For the first time this season, cold and wind greeted racers in Sterling, Massachusetts for the seventh round of the Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series and part one of the NACT finals. Faced with the loss of the venue for the final race weekend of the North American Cyclocross Trophy Series, the directors selected Bay State Cyclocross as a replacement.
Coming into the race, Jeremy Powers (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) was sitting in second spot overall and only needed 25 points to win the NACT overall with leader Tim Johnson racing in Europe. Meaning that he only needed a fourth-placed finish but Powers went off with his trademark fast start and went to the front from start to finish to take the win, shaking the final rider to solo to the victory and for his first NACT title. Behind him, the battle was on for NECCS and UCI points.
The NACT title was not at play in the Elite Women’s race but the win, UCI and NECCS points were hotly debated. Laura Van Gilder (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes) taking the win in a sprint out of the lead group.
The course, which started the day frozen and muddy had mostly thawed dried out by the time the elites took to it, leaving a smooth and fast parcours. A classic cyclocross course, Tom Stevens’s design at the Chocksett Middle School was similar to past years with long off-camber sections, tricky and rutted corners and long fast stretches on pavement and cinder tracks.
As has been the case in all the Verge Series races this year, the elite women had a tight group at the front from the beginning to the end. Initially, the group was made up of eight racers, but eventually pared itself to a group of five with Laura Van Gilder (C3/Athletes Serving Athletes), Natasha Elliott (Garneau Club/Chaussure/Ogilvy), Sally Annis (crossresults.com p/b JRA Cycles), Arley Kemmerer (C3/Athletes Serving Athletes) and Maureen Bruno-Roy (Bob’s Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles).
As the race wore on, Elliott constantly pushed the pace, driving the group on all the open sections of the course and was eventually able to shed Kemmerer and Bruno-Roy. Reduced to three, the women seemed content to ride tempo, holding the chase at a consistent fifteen-second gap, waiting for mistakes to be made. Van Gilder used all the experience she’s gained over 370+ race wins in her career and sat in behind the wheel of Elliott for almost the whole race. A savvy racer herself, Elliott would take full advantage of the cinder track to recover, knowing she would be able to close any attacks, should they come.
The three leaders matched each other until the last half lap when Sally Annis made her move, attacking the group through the north side of the course. Van Gilder, unwilling to let the move go, immediately closed the gap, relegating Elliott to third wheel as the group hit the finish stretch. From there the win was largely academic as Van Gilder put a quick six bike lengths on her competitors to take the victory. Behind her Elliott edged Annis by barely a tire’s width in a photo finish. Twenty seconds later, Arley Kemmerer and Bruno-Roy hit the track with Kemmerer out-kicking Bruno-Roy for fourth. With her third-place, Annis regains the series leader’s jersey.
In the elite men’s race, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the race would be to see who could hold on to Powers. Powers, racing alone in New England as teammates Johnson and Jamey Driscoll were in Belgium and Iowa, respectively, came into today motivated to pick up his first ever national series win. With a finish of fourth or better, Powers would clinch the overall in the NACT series, but like any other champion, Powers came to win.
From the gun, Powers was on the front of the race, quickly shedding Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart), Justin Lindine (bikereg.com/Joe’s Garage/Scott) and Christian Favata (Favata’s Tablerock Tours and Bikes). The only person able to hold on to the Cannondale racer’s wheel was Luke Keough (Champion System p/b Keough Cyclocross). With a herculean effort, Keough was able to keep the pace for the first half of the race but with four laps to go, Powers made an effort to break free and Keough was trapped in no-man’s land. Keough slid back past Myerson and St John but managed to hold on for a very impressive fourth-place and U-23 victory.
Behind Powers, Myerson and St John were punishing each other in hopes of picking up the remaining podium spots and all was going well until Myerson missed a pedal after the barriers, giving St John the small gap he needed to make a move. In the blink of an eye, St John had put ten seconds into Myerson and the two held their pace to the finish. St John was given the Devonshire Dental Most Aggressive Rider prize for his efforts. With Myerson third and Justin Lindine pulling in fifth, the distance between first and second place in the Verge NECCS has been nearly halved with only three rounds left to go.
Racing will start up again Sunday morning in Sterling with the NACT series final awards being presented at the end of the day to the men and women.
Top 10 Elite Women
1. Laura Van Gilder (C3 Athletes Serving Athletes)
2. Natasha Elliott (Garneau Club Chaussure-Ogilvy)
3. Sally Annis (crossresults.com p/b JRA Cycles)
4. Arley Kemmerer (C3 – Athletes Serving Athletes)
5. Maureen Bruno Roy (Bob’s Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles)
6. Andrea Smith (LadiesFirst Racing)
7. Ann D’Ambruoso (LadiesFirst Racing)
8. Linnea Koons (Embrocation Cycling Journal)
9. Crystal Anthony (LadiesFirst Racing)
10. Carolyn Popovic (PAValleys.com)
Top 10 Elite Men
1. Jeremy Powers (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com)
2. Derrick St John (Garneau Club Chaussure-Ogilvy)
3. Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart)
4. Luke Keough (BikeReg.com/Cannondale)
5. Justin Lindine (BikeReg.com / Joe’s Garage / Scott)
6. Travis Livermon (Mock Orange Racing)
7. Robert Marion (American Classic)
8. Andrew Wulfkuhle (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes)
9. Christian Favata (Favata’s Tablerock Tours and Bikes)
10. Alec Donahue (Wheelhouse / NCC)
Photo Gallery (Click for larger images)