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By Ken Getchell
The first half of the final weekend of the 2007 Verge MAC Series brought the first taste of the winter weather to the Mid Atlantic racing scene after an unusually warm autumn.
The Carlisle Cross Classic took place on Saturday at Pennsylvania’s Carlisle Fairgrounds, a location more famous for its massive antique auto shows than for human powered speed. “Speed” was the name of the game on the course designed by Mike Hebe on the wide open spaces of the fairgrounds. It sent riders up and over every side of the only hill, but its dominant characteristic was the extremely long, paved approach to the finish.
The character of the course was evident early in the day when John Brewer (Squadra Copi-IM Saab) won the Men’s “B” race in a three-wide, side-by-side sprint with Patrick Bradley (Cape Atlantic Racing-Team Beacon) and Ethan Townsend (C3-Sollay.com) in a race that seemed to be equal parts cyclocross and keirin.
With the course’s character established, it was even more surprising to see the complete domination of the elite women’s race by Verge MAC point leader Maureen Bruno Roy (Independent Fabrications-Wheelworks-SRAM). With a live blues-funk band adding to the atmosphere, Bruno Roy simply boogied away from her competitors from the start and won by 34 seconds. Finishing second in a solo ride of her own was Catherine Walberg (Team Kenda Tire). Three-time Verge MAC Champion Betsy Shogren (FORT Factory Team) recovered from a first-lap fall to finish third.
In the international men’s race, point leader Davide Frattini and his Colavita-Sutter Home-Cooking Light teamate Tyler Wren established an early lead. The two grew their lead slowly and deliberately. Not chasing them was Fiordifrutta’s Matt White, whose first-lap pinch flat ended his race when his clincher came off the rim and wrapped itself around his seatstay. Also having problems was Alec Donohue, who crashed on the first lap and was in last place.
The race played out without much excitement for 40 minutes as the leaders padded their margin. Then, Wren disappeared while the leaders were out of sight on the opposite side of the hill. A flat tire had ruined Wren’s best ‘cross race of the year. One lap later, it was Frattini who failed to show up over the top of the hill, also with a flat rear tire. Suddenly, what had been a procession had turned into the most dramatic race of the year, with a lead group of four with just two laps to go.
Pennsylvania’s Wes Schempf (C3-Sollay.com) as well as North Carolinians Jon Hamblen (RGM Watches-Richard Sachs) and Charles Pendry (Inland Construction-BTD) joined a resurgent Alec Donohue (Joe’s Garage), who had worked his way through the field. Meanwhile, Frattini was furiously trying to make his way back to the leaders
Donohue attacked several times, finally finding success with half a lap to go on the short, steep run-up near where Wren and Frattini had flatted. Donahue finished the final lap 11 seconds in front of the sprint for second, which was won by Pendry ahead of Hamblen and Schempf.
Frattini recovered to join the race-long duel between Canadian Nathan Chown (Handlebars C.C. Kona Canada) and Michael Gallegher (U.S. Army). Using his road skills, Frattini outsprinted both of them to finish fifth and keep his Verge MAC Season Championship aspirations alive.
“White and Frattini were the strongest riders here,” said Donohue after the race. “They should have won based on UCI points. But keeping air in the tires is part of cyclocross too.”