Nathan Guerra (left) leads Brian Eppen (Mercy-Specialized), Tristan Schouten, Darrin Braun and Brian Matter through the first sections of singletrack at WORS Crystal Lake Classic. Photo by John Senkerik.


More than 540 racers rolled over the line in the Crystal Lake Classic, the second Wisconsin Off Road Series event of the season.

But it was Abby Strigel (Trek Stores of Madison) and Brian Matter (Gear Grinder/Trek) who outgunned the field outside Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Strigel defended her winning streak at the Crystal Lake Classic, while Matter topped Tristan Schouten and Nathan Guerra in the men’s race.

Both Strigel and Matter crossed the line on a Trek Top Fuel, and credited their smooth performance on Rhinelander’s suspension-pounding singletrack to their full-suspension, 26-inch wheel bikes.

“I raced smart and the Top Fuel was the bike of choice again, and Abby won on the Top Fuel too,” said Matter after the race.  “Just good tire pressure, good bike and raced smart.  In the third lap, I went pretty aggressive in the singletrack and got the gap that I needed, and went with it.”

Matter separated from defending WORS Overall Champion Tristan Schouten (Mafia/Felt) in the singletrack on their third lap, and pulled away from the last man on his wheel, Nathan Guerra (Wheel & Sprocket/Vision) in the fourth.  He finished in 1:59:01, just ahead of looming rain clouds. Schouten, who is still without a bike of his own in 2011 and was riding a 5-year old bike borrowed from a friend on Sunday, was unable to maintain contact with the two leaders through the rough, technical singletrack.

“I know this course demands a full suspension, or you just can’t pedal enough,” said Schouten.  “After last year, when I was on a hardtail, I remember I was able to pedal my bike only half as often as racers on a full suspension, which is not good.”
Second-place finisher Nathan Guerra set the pace for much of the contest, racing to step back on to the top spot of the WORS podium. He chased hard to finish at 1:59:51, while Schouten rolled in at 2:01:24.

Women’s Race

Defending WORS Overall Champ Abby Strigel (Trek Stores of Madison) rode to her third consecutive win at the Crystal Lake Classic. Photo by Niki Frazier

In the women’s race, Strigel did her best to gain an edge over Kim Eppen (Mercy Specialized) in the abundant singletrack. The two women have met in Upper Midwest contests for several years, and only recently did Strigel prevail, beating Eppen for the first time at WORS Treadfest in September 2010.

“I like all the bumpiness and the twisty turns at Crystal Lake,” said Strigel.  “I feel like it’s a fairly technical course and I enjoy it.”

After the women’s field of 16 Pro and Cat 1 racers was led out by Michelle Peariso (Adventure 212/Specialized), Strigel went to the front and separated from the group, with only Eppen holding her wheel.

“I had never been to that course before,” said Eppen after her race. “I figured I would try to stay with Abby and get a feel for the course on the first lap and see what happened.  We hit the singletrack together and she was ripping it up”

With the threat of Eppen spurring her on, Strigel rode into the Elite men’s field and pushed herself even harder in the open sections and climbs to keep her advantage in singletrack. Without knowing the gap until after the finish, she crossed the line with a lead of nearly five minutes over Eppen at 1:43:20.

Eppen, in turn, put considerable time into the remainder of the women’s field, finishing in 1:48:13, five minutes ahead of teammate Robin Williams, who took third at 1:53:12.  Adventure 212/Specialized teammates Michelle Peariso and Sarah Agena went on to round out the BelGioioso Elite podium in 4th and 5th place, respectively.

The next WORS race, the Trek Big Ring Classic, will be held at 9-mile Forest outside of Wausau, Wisconsin on June 12.