Monday, December 8, 2008

NBX Gran Prix of 'Cross, Warwick, RI

The two-day finale of the Verge New England Championship Series was hosted by Matt Bodziony and his crew from Narragansett Bike Shop (that’s NBX for short) at Goddard State Park in Warwick, Rhode Island, December 6 and 7. Using the same venue as the former Casters cross race, the course featured a long paved zigzag hole shot followed by the first of two trips to the beach, a short run up, then lots of hard packed dirt with roots aplenty, just a little grass around the carousel building, a second trip to the beach, and a foot bridge for great viewing of the course as it passes underneath and along both ends. In short, a perfect venue for ‘cross. Add a beer tent with ‘Gansett for just a dollar each and the best racers in New England wrapping up the season-long Verge series, and you have the greatest ‘cross event of the year.

The course was altered by the crew between day one and day two, but Mother Nature did most of the work. The inch or more of snow that fell overnight was enough to change the character but the crew also tripled the length of the unridable second beach section and added the twisty “intestinal track” after that before returning the Saturday route.

Saturday was speed and power day, Sunday was for the technicians with the finesse to stay upright. However, the results in the Elite races didn’t change all that much from Day 1 to Day 2 proving that the really good riders have both the motor and the skills.

With Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld) taking the Elite Men’s races by comfortable margins both days, the excitement would have to come from elsewhere. On Day 1, it was the battle for second between local heroes Nick Keough (Jittery Joe’s), Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart), and Matt White ( along with their neighbor from the Great White North, Derrick St. John (Steven’s). It seems a little weird to call 19 year old Keough a “hero” already, but we might as well start now because it’s clear, he is going to be a rider about whom we will all be saying “I saw him when…”.

Driscoll and the crew listed above, plus Josh Dillon (Fiordifrutta) and Justin Spinelli (RGM/Sachs), established themselves as the elite lead group with the rest out of contention while still in the early stages. Driscoll would take off from the front of the group with several laps to go. Spinelli and Dillon would eventually drop slightly off the back while, in the middle, the battle for second was won by Keough in a sprint with Myerson. Young gun Keough led out of the final corner about 250 yards from the line and narrowly held off the Myerson who has nearly twenty years more experience and is known as a sprinting specialist on the road. Keough is becoming known for having better Sundays than Saturdays so his second place finish bode well for Day 2. More importantly it showed that he had clearly recovered from the injury that took him out of second place and drop to a mid pack finish with one leg numb the previous Saturday in Sterling.
Here is the front row at the start (Myerson, Dillon, St John, Tilford, White, and Driscoll):

‘Cross just isn’t the same on a warm sunny day (think Gloucester 2008) as it is when the conditions turn nasty. The fans and the riders know that their sport is something special and never more so than when everyone else in New England is on the couch watching others play football. With an inch of snow on the ground and more falling, this was 'cross weather and the scene got better and better as the day went on. Beer for only $1 each, compliments of Narragansett, didn’t hurt either.

Much of the crowd lost interest in the sharp end of the race when it became a foregone conclusion less than half way though that Driscoll was going to win again (his 7th in 9 Verge series races this year). The attention of many spectators turned to the double uphill barriers which were conveniently located adjacent to the beer stand. On the first lap, while still in heavy traffic in the middle of the field, Adam Snyder (3-D Racing) bunny hopped the barriers and Michael Patrick (Bike Barn) would start soon thereafter. As the announcer, I got a little carried away by the excitement and offered a $5 prime for every successful bunny hop for the remainder of the race. I tried to convince Joel Brown who was also on the mic to match me, but he wouldn’t pony up the dough. I realized he might be more smart than cheap so I put a $50 limit on the total primes I was going to pay out of my own pocket just in case everyone in the race started doing it. Fortunately for me, no one else did and there were only four laps left. To the delight of the crowd assembled on both sides of the barriers and half way around the carousel, Snyder and Patrick successfully completed four bunny hops each to claim $40 of my money between them. It was totally worth it.

Here is Adam Myerson the first time over the barriers Sunday, followed by Keough, Spinelli, Driscoll, and O'Keefe:
A few feet further down the course and one lap later, Spinelli, Keough and Myerson:Here is the winner, Driscoll, followed by Dillon on the same lap:

When the race was over, it would be Justin Spinelli who would take second, followed just seconds later by St John, Myerson, and Keough. That result gave Keough top place in the under 23 category again. Jerome Townsend (Ridley) would be second in the U23 with Will Dugan third (RGM/Sachs).

The Women’s Elite race on Saturday was a two women race from early on. The locals tried to will Rebecca Wellons (Ridley) (the Verge series leader since the previous week in Sterling) into the lead group but it wasn’t quite enough. The dynamic duo of Laura Van Gilder (C3 Sollay) and Natasha Elliot (EMD Serono/Stevens) would escape the rest of the field both days. On day one they were together until the final sprint and, as expected, the more experienced and road savvy sprinter, Van Gilder didn’t have much trouble outsprinting Elliot who had been leading the two throughout the 45 minute long race, at least whenever we could see them from the start/finish area. On day two the announcer (me) predicted that the more technical nature of the snowy course would favor Elliot since they seemed to be evenly matched on the power-heavy first day. As per usual, I was way off and Van Gilder actually rode away from Elliot in the first half of the race. Again on Day 2, it looked like Wellons might be able to grind a bigger gear (as she seems to do) and bridge up, but it didn’t happen this time either. She proved again, however, that she is the fastest and most consistent of the locals and not far from the top level of national caliber riders. Sally Annis (NEBC) isn’t far behind either as evidenced by fourth and fifth places, trading spots with Anna Milkowski (Velo Bella Kona) Saturday and Sunday.

Luke Keough held a slim 10 point lead in the Verge series going into this final weekend with Manny Goguen (Minuteman Road Club) right behind. Luke has been winning the races he has been at, but he missed several races while in Europe this fall. Consistency is rewarded in this series because there is no provision for throwing out a low score or a missed race. They all count and Goguen has been consistent. Still, he had his work cut out for him trying to match Keough who has been focusing on achieving top form for a trip back to Europe for a couple of World Cup races followed by the World Championships at the end of January. Luke road away on Day 1. Manny was able to hang on longer on Day 2 but had a crash heading onto the beach that cost him considerable time and the contest was over after that. Luke retained the series title.

Some random notes and observations from the other races:

Jim Tosca (Corner Cycle) won the Men Cat 2/3 Day 1, but DNFed Day 2. I never did find out what happened but he had been at or near the lead through the first half of the race. Suddenly he was gone. He still won the Verge series for the season. Here is Tosca on the far right with the rest of the 2/3 at the start:

Dylan McNicholas, who was second in the Men 2/3 right behind Tosca on Day 1, was leading the race Sunday with a gap heading toward the long beach run with about a quarter of a lap remaining. But he didn’t come off the beach with the lead. James Patterson ( came into view first after the run up followed by Colin Reuter (IBC/ Jeremy Dunn (Embrocation) would follow before McNicholas was seen. When McNicholas came onto the pavement for the finishing stretch in fourth place, it was clear that a flat rear tire had cost him 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places.

The women from the Minuteman Road Club had a great Women’s B race taking the top three places both days with Anna Barensfeld (1st and 1st), Christina Tamilio (3rd and 2nd), and Allison Snooks (2nd and 3rd).

In fact, between the Goguens, the B women, and all of the guys in the races, MRC is one powerful bike racing club!

Speaking of the MRC, did you know that Jurga is Polish for “don’t go so slow”. Yell it whenever he goes by.

The battle for U15 supremacy ended with Nate Morse (CLNoonan) crashing out with less than a lap to go clearing the way for Curtis White (Capital Bike Racing). A nine race series where they alternated victories every weekend came down to the last half lap.

Little Didi (the devil) and the Gorilla were back doing their thing. Apparently they have been recruited by the Capital Bike Racing Club based on their colors. It’s good to know that Satan likes ‘cross. It’s no surprise that a gorilla would be a ‘cross fanatic. The guy in the green body suit kind of freaks me out.

CTodd is a better bike racer than he is a musician. And he is a damn fine musician. Thanks for the tune CTodd, it is on the iPod forever now.

I am really glad Richard Fries went to Portland this weekend. I had a blast filling in for him. Most of you crossers don’t know me because the only cross races that I have announced at in previous years are the two days in Plymouth but I do the announcing for about 18 road races a year. I hadn’t raced cross in about 12 years until this year so most of you haven’t seen me racing either (that’s probably for the best, I don’t want to lose your respect that easily, I really suck).

I race cross vicariously more and more via the internet these days, I think it is helping a little. It certainly is helping my announcing. However, I need to remember that it’s a one way conversation. I walked up to Colin Reuter and started asking questions like I had known him for years. He said, “Sorry, do I know you?”. Oops, not really, but I love what you have done with, not to mention your blog and the seatpost camera. Besides, I have the microphone of invincibility in my hand, it doesn't matter if you know me. I’ll be at Ice Weasels. Especially if it snows.

Due to the mud on Sunday, Colin turned the seatpost cam into a handlebar cam. Can’t wait to see what I missed out there. I tried to get on camera once near the start/finish line but I didn’t want to impede Colin’s progress while he was in 2nd place so I don’t know if I made it into the field of view.

I think I figured out which one GeWilli is, and at the same time figured out who the guy in the orange jump suit is. Two birds….

Are and not what the internet was created for?

As it got dark after the races (and a couple of beers) I managed to get my bike out of the truck and get a couple of laps on the course. The only problem was that the crew were in the middle of the change over from Day 1 to Day 2 so there was tape across the old course and no indication yet where to go for the new one. It was still a blast even in street shoes. Neutral support Mark was even kind enough to heckle me. "Don't go so slow!!"

We need more beer tents. Frites would be nice too, avec sauce.

Microsoft spell check recognizes avec as a real word, it’s really only French.

I’ll buy Richard’s plane ticket to Portland next year if I have to to work this race again.

I was wondering all weekend where the NBX road racing guys (i.e. Lowenstein and Yarbrody) were. Turns out they were marshalling the crossings all day. It’s a UCI regulation that all crossings must be manned although I recall walking wherever and whenever I wanted at Sterling.


Colin R said...

Tosca flatted in the lower parking lot just after the start/finish and decided to call it a day rather than run all the way to the pit.

badbrad said...

Thanks for all the MRC shoutouts...oh... and also for broadcasting to everyone to tell me that I'm slow!

Well, I guess that it's true and I was telling you to say my name... so I'll let it slide!

Great job announcing! You made the race so much more entertaining for me!


CTodd said...

Thanks for the shoutouts Paul! Much appreciated.

Other songs can be found here: