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By Chris Milliman, Special to VeloNews.com
If things get any better for Clif Bar riders during their forays to EastCoast cyclo-cross races, they may relocate from their balmy base in SanFrancisco’s Bay Area to the colder, but welcoming air of New England andthe Mid-Atlantic. Clif Bar’s Carmen D’Alusio and Jackson Stewart won theirrespective races at Sunday’s Cycle-Smart International ‘Cross race in Northampton, Mass., the second day running that the NorCal team swept the top spots at an eastern ‘cross event.
Fresh off her commanding win in New Jersey, D’Alusio and teammate GinaHall wasted no time making the Northampton race, stop three on the VergeNew England series calendar, their personal two-up team trial. While defendingseries title holder Mary McConneloug (Seven Cycles) tried to hold the wheelsof the Clif duo, Hall and D’Alusio quickly separated themselves from anychasers and opened a workable gap within three laps.
If the rolling grassy course encouraged tactical racing in the day’sother events, it had no such hold on Hall and D’Alusio.who swapped pullsat the front, inexorably creating a minute-plus gap back to McConneloug.For her part, McConneloug, once dropped by the leaders, sat up and waitedfor a surging Marianne Stover (Gearworks-Spin Arts). The Clif Bar teammateswent into the final 200 meter paved finishing section together, withD’Alusio’s finishing kick proving too much for Hall. McConneloug, in whatshe later admitted was her final ‘cross race of the year, surged away fromStover for the final podium position.
“It’s fun to come here and race on these flat courses, it’s a lot differentthat what we get at home,” said Hall. “Racing on the road helps prepareyou for this kind of race really helps and Carmen has such good tactics.It’s a learning curve for me.”
“Gina put it to me today, she had me hurting,” admitted D’Alusio. “Wetried to keep the pressure on at the front and race hard. Assoon as we jump in with an international field it will be a whole differentballgame.”
Flush with the confidence of teammate Andy Jacques-Maynes’s win on Saturday,Clif’s Jackson Stewart raced at or near the front for the entire one-hourelite men’s event. Stewart and Belgian Ronny Poelvoorde (Duratec) initiatedthe first worthwhile move of the race, slipping off the front on the openinglap. Todd Wells (Mongoose-Hyundai), Marc Gullickson (Redline) closed thegap to Poelvoorde and Stewart by the fourth lap and were joined by Jacques-Maynes for a lead group of five.
Several of the course’s slippery corners and a 25-meter long sandpitopened small gaps in the leading quintet, though long open sections allowedtrailing riders to close them down. The only victim of the fast pace provedto be Poelvoorde, who blew with six laps to go and drifted in no-man’sland, between the leaders and small chase group.
Up front, Stewart and Wells snuck off the front with five laps to go,making a useful gap which neither Gullickson nor Jacques-Maynes seemedinclined to bridge. Despite small digs in different parts of thelap, Wells and Stewart remained stuck together. Knowing that Stewart packsa formidable sprint, Wells resorted to a last-ditch, lat-lap ploy. Themountain bike pro bunny-hopped the course’s only set of barrier, but bobbledthe landing enough to lose momentum, giving Stewart enough time tokeep his wheel. Stewart easily dispensed with Wells in the sprint for hisfirst ever win at a UCI Cat. 2 race.
“I couldn’t get a gap and I couldn’t make it hard enough,” said Wells,“but I screwed up [the bunny hop], so that didn’t work either.”
“[The bunny hop] actually hosed him,” said Stewart. “He got a littlecrooked, but he wouldn’t have been able to get away at that point anyway.If he had made me pull I would have been hurting, but he drove it to theline. He must have wanted second or first pretty badly. I knew Icould outsprint him. We’re so happy.”
“[Wells and Gullickson] were working together today. You couldtell they were doing real teamwork together just like last year and theyear before,” said Jacques-Maynes of the former teammates. “It was justa matter of the right combination getting away and Jackson was the strongesttoday.”
The Verge New England series continues on November 30th in Wilton, Conn.
13th Cycle-Smart International Cyclo-cross, Northampton, Mass.
1. Carmen D’Alusio, Clif Bar, 37:15
2. Gina Hall, Clif Bar, 37:17
3. Mary McConneloug, Seven Cycles, 38:56
4. Marianne Stover, Gearworks-Spin Arts, 39:10
5. Anna Milkowski, Gearworks-Spin Arts, 39:30
6. Sinead Fitzgibbons, Hampton Velo, 40:02
7. Katrina Davis, Richard Sachs, 40:11
8. Maureen Bruno, Dansko Wheelworks, 40:15
9. Amber Itle, Wissahickon, 40:42
10. Sara Cushman, Gearworks-Spin Arts, 40:46
1. Jackson Stewart, Clif Bar, 1:00:29
2. Todd Wells, Mongoose-Hyundai. 1:00:31
3. Andy Jacques-Maynes, Clif Bar, 1:00:46
4. Marc Gullickson, Redline. 1:00:48
5. Ronny Poelvoorde, Duratec, 1:01:08
6. Ben Jacques-Maynes, Family Cycling Center, 1:01:25
7. Mark McCormack, Saturn, same time
8. Bart Gillespie, Team Biogen, S.T.
9. Jeremy Powers, NCC-bikereg.com, S.T.
10. Bart Bowen, Kona, S.T.