In stacked fields, two riders took convincing and memorable wins under the lifts of Mt. Holiday.
With two of the deepest fields in the history of the race, most expected a closer race. Of course, expectations are quickly out the window once the gun goes off, and with sunny skies and perfect temperatures, conditions were ripe for a showdown between some of the best riders in Traverse City and a few high-octane imports.
Two of the race favorites confirmed their fitness, while others faltered in the opening salvos of the men’s event. Luke Tjosvold snuck by Cody Sovis at the very last to take the hole shot, but every rider was in touch as they curved around the foot of the ski hill and onto the first short climb of the day. Jeff Owens, Cam Owens, and the ever-vigilante Scott Quiring were perfectly positioned near the front, watched by Tyler Weston. Craig Webb made the crucial juncture at the base of Willpower Hill.
The race exploded on the short, steep and loose slope, with Owens, Webb and Quiring disappearing while Cody Sovis bridged to Weston and Cam Owens form the day’s chase, joined shortly thereafter by Tjosvold and Nick Wierzba. Up front, Owens was emphatic, punching through a few sections of singletrack before the first landmark of the day, the Icebreaker Climb.
In the women’s race, most were present and correct from the favorites, with Lauri Brockmiller setting a hard tempo up the climb and spilling through Timber Ridge. Outnumbered, she was hoping to divide the Hagerty triumvirate of Susan Vigland, Laura Webb and Marie Voss.
Owens had found daylight before Icebreaker and began to sink the nail in, with Webb going into time trial mode ahead of the chase group. Owens didn’t cede a second the rest of the day, making easy work of the singletrack and holding a strong pace on the three main Vasa sections before the last climb on the 25km, the Boonenberg. If anyone was going to take back time, it would be through the Arenberg Forest section, new for 2017, or the Boonenberg, but it never happened.
Disaster struck for Quiring, with a flat tire at the base of the Icebreaker. He had air into it as the chase passed him, and he regained contact before the singletrack, positioned to at least make a run at the final podium spot.
Cody Sovis headed up the chase in support of 14-year-old (YUP) Norte rider Cam Owens, who showed tactical nous beyond his years. Always looking to go in the latter half of the race, either at the Wall Bypass or the Boonenberg, Owens fired his first shot at the very end of the Power Section, slightly early but going as Quiring, the strongest rider in the chase, was still near the back. The move started to split the group, and after a brief regroup, Quiring redoubled the efforts to leave first Tjosvold, then Sovis, then Wierzba, then Owens, then finally Weston scrambling to the 10km with each on their very own. Sovis pulled Wierzba to the final 3km, but neither could make in-roads on the top five riders, now absolutely flying through the pavement section.
Vigland, meanwhile, had found her spot to make her move and was piling time into the field. Brockmiller gamely chased, ushered along by both Laura Webb and Marie Voss, with Voss making the most of the open sections and climbs to slip away before the final descent of the ski hill.
Brockmiller held on for a hard-fought third, with Webb, Beth Craven, and Erica Deboor rounding out the top six.
Owens cruised home for the win, with Craig Webb getting caught before the line by a rampaging Quiring. Tyler Weston, Cam Owens, and Nick Wierzba made up a strong top six, with Cody Sovis sliding home in front of the second chase group. That crew had smashed into the finale with eight riders all in touch before the final descent/climb/descent combination on the back of the ski hill. Dan Hofstra skittered wide in the corner, with Tim Coffey following, leaving the door open for Kyle Macdermaid to sprint to the top of the final climb and fling himself down the hill for eighth, with Chad Wells and Robert Marting slipping through the sliding door before it shut, followed by Hofstra and Coffey.
You can see the FULL results from Newton Timing here.
You can see what it takes to get 7th place here.
Enjoy this INCREDIBLE gallery from Brian Beckwith! Thanks Brian!