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By Chris Milliman, Special to VeloNews
After the summer she had on the racecourse and in the courtroom, you could pardon Mary McConneloug (Seven Cycles) for taking some time off from racing. But the 2004 Olympic mountain biker finds cyclo-cross in New England too fun to miss. In her first race on home soil in 11 months, the two-time defending New England series champion led the opener of the 2004 Verge New England Cyclo-cross Series in new Gloucester, Maine from start to finish. Showing the fitness that won the her the lone cross-country starting position for the U.S. at the starting line in Athens, McConneloug rocketed off the front on the first lap and maintained a comfortable minute-plus lead for the remaining four laps of the elite women’s event.
“This is my first real ‘cross ride of the season,” said McConneloug, who admitted she took two weeks off the bike after the final UCI World Cup event in September. “I love to race and this is what I do. To not race ‘cross would feel kind of weird. I’d just be siitting at home twiddling my thumbs.”
Behind McConneloug, Maureen Bruno (Cyclocrossworld.com) proved that she might be a rider to watch as the year progresses. In only her second year of racing Bruno went clear of the strung-out women’s field on the second lap in pursuit of McConneloug. While she never put a dent in the Olympian’s lead, she put more than am minute into her nearest chaser. Sinead Fitzgibbon (Aquafina-CRCA) took advantage of a late technical bobble by defending 30-plus national champion Marianne Stover (Independent Fabrications) to round out the podium.
The elite men’s race took shape much the same as had the women’s: Mark McCormack (Clif Bar-Colavita) spent the afternoon by himself in the lead while a pitched battle for the second spot on the podium raged behind him. Admittedly racing ‘cross with a renewed enthusiasm and seriousness, McCormack showed a sharp form and improved strength he partially attributed to incorporating running into his training.
“I’ve been running quite a bit,” said McCormack after winning by almost two minutes. “It’s been three or four years since I’ve done real run training for ‘cross and I definitely notice a difference. I still might not look forward to the running sections, but I hardly notice the ones that used to bother me.”
The undulating New Gloucester course had one steep run-up, but it was the muddy wooded sections that ultimately decided the order of the final two podium spots behind McCormack. Canadian ‘cross champion Peter Wedge (Kona) and defending U.S. U-23 champ Jesse Anthony (Cyclocrossworld.com) battled back and forth for much of the race, but a slight bobble by Wedge in the woods opened the door for Anthony to attack and make the decisive move.
“I guess I should ride my ‘cross bike a bit more,” said Wedge. “It’s hard to control this thing on the slippery stuff, and once I lost all my momentum Jesse made sure I stayed in third. He’s a strong kid.”
The New England series will continue on October 20 in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in a race that doubles as a Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross event.
Verge New England Cyclo-cross Series
Round No. 1 – New Gloucester, Maine
1. Mark McCormack, Clif Bar-Colavita, 54:58
2. Jesse Anthony, Cyclocrossworld.com, 56:00
3. Peter Wedge, Kona, 56:09
4. Michael Broderick, Seven Cycles, 57:02
5. Tyler Johnson, CYBC-Richard Sachs, 57:26
6. Matt White, NCC-Cyclesmart, 58:03
7. Benoit Simard, Team Québec-Cycles Lambert, 58:13
8. Johannes Huseby, Fiordifrutta, 58:27
9. Ben Turner, TIAA-CREF-Clif Bar, 58:40
10. Jonathan Bruno, Independent Fabrications, 58:44
1. Mary McConneloug, Seven Cycles, 37:39
2. Maureen Bruno, Cyclocrossworld.com, 39:14
3. Sinead Fitzgibbon, Aquafina -CRCA, 40:34
4. Kathryn Roszko, NCC – Bikereg.Com, 40:44
5. Marianne Stover, Independent Fab, 40:50
6. Anna Milkowski, RONA, 41:31
7. Celeste Drumm, HUP United, 41:38
8. Tara Ross, Team Diet Cheerwine, 41:47
9. Pauline Frascone, Mystic, 41:47
10. Maryann Martinez, CCB-Volkswagen, 42:16