Patrick Blair, left, and Tim Rugg charging over the barriers. © Neil Schirmer

Patrick Blair, left, and Tim Rugg charging over the barriers. © Neil Schirmer

by Neil Schirmer

HIGHLAND, Md. – Mid-Atlantic racers needed to, literally, brace themselves for what was in store at Schooley Mill Cross.  Powerful autumn winds were definitely a factor all day for the sixth race of the Super 8 series. In otherwise sunny and mild conditions for mid-November, racers lined up with a potentially tactical “x-factor” to contend with on a course that was already fast and dry.

Age-graded race highlights included Gentry Jefferson (Antietam Velo Club) taking his first Super 8 win of the year in the Boys U15 race, and Curtis Southern (NCVC/UnitedHealthcare) rolling to another victory in the Mens 55+ contest over second place finisher and Verge Sport jersey competition leader Shawn Downing (C3 – Twenty20 Cycling Co.)

In the Women’s Elite race, things got off to a rocky start. Following a long uphill paved start, riders quickly transitioned into a series of turns immediately after moving on to grass.  It’s not clear whether wind and course tape were a factor, but Verge Sport jersey competition leader Cheryl Sornson (Team CF) and Misty Tilson (Pro Tested Gear) went down at the first turn, allowing several riders to stream past and open a gap. Outside of a ride-able broken spoke suffered by Sornson, neither of the racers was seriously affected by the mishap and they quickly found themselves chasing the lead duo of Rachel Weaver (NuGo/Koeles) and Libbey Sheldon (Crosshairs/Spy/Bike Dr. Waldorf).

By the time the riders came by the double-sided pit on the back side, Sornson had already found her way up to the lead duo of Weaver and Sheldon, quickly making her way through with Carla Williams (Joe’s Bike Shop Racing Team) close behind. Sornson continued to apply pressure, eventually creating and holding the winning gap, taking her fifth straight Super 8 Elite victory finishing 19 seconds clear of Williams. Weaver rolled in 11 seconds after Williams with a strong third place finish, notching her first elite podium in this series.

The Elite Women's podium. © Neil Schirmer

The Elite Women’s podium. © Neil Schirmer

The Men’s Elite race started out with an early three-way battle between TIm Rugg (Pro Tested Gear), Justin Mauch (Lateral Stress Velo), and Wes Schempf (SEAVS/Haymarket p/b Van Dessel) at the front.  Before the first barrier on the course, Rugg hit the deck, forcing Schempf to unclip, allowing Mauch to gain a gap of several seconds.  Mauch hit the gas, but Schempf chased hard to try and limit the damage. By the time the riders came through the second barrier section on the first lap, Mauch and Schempf were together, with Rugg and Patrick Blair (Adventures for the Cure) leading a large group of riders several seconds later.

Schempf sat on Mauch’s wheel for a lap before hitting back with hard efforts into several headwind sections.  Eventually Mauch was unable to match those efforts. Schempf later noted that at that point his focus became, “Hitting the windy sections hard and try to go as fast as possible through the turns.” The strategy proved to be successful as Schempf rolled in solo for his third Super 8 series win of the year, while simultaneously extending his lead in the Men’s Elite Verge Sport jersey competition. Mauch finished in second place just under a minute later, with Blair rounding out the top three spots.

The next event in the series will be Rockburn Cross presented by Adventures for the Cure on Sunday, November 17th in Elkridge, Maryland.