Cross the Bay Cyclocross Series is underway with a dynamite start at Breezeway Cross. Under sunny skies and perfect temperatures, riders eased into the year with great conditions, though the course was demanding as always.
The course again featured some high-speed straightaways punctuated with hairpin corners and sandy, off-camber turns that proved selective throughout the afternoon. The Elite race went late in the day, and the sand was dug up and almost impossible to ride, even by some of the best riders in the state.
Jorden Wakeley entered as the favorite, opting with a mountain bike against the likes of BISSELL’s Alex Vanias, North Country Cycle Sport’s Chad Wells, and Einstein Racing’s Jason Lowetz. Lowetz entered as the dark horse, a seasoned cyclocross racer with outstanding handling skills. However, his recent 1,500 mile, five day ride to New York zapped the legs.
Lowetz took the hole shot, marked closely by the top five. North Country Cycle Sport’s Trever Kingsbury was a late start after crashing out of the B race, and he held last wheel for the leaders through one lap. It took a lap and a half for Wakeley’s legs to get moving, and he slowly clawed away a gap with Wells desperately trying to get back to his wheel. Lowetz was fading by lap four, and the legs weren’t there to challenge for the podium.
Alex Vanias, however, was also getting into a rhythm. He overtook Wells and began to plow a lonely furrow toward the front. He started to pull Wakeley back, but it was just a little too late to bring the Giant of Grayling back with the gapped he’d pushed out. Wakeley won by nearly a minute, with a slightly larger gap back to Wells in third from Vanias.
The Elite Women’s race featured Algoma Bicycle Co.’s Kim Chapman. The area races called on the mountain biking community to give the race a start, with Bobbie Liegl (Lattitude 45) and Tina Dominic (NCCS) jumping up to the challenge. Chapman marshaled along with the B men, riding tucked in safely behind a teammate before riding solo for the last few laps, spinning her way to an impressive win. Bobbie Liegl made a great debut, taking second ahead of last year’s winner, Dominic.
The highlight of the day had to the be stacked Men’s B race. Featuring at least six riders capable of taking the win, the largest field of the day was by far the closest. An elite pack of ten riders established itself right off the back. The selection came on an uphill that spilled into a deep sand pit, and the gap was pounded home on another trademark straight away through the pines.
From the middle of the pack, Bennett Paul (Einstein Racing) made his move, pulling past Wes Sovis (Hagerty Cycling), Ross Gibbs (NCCS) and the bulk of the Algoma team, spearheaded by Paul DeBeer. At the last second, Jake Ellis joined his Hagerty teammate and latched onto the wheel of Gibbs and the pack disintegrated. Left behind, two smaller groups of four rode without conviction as Bennett Paul inched out a gap.
Riding alone for much of the day, Paul timed his effort perfectly. He began to lose ground with a lap to go. Jake Ellis saw the opportunity and broke away from DeBeer, coming up just short of overtaking the winner, but coming up short. DeBeer walked in with a solid third place and another great showing from Algoma Bicycle Co.
Jim Picotte (Einstein Racing) rebounded from a slow start to storm to the C win, blistering past teammate Austin Johnson to lead the final two laps and holding a big enough gap heading to the line to relish the moment. Johnson held on for second, giving Einstein racing some much deserved podiums on a day that demanded some solid form and guts.
North Country repeated their Junior domination, with Haley Fogo repeating as winner. She’s now undefeated in five cyclocross races and has yet to be behind more even a lap. She will be on hand at Petoskey to try to stay perfect in the Cross the Bay Series.
Race number two of the series is two weeks off. Northmen Cross is at Petoskey High School on October 13. Many of the riders are confirmed to make starts, though more racers will join as preparation for the Iceman, and the run for the series points title, heats up.