After overnight right helped make the course at Joe Creason Park significantly muddier than it was on Thursday, Craig Undem (Cycle U) had a simple, yet effective plan. Albeit one that is usually easier said than done.
"I like going out front because I don't have to react as much," Undem said after the race. "I can just pick my line rather than be influenced by others. It was good for me."
Undem quickly got out front of the Masters 55-59 race, leading into the bowl during the first lap and getting off the front with Robert Reuther after one lap.
Gunnar Shogren (PATHFINDER of WV Race Team) replaced Reuther after the second lap, but his time at the front was short lived.
Undem put in an attack on the upper part of the course in the third lap to get a decisive gap on Shogren and Reuther. As the chasers sorted out their affairs, Undem rode as clean as he could on the messy morning to take home the Masters 55-59 title.
"I tried to get the gap open, it came back a little bit, once I got out there I was just trying to be smooth and consistent," Undem said. "That was my dream, to have a little gap and head out there and try to hold it. I do better out front, so that was a dream."
Like a (Muddy) Dream
Craig Undem likes riding from the front, and early in the Masters 55-59 race, he helped make his plan come true. Undem took the holeshot and then led the field out onto the increasingly muddy Creason course.
"I decided to just come out as hot as I could," Undem said. "A couple guys were passing me early on. I think I started gapping them off a little bit in the tricky stuff."
Undem kept the lead into the bowl and pushed the pace through the off-camber section. Early on at the stairs, he was joined by Reuther and Todd Cassan (Rally Sport Cycling Team). Shogren sat just a few seconds behind the leaders.
Shortly after the stairs, the muddy chicaned descent space between riders at the front. When riders got to the last climb out of the bowl, Undem and Reuther were at the front with Shogren doing his best to keep within striking distance.
In the second lap, Undem opened up a small gap on Reuther and Shogren at the first climb up to the limestone steps. This time it was Shogren who brought him back, and the two headed out for Lap 3 with a 10-second gap on Reuther.
It did not take long for Undem to again go off the front by himself. This time, he opened up a much bigger gap, while Shogren dropped back to Reuther. He had gotten a challenge from both men, and this time it looked like he might have succeeded in getting out alone. With two to go, Undem's lead was 16 seconds.
"The game for me is, can I just find an extra second or two on each corner, a little smoother through here," he said. "So I was playing a game with the course. It's fun to play the game. When other people are there, I'm having to play more road tactics."
The next lap, the biggest action was in the chase, which was good news for Undem. Don Seib (BMB Racing) bridged up to the chase early in Lap 4, and then Craig Cozza (UPMC/Pro Bikes) moved up to second at the limestone stairs.
The last lap, Undem kept the chasers a good distance behind him to take the Masters 55-59 title.
In the second half of Lap 4, Reuther and Shogren again hooked up for a battle for second. They carried it into the last lap before Shogren crested the last climb first and got to the finish seconds ahead of Reuther.
For more from the Masters 55-59 race, see the photo gallery and results below. Stay tuned for a winner interview.
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