The finale is on deck, and with a frigid week leading into a pleasant Saturday, it looks like two series titles will be decided under sunny skies.
Half of the series winners will enter Saturday’s Beard of Zeus already assured of final victory, with the last race’s proceedings a point of honor more than a point of necessity. Einstein Racing-Short’s Brewing have the women’s side of things wrapped up, with Liz Belt and Erin Reicha locked in as 1-2 in the Open category and Birgit Yetter all but unassailable in the Master’s, although both women will have a lot of competition on hand.
It’s a parade of champions, with former Series winners Beth Collins and Susan Vigland both jumping back into the fray, Collins in the Master’s and Vigland in the open. They’ll be joined by teammates Michelle Howard and Velvet Batteiger, with Velvet making the jump up to the Big Show after winner the Short’s race at Vasa and The Vineyard Race.
Belt will be bolstered with the return of Stephanie Baklarz, who missed the last two races due to illness. Series vet Karen Wright also makes the start list, a welcome return.
But it’s the men’s races that will be under the microscope this weekend, with both podiums still very much in flux with just a race to go. Rob Goepfrich is 6 points clear of teammate Hal BeVier, so it’ll be interesting to see how their races shapes up. Keith Conway sits third, and he’ll balance making up points with casting a watchful eye on Steve Parker, who sits fourth. Perhaps part of the picture will depend on just how much Hagerty puts into targeting the Men’s Open.
Nick Wierzba sits 3 points down on Ryan Kennedy, and Wierzba may call in his team to set him up. If that’s the case, Kennedy won’t have to chase anyone; in fact, Wierzba needs the podium points gaps in his back pocket, which are 4, 3 and 3. Any teamwork would be to soften up “Mr. President” and launch Wierzba, a move he hasn’t had to make yet in three races prior. Waiting in the wings is Keegan Myers who, if Kennedy should have a disaster day, may be able to sneak into second overall.
For Myers, he needs to win and get a lot of help. He’d need Wierzba and Kennedy both to finish outside of the top ten, which isn’t too likely, but no doubt a win would be a bit of a confirmation of the stellar form he’s displayed this year. If you see him on the move, Wierzba will need to balance holding second place by chasing Meyers down, or relying on his team to control such a move and focus on the win.
While he doesn’t technically need to win, Wierzba needs to find 3 points somehow. If he and Kennedy finish tied, the finishing order of Beard of Zeus is the tie breaker, so he needs to finish ahead of Kennedy and win, or finish on the podium and hope he has a rider or two in between to eat up points back to the President. Hagerty certainly has the fire power to blow up the race, but few riders are as unflappable as Ryan Kennedy, and few have battled against the numbers as consistently. Kennedy will be without lieutenant Cody Sovis, who helped control affairs at Vasa and The Vineyard Race. Still, he can look to an on-form Jon Throop to get involved this week, as well as the ever-tough Craig Fortuna to join the mix in the main pack.
Registration is wide open, so get registered. All pre-registered racers also receive a free entry to Suds’n’Snow, the original winter microbrew festival in Northern Michigan.