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WORS Kicks-Off MTB Race Season

The BelGioioso Elite men's field started fast on Sunday at the Iola Bump & Jump, led by dueling WORS overall winners Tristan Schouten (1; Mafia/Felt) and Brian Matter (209; Gear Grinder/Trek). Brian Eppen (206; Mercy-Specialized) finished in third. Photo by V.E. Jensen.

The 2011 Wisconsin Off Road Series kicked-off this past weekend with the Iola Bump & Jump.

Despite late-season snowfall in recent weeks the sandy course was dry and fast, thanks to Herculean efforts by the race organizers, including drainage of standing water in the ski jump bowl. Still, cool temperatures and gusting winds presented a challenge in the open.

It was not the wind but the steep climbs that fractured the men’s field early in the race. A group of four broke away within minutes of the start after setting a blistering pace on a series of ascents. They were never caught.

Tristan Schouten (Mafia/Felt), Brian Matter (Gear Grinders/Trek), Brian Eppen (Mercy-Specialized) and Mike Anderson (Trek 29er/SRAM) worked together through the first lap to extend their lead on the rest of the field. During the second lap, Schouten began to pull away on another steep climb and only Matter could hold his wheel.

The two rode together until the fifth lap, when Schouten pulled ahead to take the win in 1:37:07. Matter followed in second at 1:37:11. The two Sheboygan racers train together, and share a love of both mountain bike racing and cyclo-cross. Matter and Schouten have won the WORS overall three times in the last decade, and both are planning to contend for the Series Overall in 2011, as well as cyclo-cross nationals in Madison, Wisconsin in January 2012.

Women’s Race

The BelGioioso Elite women were led off the start line by defending overall WORS champ Abby Strigel (501; Trek Stores of Madison). A mangled chain took Strigel out of the race in the first lap, and Kim Eppen (Mercy-Specialized) went on to dominate the field. Photo by V.E. Jensen.

The women’s field also started fast, with past WORS overall winner Kim Eppen leading the charge followed closely by defending 2010 champ Abby Strigel (Trek Stores of Madison). More than half the racers were still together in their first pass into the jump bowl when Diana McFadden (Trek Mountain Co-op/Adventure 212) dropped her chain. Within seconds, she’d been passed by more than 20 women. She remounted her bike in last place, determined to chase back.

“I red-lined it,” said McFadden. “I just rode as hard as I could until I saw Michelle [Peariso], Sarah [Agena] and Lisa [Krayer].”

Within a half lap, McFadden had caught her teammates, and the four women began to chase Eppen together. While McFadden chased from behind the defending champ Strigel, who had been riding with Eppen, broke her chain and was unable to finish the race.

In pursuit of Eppen, the Adventure 212 women rode together through the first lap.

“It was cool coming through the spectator area all together,” said Agena. “I had a great time all riding as a group.”

Teammate Lisa Krayer agreed. “We’ve all been out there by ourselves during a race, and this was just so much more fun to all race together and push each other.”

In the second lap, McFadden began to pull away, still chasing Eppen, who was now minutes ahead. “It happened gradually,” said McFadden. “I could still see Sarah [Agena] behind me for a while.”

Eppen never looked back, and grew her gap to an insurmountable lead.  Her finish time of 1:28:59 was nearly 10 minutes ahead of McFadden who finished in 1:38:14. The remaining podium positions went to Adventure 212, with Agena (1:39:29), Krayer (1:40:59), and Peariso (1:42:16) rounding out the top five. Although McFadden will not compete in the series overall, her teammates will be back for the rest of the WORS races and will be a force to be reckoned with in the Series Overall.

“I love this course,” said Eppen after her win.  “I especially want to thank all of the volunteers who make this race possible. They do an amazing job.”

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