By VeloNews Interactive
Reigning national champion Tim Johnson made the most of his last race in the 2001 stars-and-stripes jersey, darting away from two breakaway companions to claim victory at Round 6 of the Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series at Wasserman Park in Merrimack, New Hampshire on Sunday.
In the women’s race, Canadian Lyne Bessette picked up another ‘cross win, locking up the overall Verge championship. More importantly, she said she’s going to take the sport a bit more seriously now, and will likely compete at next month’s world championships in Belgium.
Johnson had been swapping the lead with Jonathan Page (Richard Sachs) and Mongoose-Hyundai’s Todd Wells when he attacked on a flat and powered away. Page, who had driven the break with a furious assault from the starter’s gun, hesitated momentarily, and that was enough to give Johnson the gap he needed.
The Saturn rider finished nine seconds ahead of Wells, and 49 seconds out front of Page.
Johnson’s win came on what may have been the roughest course of the seven-race series. The track in New Hampshire was a roller coaster of a circuit made even more treacherous by a fresh blanket of snow.
Page — just back from a successful cyclo-cross season in Europe — ripped away at the start, putting the hurt on Johnson.
“The entire first lap I thought Page was going to kill me,” Johnson admitted afterward. “The pace really scared me.”
“I just got off the plane and I wanted to go out and blow myself up,” Page explained. “I wanted to gauge my fitness before next week.”
Wells, who had been doing most of the work once the trio got clear of the huge chasing pack, flatted after one of the course’s tricky descents and seemed beyond redemption. Unwilling to concede, however, the Arizona resident picked up a new bike in the pit, remounted and erased what had been a 20-second deficit to Page and Johnson in little more than a lap.
Johnson seemed to have eyes in the back of his head, however, because just as Wells was about to make contact, the Saturn rider blitzed off and stayed away for keeps.
“I fought back,” Wells said. “But just about when I thought I was back on Johnson’s wheel, Page seemed to bobble and Tim attacked. That was it.”
Team Devo’s Adam Craig, the Division I collegiate mountain bike championship for the University of Maine, was perhaps the crowd favorite as he repeatedly bunny-hopped the 16-inch barriers that forced every other rider to dismount. Craig finished fourth on the day, just ahead of Saturn’s Mark McCormack.
“Once you give up five or ten seconds on a course like this, it’s over,” McCormack said. “The technical sections and the slop limit what you can do physically to make up time.”
Nonetheless, fifth place was enough for McCormack to retain the leader’s jersey for Verge series with just one event left. He leads Johnson by five points, while Wells sits a distant third.
Meanwhile, Bessette proved that her early season winning streak was no fluke. The Saturn rider, who’s in just her first season of cyclo-cross, rang up her fourth victory in the Verge series by riding away from a powerhouse field.
“I fell twice on the first lap,” Bessette said. “But I just had to make some adjustments, and after that, I was fine. I did some running while I was off the bike for the past month and that helped me.”
Behind Bessette, the battle for second place in Merrimack was intense. For the first half of the race, Putney-West Hill rider Jodi Groesbeck — the U.S. masters national champion — kept a small gap ahead of Jamba Juice’s Mary McConnoloug. But McConnoloug seemed to get stronger as the race wore on, while Groesbeck faded. By the finish, the Jamba Juice rider was alone to claim the second spot on the podium.
“I’m a climber and technical rider,” McConnoloug said. “Grunting through the mud is not a problem. I love this pig slop.”
The junior race completed Saturn’s domination, as U.S. junior national champion Jesse Anthony notched his fourth win of the Verge series in convincing fashion. Only Jeremy Powers of Team Devo and Chris Hill of NCC-BikeReg.com could keep Anthony in their sights, but even then, just barely. Powers finished a strong second, while Hill claimed third place.
The 2001 Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series concludes on Dec. 22 with the Castor’s Cross in South Kingston, Rhode Island.
VERGE NEW ENGLAND CHAMPIONSHIP CYCLO-CROSS SERIES, Round 6, Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dec. 9; Men; 1. Tim Johnson, Saturn, 55:45; 2. Todd Wells, Mongoose-Hyundai, 55:54; 3. Jonathan Page, Richard Sachs, 56:34; 4. Adam Craig, Team Devo, 58:41; 5. Mark McCormack, Saturn, 1:00:13; 6. Josh Anthony, Saturn Development Team, 1:00:34; 7. Johanes Huseby, Independent Fabrication, 1:00:34; 8. Lawrence Perera, Essex County Velo, 1:00:38; 9. Justin Spinelli, Saeco, 1:00:48; 10. Michael Broderick, Jamba Juice, 1:00:58; Women; 1. Lyne Bessette, Saturn, 41:13; 2. Mary McConnoloug, Jamba Juice, 42:41; 3. Jodi Groesbeck, Putney-West Hill, 43:18; 4. Liz Coleman, SoBe-HeadShok, 44:46; 5. Shauna Gillies-Smith, Gearworks-SRP, 45:00; 6. Alicia Genest, Richard Sachs, 45:28; 7. Katrina Davis, Richard Sachs, 45:49; 8. Susan MacLean, Team BOB, 45:50; 9. Kathryn Roszko, BikeReg.com, 46:16; 10. Yvonne Ilton, Verizon, 47:02; Juniors; 1. Jesse Anthony, Saturn Development Team, 45:34; 2. Jeremy Powers, Team Devo, 46:12; 3. Chris Hill, NCC/BikeReg.com, s.t.; 4. Jamey Driscoll, GMBC, 48:07; 5. Konrad LeBas, CCB, s.t.; 6. Sam Benson, Team Devo, 56:15; 7. Joshua Benson, MVCC, s.t.; 8. Kevin Wolfson, NEBC, s.t.; 9. Troy Wells, Kingston Cyclery, s.t.; 10. Stephanie White, NHJCA, -1 lap