It’s a massive victory for any Michigan racer and it is slowly becoming as prestigious a win as the Iceman Cometh. Here are the men that should figure in the final cruel miles of Barry-Roubaix.
The Barry-Roubaix will be decided in tougher conditions than ever before, and the dynamics of the race are very different than in years past. It’s Michigan; everyone can ride well, or is at least familiar with riding in the cold. But now, the added mud and grit adds a more selective and challenging obstacle that will test the mettle of even the top flight Michigan racers. Here’s a look at a few men that should challenge the overall win.
Mike Anderson, BISSELL/ABG. The defending champion kicked off a Top Banana Competition win with a huge victory at Barry-Roubaix. The King of the Roubaix is back and armed with a solid supporting cast, though the riders alongside him could also challenge for the win. BISSELL now has the numbers to take control of the race, and they certainly have the firepower to do so with Vanias, Graham, Diekema, Lam, Minema, Vanderlugt and others all in the queue. If the squad backs him, Anderson should be very tough to beat, and don’t be surprised to see BISSELL riders doing the attacking to keep the pressure off.
Jorden Wakeley, Einstein Racing. Anderson’s foil in 2012, the Giant of Grayling is coming off a winter where he dominated the fat biking scene across the Midwest. He’s more motivated than ever to prove himself as the top racer in the state, and will relish the muddy conditions in Hastings. He’s another rider with a stacked support squad with Einstein putting together an unbelievably powerful team for 2013. Wakeley will ride with the help of Jason Lowetz, Chris Fisher, Ryan Cross, Jason Young, John Leach and Ryan Bolin, with Bennett Paul and Mickey Humpula also offering themselves to the cause. With that much speed, they’re the only team that can possibly match BISSELL man for man.
Clint Verran, KLM/Cold Stone. Flying solo and relying on his first-class gravel skills, Verran will be a tough thorn in the sides of the big teams at the BRX. He’s shown his speed and smarts in other gravel races, and his hometown Ronde van Stony has proven to be one of the most exciting events in Michigan. For Verran, it will be all about watching the moves and making the right selections, and possibly playing the heavyweights against each other.
Aaron Beebe, East Hills Velo. The 2012 Cyclocrosser of the Year has proven his form at Inside Out Cyclocross, and he’s one of the best bike handlers around. Beebe will be right up there with the best of them, and he has the form to be there in a bunch sprint. The test for Beebe, like Verran, will be to be in the right place at the right time when the race hots up.
Dan Korienek, Leadout Racing. The Pride of Elsie finished sixth last year and will look for nothing less than a podium in 2013. He is another rider with a stacked team, including Tom Linck, Mark Hotchkin, Paul Havens and plenty of other high caliber racers. All they need to do is keep Korienek comfortably near the front and watch for dangerous moves to go off the front late. If Korienek is in the lead group with under 10km to go, he should certainly be on the podium.
Nate Verluis, Farm Team Racing. The Farmer certainly is in with a shout, and will rely on Shawn Davison and Steve Bartzen over the frozen gravel this weekend. He’s taken a third place at Inside Out Cyclocross this past February and will look to challenge late if he and his team can stay tucked in behind the teams with a dozen or more riders entered. He’s also been busy on the fat bikes, and has some solid race miles in already for 2013.
Alex Vanias, BISSELL/ABG. He’s got the pedigree and the green light to go for this one, and the breakaway artist will be chomping at the bit to play his hand. Any BISSELL riders off the front means the boys don’t need to work for Anderson, and giving Vanias even thirty seconds could be fatal for teams that will have they heads on a swivel watching the attacks go. If Vanias can coax a handful of riders off the front with him, it could be lights out early.
The Predictions: Einstein and BISSELL will square off whether they realize it or not, and their riders should sweep up any early moves that don’t include their riders. For both teams, it will come down to the efforts of guys like Diekema, Cross, Leach and Bolin to control, attack and monitor on the front. Derek Graham might just be the secret weapon for BISSELL, and if he or Vanias can’t break the stalemate, watch for Einstein to hold out for a team move late.
With the mud, ice and conditions, I’ll take mountain bikers over road racers and give the edge to a group containing Anderson, Wakeley, Korienek, Versluis and the like, with Anderson repeating as winner ahead of Wakeley in second and Korinek in third.