As much as they say anything can happen in cyclocross, late mechanicals that affect a race’s outcome are the exception, not the rule. Unfortunately, in Wednesday’s Masters Men 30-34 race at Lakewood Nationals, one of those exceptions reared its ugly head.
After a fast start by Bradford Perley (Brevard College), Kansas native Joseph Schmalz (TradeWind Energy Cycling Team) caught the fast-starting Perley at the end of the second lap.
Taking advantage of his running skills, Schmalz opened up a gap up the first run-up and extended it to 10+ seconds a lap later. Schmalz continued to ride strong at the front, and entering the last lap, he had a 10-second advantage on Perley. As they say, nothing is certain in cyclocross, but Schmalz was riding strong and smart on the damp course.
Coming off the second of two descents, disaster struck for Schmalz. His rear derailleur jammed up at the bottom of the descent, and he had to run a few hundred meters to Pit 2.
Although Schmalz’s advantage was up to 15 seconds at that point, Perley erased the advantage and took the lead with not much course left to go before the final straight. Perley held his advantage to take a win that produced mixed emotions for the Brevard College cycling coach.
“Last year getting fourth, getting really close a handful of times in mountain and cyclocross, being able to grab one definitely felt really good,” Perley said. “I feel really bad for [Joseph Schmalz], but unfortunately, we’re all dealing with stuff like that. I am definitely proud of it. It was definitely a good group of fast guys racing out there.”
Anything Can Happen
With a slight mist starting to fall at Fort Steilacoom Park, the Baby Masters took the course second on Wednesday morning. Bradford Perley kicked off the racing as the fast starter, while a group amassed behind him coming off the first descent.
Entering the last third of the first lap following the drop down the second chute descent, the leaders lined up two-by-two. Perley and Mark Severy (Adventures Edge) led the way, with Ian Megale (Team UpCycle p/b St Alphonsus) and Sam Adams (Soft Like Kitten) in third and fourth and Joseph Schmalz and Josh Stough (Ridge Cyclesport) another 4 seconds behind them.
Through the sand and the back, flat part of the circuit, Perley again got a small advantage off the front, and Schmalz took up the chase. A group of 3 sat another 10 seconds back.
In the opening part of the second of five laps, Perley extended his advantage up to 8 seconds. The chasers lined up one-by-one with a few bike lengths between each of them. Coming off the second descent, the race’s pecking order became more coherent, with Perley leading the way, Schmalz 7 seconds back and Owens chasing another 10 seconds behind him.
Perley’s advantage would only survive to the end of Lap 2, as Schmalz bridged through the long start/finish straight. After a two-up battle in the Women’s Baby Masters race, it looked like the Baby Masters Men might be in for a Lakewood duel of their own.
Schmalz, however, had better ideas thanks to his running legs. Schmalz exploded up the first run-up and quickly got a gap on Perley. By the end of that third lap, his lead was up to nearly 10 seconds.
“He attacked me on run-up number one here,” Perley said. “He attacked, and I knew with my old-man running pace, there was no way I was going to stay with him. I settled in and tried to do what I was going to be able to do. I think with three to go maybe, I was catching him, relatively, then I crashed on one of the sections back there trying to ride a little bit harder than I should have been riding.”
In the 4th lap, Perley and Schmalz battled to a relative standstill, with Schmalz taking a 10-second lead into the bell lap. One 9-minute traverse of the slick, muddy Fort Steilacoom course stood between him and a National Championship.
In the bell lap, Schmalz again pressed his advantage up the run-up and cleared the first of two chutes with no problems and an extended lead. He carried the advantage to the precipice of the second chute before disaster struck.
After descending the second chute, Schmalz stopped due to a jammed up drivetrain. He quickly went to foot and started running toward Pit 2. His advantage was big enough that a closeby pit would have still allowed him to get a new bike and ride to the win.
Unfortunately, the pit was just far enough away that Perley was able to make the pass and gain a lead at the front. Schmalz had to scramble to keep pace with the hard-charging Owens in a race for second.
“I don’t know what happened. My derailleur just stuffed up on the descent,” Schmalz said. “I couldn’t ride it, so I had to run to the pit. I was pretty close to the pit, but it was still a long run. It just smoked me, and I couldn’t come back from it.”
Perley kept it upright and clean for the last quarter lap to take the win and the Stars and Stripes jersey.
“I was talking to [Schmalz] at the finish line, telling him it sucks when a race shakes out like that because of a mechanical,” Perley said. “On a course like today, we were all trying to straddle the line between going fast and potentially pinch flatting or dropping a chain and riding smooth. Every lap I was trying to take what I thought was the happy medium. Mechanicals unfortunately happen. I think everyone’s bikes were on the fritz thanks to the mud.”
Owens picked up second in a sprint and Schmalz took a tough-luck third. Severy took fourth and Michael Machado rounded out the wide-angle podium.
Full results and a photo gallery are below.
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Bradford Perley Winner Interview
Photo Gallery: Masters Men 30-34, 2019 Lakewood Nationals