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By Steve Medcroft, Special to VeloNews.com
Reston, Virginia – The racers who showed up for the final Verge Mid-Atlantic Series cyclo-cross race, the Fitness Concepts Capital ‘Cross Classic in Lake Fairfax park, Reston, Virginia were winners before the race even started.
With just a handful of elite men and women on the start line, virtually everyone who finished was guaranteed a chunk of the prize list. With that in mind, the only thing left to race for was bragging rights, a handful of UCI points and to get in a good workout before next week’s cyclocross nationals.
Unless, of course, you were Ryan Leech or Betsy Schauer of the Fort-GPOA racing team. Each of them was protecting a slim lead in the overall Mid-Atlantic Series and needed to be careful not to let their chief rivals get ahead of them. So even in a small field, on a decidedly un-winter-like warm, clear and beautiful Northern Virginia day, on a flat, dry course, and with a guaranteed payout, the races still had much to offer.
Schauer wraps it up
For Schauer, a University of Pittsburgh grad student and collegiate-nationals hopeful, the competitor that threatened her lead was Amber Itle (Yellow Breeches Racing). Only 4 points off Schauer, Itle only needed to mark the leader and find a way to slip one spot ahead of her before the finish line. At the open of the race, the tactic seemed possible – a group of more than half the field circled the course together. Then Georgia Gould and Mindy Lazano stormed off the front.
“Georgia,” said eventual winner Lozano, “is a pro mountain biker. I made the mistake of not leading going into the technical sections so she’d gap me a little bit. I’d be able to power back on the flats because. I don’t know how. That girl is so strong.” Schauer was the closest remaining women on the course, having slipped ten seconds ahead of the rest of the lead group. Lozano was aware of Schauer’s presence. “We wanted to put some distance on Betsy because she’s so powerful,” she said.
Schauer says she “would have rather been up with Georgia and Mandy because it’s a great course for hanging on wheels (being so flat and wide open). But my only goal for the day was to hang with Amber (Itle).”
Itle had fallen almost 30 seconds back with three laps to go so Schauer focused on keeping the leaders close and rode safely to third on the day and secured the series win.
That left the leaders to settle who would take the largest share of the day’s prize money. “Somehow,” said Lozano, “I got a gap (on Gould) in some of the technical sections. I’m such a bad bike handler, I probably scared her from going off me so I managed to gap her off in the woods.”
Once ahead, Lozano found a reserve of power and won by a comfortable margin.
Leech earns that elusive top spot
Ryan Leech has finished second in the Mid-Atlantic Series for the past two years. Greg Marini (CoffeePlusInc.com) needed to win and needed Leech to fall several spots behind to take the series for himself. By all rights, they should have been able to ride together and wait for a chance to break apart in the final laps. But, just as Gould served as an early antagonist in the women’s race, Ben Turner, TIAA-Cref’s 27 year-old team manager who was looking for a final hard day before taking on the national field in Portland December 12th, pushed the pace from the beginning of the race.
“I was concerned early about establishing a good gap,” Turner said about his aggressive pacemaking. His efforts got a small group containing Ryan Leech, Leech’s teammate Gunnar Shogren, Jon Hamblen (Fior di Frutta) and eventual winner Charlie Storm.
“I was just hanging out hoping I could hold onto the group,” Storm said. “Ben wanted me to work harder but I’m a little weaker in the early part of the race. I knew I’d be stronger later.” So he held back.
Storm and Turner got away and Storm sat on until he found a section of the course where he had a slight advantage over Turner. “I used a little bit of mountain bike skills on this little downhill.”
“On the top of this singeltrack up in the woods, Charlie would lead down the descent, Turner added. “He’d get a gap down this tricky singletrack then I’d spend a good section trying to catch up. I’d get him but I think it just gassed me a little bit.”
On the last lap, Storm pressed his final advantage. “I just couldn’t get back up there,” Turner says. Storm rode solo up the final straight for the win on the day.
Back on the course, Leech’s support team had been feeding him information about the whereabouts of Marini and he slipped across the line safely on Marini’s wheel. “This was my third time contending for the series,” he said after the finish. “I’ve been second every time – I always choke in the last race or two.” The key to winning this year” “Consistency. And Greg and I were first and second in the series all year so it’s been a good duel.”
1. Charlie STORM, Fuji/BTD 0:57:39
2. Ben TURNER, TIAA-CREF/CLIF BAR 0:58:03
3. Jon HAMBLEN, Fior di Frutta 0:58:51
4. Greg MARINI, COFFEEPLUSINC.COM 0:58:51
5. Ryan LEECH, FORT-GPOA 1:00:05
6. Gunnar SHOGREN, FORT-GPOA ! 1:00:54
7. Nathan CHOWN, St.Catharines C.C./Fuji Canada 1:01:10
8. Greg WITTWER, Cyclocrossworld.com 1:01:54
9. Mike YOZELL, fort-gpoa ! 1:02:19
10. Andrew WULFKUHLE, Alan Mid-Atlantic 1:02:19
11. Nathan DEIBERT, Evolution Racing 1:02:19
12. Jacob STECHMANN, Subway-Express 1:03:33
13. Joseph PICCILLO, Evolution Racing 1:03:52
14. Joe REYNOLDS, Wissahickon 1:04:20
15. Weston SCHEMPF, FORT-GPOA! 1:04:34
16. Jon HANSEN, Richmond Ciclismo/Embestida! -1
17. Michael MAGUR, Vergesport.com -1
DNF Leslie LEACH, Wissahickon
1. Mandy LOZANO, Easton/Kona/CCA 42:57
2. Georgia GOULD, Alan Mid-atlantic 43:13
3. Betsy SCHAUER, FORT-GPOA! 43:51
4. Amber ITLE, Yellow Breeches Racing 44:20
5. Kami TREMBLAY, LSV 44:42
6. Melissa MAURER, Evolution Racing 44:55
7. Melanie SWARTZ, Squadra Coppi / IM Saab 45:54
8. Lisa MOST, Wissahickon 47:08
9. Megan CLARK, Cycle-Smart 48:39
10. Lynda MALDONADO, Amoroso’s/Victory Brewing/Tri State Velo 49:23
11. Lesley HONSBERGER, St.Catharines C.C. 50:33
12. Tammy EBERSOLE,
Evolution Racing 51:58