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By Wendy Booher
Anna Milkowski (Velo Bella–Kona) and Todd Wells (GT) helped end an era by winning the final W.E. Stedman Grand Prix of ‘Cross on Saturday.
After a successful seven-year run, race promoter Joel Brown and patron W. E. Stedman will leave the Warwick, Rhode Island, race in good hands with the NBX-Narragansett Beer Cycling Team, which will promote it as part of a double-header NBX Grand Prix of ‘Cross weekend in 2008.
Saturday’s 4km course wound circuitously around Goddard State Park, diving down to the sandy shoreline of Narragansett Bay at one point and sending racers running up the embankment to work their way through a series of slippery, off-camber turns.
Barriers deemed too dangerous by riders out on a practice lap were plucked from the ground before the first race of the day. The barriers’ left-turn entry plus a slick surface were ideal for crashes, and racers agreed that the course was plenty technical without them.
Despite precautions, the women’s race saw a number of early pileups, perhaps due to a $200 prime for whoever crossed the start first after lap No. 1.
“I messed everyone up in the sandpit the first time and then people were just taking each other out right and left,” said Milkowski. “I think all the people who finished in the top five probably crashed at least two or three times.”
Maureen Bruno Roy (IF–Wheelworks) managed to recover, breaking away from the chaos to collect the prime. Sally Annis (NEBC–CycleLoft) was the second to escape, charging forward to catch Bruno Roy until an unfortunate wheel bump sent Bruno Roy careening off to one side, where she crashed as well.
Annis briefly held the lead but later acknowledged her lack of fitness, which ultimately allowed Milkowski, along with Rebecca Wellons (Ridley), Amy Wallace (RGM-Richard Sachs), Natasha Elliott (Stevens) and Bruno Roy to pass her.
“I had a lot of horsepower today,” said Milkowski, “so the long paved stretch all the way into the transition to the grass was good for me, and the other paved stretch that went into the single-track dirt section was good. More than that, it’s that I’ve learned to equalize some of the advantages that other people can have over me in the corners.”
Milkowski took a 16-second win over Wellons. However, in the absence of Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series leader Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com), who has 200 points, the 40 points Wellons scored for taking second gives her 214 and the leader’s jersey going into Sunday’s finale, the NBX Grand Prix in Warwick.
Early break sets tone for men’s race
After earning the hole shot, series leader Jesse Anthony (Jamis) set a white-hot pace, intent on redeeming discouraging performances in last weekend’s Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross races in Portland, Oregon. A $200 first-lap prime fueled the pace, and Anthony, with two-time national cyclocross champion Todd Wells (GT), Chris Jones (Nerac), and Troy Wells (Clif) broke free early to take aim at the prize.
Jones bobbled and went down, but recovered quickly enough to maintain his place in line going into a short, steep, muddy descent that curved into an equally steep muddy ascent. Wells set a trend by riding the harrowing stretch, which forced most riders to dismount and run. Foreshadowing things to come, Wells and Anthony attacked and broke free of the others for a finish line sprint that awarded Wells the prime.
Further back, Mark McCormack (Clif) suffered a front flat, which relegated him to mid-pack until a bike switch allowed him to climb closer to the front.
The Wells brothers, Anthony and Jones stayed out of reach of the rest of the field, swapping the lead at times until 40 minutes into the race, when an attack by the younger Wells split the group.
“We kind of got a gap right away – myself, my brother, Jesse and Chris Jones,” said Todd. “We rode together a bit and then Troy attacked and got a gap. Jesse and I caught him and then dropped Chris and Troy. We were riding together, I was attacking him a few times but he was strong today and I couldn’t drop him.”
Jones succeeded in getting away from Troy on the same run-up that the older Wells first rode. Troy lost contact with Jones when a failed attempt to ride the hill caused him to half pedal, half step his way to the top.
While Anthony was in no danger of losing his leader’s jersey, a win would have tightened his grip on the lead by another 60 points. Instead it was Wells who clinched the win by a bike throw at the line.
Also noticeably absent on Saturday was Bessette’s husband, Tim Johnson (Cannondale–Leer–Cyclocrossworld.com), who Anthony said had a last-minute conflict. Both Johnson and his Cyclocrossworld.com teammate, Jeremy Powers, are expected to race on Sunday.
Historically, double points have been awarded on the final day, and therefore Jones, who trails Anthony’s 310 points by only 65 points, has a chance at winning the series, while Wellons should hold firmly onto her lead if Bessette sits out once again.
A revised course featuring two sandpits and more technical sections is in store for Sunday. An overnight freeze and lower daytime temperatures will change the course’s texture to yield better traction and a more compact surface.
In short, it will be a brand-new race.
W.E. Stedman Grand Prix
Warwick, RI. Dec. 8
1. Todd Wells, Team GT, 58:19
2. Jesse Anthony, Team Clif Bar, same time
3. Christopher Jones, Nerac, 58:56
4. Troy Wells, Team Clif Bar, 59:20
5. Jonathan Baker, Primus Mootry, 59:23
6. Justin Spinelli, RGM Watches-Richard Sachs, 59:30
7. Jamey Driscoll, Fiordifrutta, 1:00:00
8. Mark McCormack, Team Clif Bar, 1:00:08
9. Adam Myerson, Nerac, 1:00:16
10. Osmond Bakker, Stevens Cross, 1:00:25
1. Anna Milkowski, Velo Bella-Kona, 42:21
2. Rebecca Wellons, Ridley, 42:37
3. Amy Wallace, RGM Watches-Richard Schs, 42:42
4. Natasha Elliott, Stevens Cross, 42:43
5. Maureen Bruno-Roy, Independent Fabrication, 43:13
6. Sally Annis, NEBC-Cycle Loft-Devonshire Dental, 43:14
7. Melanie Swartz, Velo Bella-Kona, 44:22
8. Cris Rothfuss, NEBC-Cycle Loft-Devonshire Dental, 44:34
9. Pauline Frascone, Independent Fabrication-Kempner, same time
10. Marci Titus Hall, Desalvo, s.t.