It was a close run thing, but local experts confirm that, because neither fumbled the snap a late fourth quarter punt, both Kaitlyn Patterson and Jorden Wakeley took home the title at Peak2Peak. Under alternatively threatening and sunny skies, and with a furious bout of sleet just before the Elite waves took off, the tenth Peak2Peak was one of the fairest weather editions in memory. Snow, while nausea-inducing in mid-October, was always going to be preferably to a downpour. The decent conditions were a relief, too, as it let the racing take center stage.
The start line was packed with favorites, with the Men’s field called the strongest in the race’s history by many heading into Saturday’s event. Multiple winners like Mike Simonson and Cole House, as well as the podium-penchant Wakeley, were the most likely candidates, but Alex Vanias, Sean Kickbush and Nathan Guerra were also in the mix. Dan Korienek and Earl Hillaker were also mentioned as candidates for the win, making a top ten a solid goal for anyone.
The women’s race also featured a defending champion. Mackenzie Woodring has taken over the P2P mantle from Sue Stephens, and entered as a favorite alongside Patterson. It was a battle of diesel versus finesse; the horsepower of Woodring against the lilting climbing prowess of Patterson.
At the gun, Wakeley took the hole shot as the field shuffled on the pavement heading into the dirt. All of the favorites were present and correct, tucked neatly into line as they cleared the first singletrack nearly all together. A split pulled open in the second section of singletrack, with Cody Sovis using the wide open two-track to bridge to the friendly wheel of Vanias, but he couldn’t hold the pace in the third singletrack and faded back into what had become a formidable chase group.
The lead group of Wakeley, House, Vanias, Guerra, Simonson and Kickbush lost the “Banana Man” at the base of the climb at the end of the first lap, leaving Kickbush to plow a lonely furrow for the next two laps, while the games began at the fore. Peak2Peak is a bit of a two-part set-piece; things happen in the early singletrack or on the climb. The pauses in between, while taken at 18-20mph, offer little in obstacle but a lot in gamesmanship. The leaders played a tactical game, putting only another minute on the chasers on lap two and waiting for the final hand to be dealt.
The chase group held its own. Driven along on the first lap by Sovis, Korienek and Hillaker, Farm Team’s Shawn Davison tossed his weight into the cause with some solid work on lap two. Alex Tenelshof tried his hand on the gravel roads, while Joel Polishkey played the role of ticket collector and gambled on making one move to breakaway. With Sovis looking the toughest on the climb, Korienek put on a stellar show of bike handling on the third lap, stretching the chase group to the limit, but not enough to snap the elastic to Sovis or the other riders behind.
Ahead, as the leaders put down full power ahead, Kickbush finally drifted into the sights of the chasers and was pulled in just four miles from the final climb. Exhausted from riding over half the race solo, he still managed two turns on the front before settling in.
As Sovis attacked the climb, the leaders had already flown up the Crystal Climb at record pace. Wakeley had attacked and got a gap at the same spot, with House, Vanias and Guerra scampering up in hot pursuit. Simonson faded, but the chasing trio clawed back to put Wakeley within an arm’s reach. On the flying descent to the line, Wakeley stayed clear by three seconds, with House edging Guerra for second and Vanias sliding home fourth, all three within a second. Behind SImonson, Sovis’ attack on the climb gave him a buffer to shimmy down to the line for sixth ahead of a hard-charging Shawn Davision and Alex Tenselhof. Korienek came in just behind Sean Kickbush, who had recovered well enough to hold tenth place.
The women’s race was down to two early, with Mackenzie Woodring driving it along with Patterson. A signal of how the day would unfold took just over 40 minutes to see; Patterson put over 30 seconds into Woodring the first time up the climb, but “Big Ring” clawed her way back amidst the traffic of some of the Expert men. Woodring settled back in and drove it along, but the second time up the climb, Patterson took an even bigger gap, and Woodring wasn’t able to chase it. The two rode the final lap on their own, with Patterson knowing she need to get to the climb ahead to assure the win.
Behind, Susan Vigland enjoyed her best Peak2Peak ride yet. A third place finish is one measure, but losing only a few minutes to Woodring and navigated some tight traffic was even more impressive. Along with Patterson, Vigland and McLain’s Megan Doerr flew the hometown flag for Traverse City, with Lindsay Guerra sliding home for fifth.
“It was a tough day out there, it just came down to eating cookies, listenin’ to ma tunes, and not fumbling that snap. I can see how that could be pretty disasterous,” commented Patterson afterwards, who’d slipped into some pleated khakis and ball cap. “Can’t imagine where I’d be if I’d totally messed that up.”
Full results here.