patton (Carbon Racing) early on and tried to run down the fleeing Shogren. Weaver kept the leader honest for the entire race earning a solid second, Betsy Shogren pulled the four-peat and the win, while Gray Patton took the last podium step in third.

The Men’s 1/2/3 is somewhat similar in terms of Marilla dominance. With the exception of the inaugural running of the race, won by Weston Schempf, Mike Mihalik (Freddie Fu) has won every other Marilla Cross and aimed to land the three-peat in 2011. The race started fast on a drying course that was starting to show some serious wear and tear. Gunnar Shogren (Dynamic Physical Therapy), Mike Mihalik, Jason Cyr (Cannondale), Michael Vanderberg(Twin Six) and Eric Lundgren (JBV Coaching) separated themselves from the rest of the field quickly. Shogren lifted the pace near the end of the first lap which unhitched Lundgren but established a large gap for the four leaders over the field. At the 35-minute mark, the quartet of leaders became a trio when Cyr unhitched and fell off the pace, but continued to dangle 10 seconds behind the leaders. Vanderberg was the last rider to unhitch, which set up a last lap showdown between Gunnar and Mihalik.

Mihalik made the move on the last lap “I ran the run-up as fast as I could and was able to get a gap, and I just gave it full gas until the end. The course was great, definitely a mix of everything out there today and the win was hard fought, Gunnar rode a stellar race”

Shogren settled for the second place and the series points lead, followed by Vanderberg and Cyr. Chris Mayhew (JBV Coaching) ended a race long charge through the pack in fifth.

Only three rounds remain in the 2011 ABRA CX Series, Round #6 Amity Horror CX drops next Saturday, November 5, 2011 in Amity, PA.

Single Speed Open
1.     Gunnar Shogren
2.     Gerry Pflug
3.     William Westover
4.     Michael Vanderberg
5.     Steve Harouff

Women’s 1/2/3
1.     Betsy Shogren
2.     Rachael Weaver
3.     Gray Patton
4.     Traci Rodosta

Men’s 1/2/3
1.     Mike Mihalik
2.     Gunnar Shogren
3.     Michael Vanderberg
4.     Jason Cyr
5.     Chris Mayhew
6.     Eric Lundgren
7.     John Rowley
8.     Jacob Grantham
9.     Ed Krall
10.  Ben Orh