For the second year in a row, Brian Matter won the Trek Big Ring Classic in a three-up sprint.
In a photo finish, Matter (Gear Grinder/Trek) edged defending WORS Overall Champion Tristan Schouten (Mafia/Felt) and Mike Phillips (Adventure 212/Specialized).
In the women’s race, Kim Eppen (Mercy-Specialized) and defending Overall Champion Abby Strigel (Trek Stores of Madison) put nearly five minutes into the chasing field. In the end, Eppen’s power and climbing legs were unmatched and she took the win by over a minute at 1:27:37.
In the first lap, the men’s lead group included Matter, Schouten, Phillips, Brian Eppen (Mercy- Specialized) and Nathan Guerra (Wheel and Sprocket/Vision). First to exit was Guerra, felled by an early crash in the singletrack. He managed a podium finish in fifth, but was not in contention for the win after his fall. Eppen also crashed at the end of the first lap, then raced to a strong fouth place, though he left a trail of blood behind him. Meanwhile, at the front, Phillips took an early lead through the singletrack. Once Matter and Schouten reeled him in, the group of three leaders was established.
“I had the best race of the year today, except for the finish,” said Schouten. “I thought I’d won the sprint, but it was a good day. I finally got my mountain bike. Today was my third ride on it, but I felt like I could out-ride anyone on any part of the course except in the singletrack. On a hardtail, I just couldn’t pedal in there at all. That brought the race back together every lap.”
For his part, Matter said the technical singletrack was challenging.
“I think that was where I was using my advantage to catch Tristan,” he said. “And on those power climbs, he was just accelerating — attacking. It was fast and tactical, and it came down to a three-man sprint. It’s a deceptively long sprint. I kind of sat on Tristan’s wheel as he ramped it up and once he plateaued, I tried to go by him.”
Both Matter and Schouten hold three WORS Overall Series Championships. The battle between these two racers for the WORS Overall in 2011 could decide who will be the first man to take home a fourth WORS title.
In the women’s race, Strigel and Eppen surged from the start, trading the lead along a winding road section before the first singletrack. Eppen reached the singletrack with a gap, but Strigel closed it down through the rocky, technical terrain. Then a wall-like climb separated the two for good as Strigel was unable to hold Eppen’s wheel. After the second lap, she could no long see Eppen and finished second in 1:29:08.
Emerging first from the group of four women chasing Strigel was Eppen’s teammate Robin Williams, who would finish third at 1:33:14. Williams went back and forth with Sarah Agena (Adventure 212 / Specialized), and Agena led through most of the third lap, but she was caught in the end to finish fourth at 1:33:29. Lisa Krayer and Michelle Peariso also raced together for much of the contest, and Krayer took the final podium spot at fifth at 1:34:40.
The next WORS race, The Subaru Cup, presented by Trek will include the Midwest Regional Championships for amateur racers, and the Subaru Cup Pro XCT. For more information, check www.subarucup.com.