It all came down to a sprint in the Elite Men’s Beacon Cross race, stop #7 of the Champion System MAC Series. A group of five riders came into the final lap together with series leader Valentin Scherz (Cyfac-Champion) and Adam Myerson(Cycle-Smart) watching each other and taking turns at the front.
Another Adam, this one Adam McGrath (Van Dessel) launched the hostilities before the barriers but was quickly brought back and the dash to the line was on. Scherz was at the front, Myerson on his wheel and the expected sprint was on until Myerson was stopped in his tracks after pinch-flatting with 500 meters to go. He stepped aside, waved the other riders through and made his way to the finish line.
Scherz opened up his sprint and didn’t look behind to see who was on his wheel, he couldn’t it was just too close because tiny McGrath, who says he can’t sprint, was right there. Scherz pulled out the win, his first UCI win this year with McGrath taking second.
“McGrath was close, I was surprised to see him. I told myself that it would be tight, if I looked behind me, he could pass me so I couldn’t look behind to see who was there. You can’t look behind to see what is going on, you have to give it everything. It was important for me to win here, it’s my first UCI win this year. I won my first UCI race last year on the same weekend, at Highland Park.” Scherz said after his win.
After a small bobble on the final lap, Ryan Knapp (BikeReg.com) claimed third, his first UCI podium.
“Road racy”. Many compared the race to a road race where the speed was the main technical difficulty in the race and the possibility of drafting, a lot, on the course. So for many riders it was about keeping the pace high, so fast that a separation would be made but not too fast as to not blow up.
With that in mind, and after a hectic pre-race, Scherz went off like a canon at the start. On his wheel, Luca Damiani (Kenda p/b GearGrinder), Jerome Townsend (BikeReg.com/Joe’s Garage/Scott), Knapp and the rest of the field stretched out. One name that was missing from the front was Myerson who missed a pedal and had to chase his way back up.
As the field made its way to the Amphitheater of Pain and its 24” to 28” high steps that are approached via a hairpin turn, Damiani was nowhere to be seen, dropped back with a flat tire. With no spare bike in the pit, he had to change his back wheel and then mounted a spirited chase, going full speed around the corners to finally finish 7th.
Two laps into the race, the separation was made at the front. Scherz, Myerson, Knapp, Townsend and McGrath at the front with a pair of chasers, Weston Schempf (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes) and Craig Richey (CyclocrossRacing.com p/b Blue) not far behind. Scherz and Myerson did most of the work at the front, sometimes putting in little digs to get a few bike lengths. Myerson would have liked to escape with one other rider while Scherz wanted to make it hard to keep the race manageable.
The pace was too much for Townsend who faded back and was passed by the two chasers and later on by Damiani. It was now four at the front with the pair of chasers behind. With one to go, Schempf made contact with the group and Myerson led the five men into the final loop around.
The Champion System MAC Series continues Sunday with the HPCX won by Scherz last year.
Valentin Scherz (Cyfac-Champion System Racing Team p/b Revolution). “It’s a bit my thing [to start fast]. We got here late and I had a bit of trouble getting ready. It was stressful, I wasn’t warmed up. It gave me an adrenaline shot to be in such a hurry, I was able to put myself into it immediately when the race started. After, I was able to put a high temp, higher that some of the others at the beginning so I took advantage of that to create a selection in the group because I knew how it would end here, big groups so I wanted to create the selection pretty quickly.”
About the course. “If someone stays behind you, he barely needs to pedal because it’s so fast, just like on the road. It’s almost a road race actually, just like a criterium. So as soon as there was a group I wanted to take advantage of that to keep the pace high enough so not to get caught and then it was a matter of waiting.”
About his little attacks in the lead group. “If the race was too easy then it becomes luck of the draw, someone can attack, get a little gap and win. If you make the race harder, it hurts, the effort hurts and the race becomes more manageable because everyone is a bit more tired so no crazy attacks.”
Concerned about in the lead group? “Myerson. It’s not even that he’s a sprinter, it’s that he has a huge amount of experience and that he had, more a less, a teammate. He rides the same bike as Adam McGrath and I knew that they could work together, they could have done a move like leaving a gap between them, that was my worry. But they played it fair and we could settle it on the bike.”
About the final lap. “McGrath attacked before the barriers, I think he wasn’t feeling well about a sprint so he attacked on the flats. I wanted to be either first or second for the amphitheater so I counter-attacked and went to the front. After I tried to recover a bit on the flat [at the pit], then it was giving everything to hold it.”
Ryan Knapp (BikeReg.com). “It was kind of road racy out there. I just tried to stay up front and out of trouble because it was so fast. That’s the thing it wasn’t very technical but it was so fast that it made it technical because you were just railing through these corners with all the sand, and the group just got smaller and smaller. Then Wes caught on right at the end and I was worried, I didn’t know how much he had left, obviously he had been chasing for awhile. The smaller the group the better in my mind but we kind of got lucky because Adam flatted right before the amphitheater with 40 seconds of racing left to go. It’s a bummer for him because he rode well.”
About mostly Myerson & Scherz taking turns at the front. “I figured those guys were the more established racers, I’ll let them drag me around all day and try to save it until the end, one last hurrah. McGrath attacked back there in the wide-open section and it was a pretty fast corner and we hadn’t taken it that fast all day and I slipped out and had to put a foot down. That gapped me a little but I think the racing was done, it was pretty much just a sprint coming up the hill, almost to the top of the amphitheater but I was just hanging on after recovering from that.”
About small gaps in the lead group. “When the gap would group I think it would be because either Valentin or Adam Myerson wanted to test the waters with a little bit of an attack, nothing was all in, full-on type of an attack but just upped the pace for 30 seconds and look around a bit and then dragged it back out. Then once they realized it was going to take a major effort to split the group I think that’s when everybody started riding it tempo.”
About his result. “I had a really, really, really disappointing weekend in Louisville which was hard because it’s so close to home for me and I have all my friends, and so it was kind of a bummer to do that at home. But I’ve raced a lot to start off the year and traveled a lot, I think I kind of worn myself a little thin leading into last weekend so I took it really easy this week and was like ‘I’m starting from zero again, the season is long, I need to just reset because I was trying so hard. I was just bleeding out my eyes trying to go fast and I just couldn’t last week and so that was disappointing. I knew this was on the schedule and I thought I’d really like to go out there and get a chunk of points. I’m pleased with a top 3 today. And next week I’m really looking forwards to Cycle-Smart in Northampton because I love the Northeast, Northampton is a cool town, Spooky Bikes is out of that area, BikeReg is out of that area so I’m looking forwards to seeing friends and sponsors, and plus it’s an awesome area. I’m really looking forwards to this little stretch here assuming I can have some legs.”
Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart). “It’s funny, I led a little bit more that I normally would have but I know there’s a lot of drafting on this course and it really helps if you can see, we’re going so fast that if you can’t see a rut or something, guys were making mistakes. So second wheel was a nice spot but I felt like when those guys had all played their cards, I didn’t mind leading if it meant that I could lead to the beach because I felt that I was much faster than anyone else on the beach so things like that. I would lead in the beach, I wouldn’t attack, I would go my own speed and I’d come out of it with a gap, I’d use to rest basically I wanted to sprint. ”
Looking for a sprint finish. “I wanted to cover all the attacks and ideally come away with one other person. I thought I could get away with Valentin a few times. No one was ever on the ropes. We split it down to 4, when I would leave I wasn’t interested in driving it, there was no point in me driving it but if I could have gotten awa with just Valentin, I would of taken off with him for sure. On the last lap, I tried to cover all the attacks, keep trying to be second wheel. Up until the last section, I was on Valentin’s wheel and everything was going according to plan. The little uphill before the amphitheater, there are a lot of rocks and most laps it was fun, I was able to pick my way through it and on this last lap, we were going a little bit faster, I was trying to follow Valentin a little bit closer and no one’s fault but my own, I hit a rock. I didn’t know that I had done it, I was probably putting in a little bit more pressure on the pedals that I had on the other laps and I just pinch-flatted on one of the rocks.”
About the course. “It’s such a unique course. It’s very tricky because it’s sand and some years the sand here, the whole race is in the woods next to a beach so it’s all sand. Sometimes sand packs down hard and it’s really fast. I rode file threads today, in front and rear, you want the fastest and slightly higher-pressure even, but what’s tricky about it is if you blow a turn or carry too much speed, there’s still a maximum speed you can take the turn so there’s a high penalty for mistakes. You make a mistake in a turn and you’re out of the group. That’s really how the group gets split, someone botches a turn, the group rides away and you’re in the wind. It’s like being in a breakaway in a road race, you’re trying to close the gap to the group but then you add obstacles , like this uphill climb is hard, the beach and the amphitheater, it means there are places to separate the race and so it always end sup being a group but once the gaps between groups open up they don’t usually close. You have to keep on making the selection. ”
About his slow start. “I know that my form is good right now and it’s funny, it gives you a little security maybe. I slipped my pedal at the start and I really got frustrated, I caught myself, I was like all these guys can hold the wheel for one lap, just be patient and so I tried not to waste any energy sprinting to the guys, I just waited, the gaps were opening up on the uphill and as soon as I had room I just rode across to the group. And the fact that I was able to do that gave me a ton of confidence for the race. I realized if I can ride up to the leaders then I’m not going to get dropped, I’m going to be able to hold the wheel. And so I was able to ride a very calm, very controlled race until the last 400 meters.” (laughs)
Not again. “It’s the second time that it’s happened to me here. Three years ago, four years ago, it was me, [Justin] Spinelli and [Davide] Frattini in the front group with one lap to go. Coming out of the sand I managed to just drop my bike, when I put my bike down, I caught something when I put it down and pinch-flatted it and didn’t know until I had already passed the pit so I rode the last half lap by myself, same scenario.”
Luca Damiani (Kenda p/b GearGrinder). “I flatted my back tire, I’m here to enjoy the cyclocross so I don’t have a spare bike, I just stopped in the pit zone, changed my back wheel, really easy and then start to chase back. That lost me probably one minute to change the back wheel and everything.”
About his chase back. “That is the point to enjoy the race. I try to chase them back do as well as I could, I think I finished seventh. The last time I head, it was around the middle of the race, I heard fifteen, I had already passed like 10 guys so (laughs) it’s good.”
Top 10 Elite Men Results
1. Valentin Scherz (Cyfac-Champion System Racing Team p/b Revolution)
2. Adam McGrath (Thule/Van Dessel Cyclocross)
3. Ryan Knapp (BikeReg.com)
4. Weston Schempf (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes)
5. Craig Richey (CyclocrossRacing.com p/b Blue)
6. Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart)
7. Luca Damiani (Kenda Pro)
8. Jerome Townsend (BikeReg.com / Joe’s Garage / Scott)
9. Andrew Wulfkuhle (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes)
10. Daniel Chabanov (NYCROSS.com / CBRC)