Deciding to tack on one more effort to a long road season, Aaron Beebe dueled with the best of them to come away with the first Rock Road 50/50 title. Hagerty’s Susan Vigland rolled the line with teammate Lauri Brockmiller to take the first women’s title.
Of course, it didn’t start raining until riders were under the start banner, and didn’t let up until nearly everyone was through the finish over 4 hours later. The Rock Road 50/50 brought out debates on which bike to ride, which race to run, and where the gaps would open, but there was hardly a sure thing once the gun went off Sunday morning. Jorden Wakeley and Mike Simonson lined up as favorites in the men’s race, while the women’s title would surely be battled out between Vigland and Brockmiller, but what happened over 50 miles of soggy, sandy road and under a steady rain will be talked about for years to come.
The men’s race was expected to split the first time up the Kennenberg. Wakeley, Simonon and M-22’s Sean Kickbush assumed their positions up front as the race hit the Speed of Light’ infamous Power Section, with Einstein Racing’s Ryan Kennedy, Cody Sovis and Jason Whittaker on hand alongside Eli Brown, Tom Linck and Aaron Beebe. Those seven riders eventually opened up a gap, with an admirable cease-fire occurring when Beebe missed an early turn. Wakeley and Simonson were already looked around, with Einstein sending Sovis up to the front for a few pulls to try to prize out more of a gap. With Hagerty not present and KEEN represented with only one rider, it was a gamble to gain time immediately.
Linck was looking comfortable and tough, one of three riders on cyclocross bikes. Beebe and Sovis also on drop bars. It was always expected that the race would be all but decided on the Kennenberg, and for two riders, it was. Brown and Sovis were dropped at the base, with the other five riders almost elbow to elbow over the summit.
The Men’s leaders rode the rest of the first lap together, with Beebe feeling more and more comfortable with the pace. The leading five easily rode away from the chasing Brown and Sovis, and it was a set-piece showdown on the base of the Kennenberg on lap two. Beebe was to the fore, getting a gap and, in a show of cyclocross skill unmatched as far as is known, kept the distance as he spilled down the treacherous descent and across the Bridge on the River Kwai. Wakeley eventually regained contact, and the duo put time into Kickbush, Simonson and Kennedy, with Linck falling back to be joined by a steamrolling Eli Brown. At 38 miles to go, Beebe dropped the hammer and stayed on it, looking back to see a gap that deserved to be kept open. After he hit the Vasa, it was a race already won.
Wakeley deftly held on for second, with Simonson springing some late power onto Kickbush and Kennedy, filling out the top five. Tom Linck took sixth ahead of Eli Brown, with Cody Sovis, and the ageless Don Fedrigon and Jack Kline rounding out the top ten.
The women’s race was a terribly hard parade, with Brockmiller and Vigland essentially riding a two-women time trial and getting some tough miles in the legs ahead of a run at an Iceman Cometh podium. They rolled the line together, sharing a win and a podium with teammate Laura Webb. That will be a very tough trio heading into a slew of fall races.
Einstein Racing narrowly took the Team Competition, taking the rides from Kennedy and Sovis along with massive efforts from Jason Whittaker, Jeff Galsterer, and birthday-boy Nate St. Onge. They were just over three minutes clear of Hagerty Cycling, who lost a valuable team member in Hal BeVier, who crashed hard and was forced out the race. He and teammate Craig Webb, who also crashed, are both receiving medial aid in the form of chocolate chip cookies.
Hagerty Cycling’s Andy Batteiger also won the Lantern Rouge prize, finishing last in the 50 miler. Of note, he outlasted some very fast folks who called it quits, and fully deserved his free entry to Crystal Cross presented by Einstein Cycles, which takes place October 19 at Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa.