It’s a battle of the acronyms and legends, with OAM taking on 3T Q+M in Thompsonville. The weather is looking absolutely idyllic for October 21 after a dreadful weekend of rain and wind as we wade into the ides of October. It would make for a welcome reprieve for racers who’ve put their drivetrains under the sword and into the mud at the Gravel Grinder, Dirt Road Derby, and The Out’n’Back to kick off October. The promise of good weather makes the course at Peak2Peak especially exciting; high speeds, big groups, and the promise of what could be described as a set-piece engagement every lap on the ski hill.
And while some love a muddy Peak2Peak, there’s more excitement and spectacle for everyone to under sunny skies. With so many strong riders confirmed, it’ll be interesting to see a few developing rivalries engage without any weather-related issues. Cue up the Yankus/Albaugh showdown, with each rider backed with teammates to boot.
He’s won nearly everything he’s entered since Labor Day, but Scott Albaugh’s tripwire seems to be Dan Yankus. Yankus has proven himself as perhaps the toughest and coolest customer on the gravel scene this autumn, while Albaugh has proved unassailable between the tape, winning every cyclocross race. The contrasts of styles will be put to the test again, over a long race punctuated by one certain effort up the skill hill each lap.
The two are just a pair of favorites in the stacked Men’s Elite field that includes last year’s winner Alex Vanias. The “Lion of Leroy” has been dry-scooching (sounds dirty, but it’s just pretending to ski with roller blades) but will almost certainly have the legs and the tactical nous to compliment Yankus. Albaugh will be looking to another former Peak2Peak winner, Mike Simonson, for back-up, with their teammate Cody Sovis likely to play his happy role as sacrificial lamb early. No one loves a pointless attack as dearly.
Nate Williams is also heading back to Thompsonville, a year after he pulled the aforementioned Sovis around for nearly the entire race as the pair were dropped from the lead group, caught back on, dropped, caught back on, dropped again, caught back on and were dropped finally on the last ascent of the ski hill. A bit more luck and with his strong fitness sharpened with cyclocross success and he should be in the thick of things.
Brad White is also on the start list and should play a role in the race. As retired as the former UnitedHealthcare professional claims to be, he’s always going to have the legs and the brains to manage the set-piece assault on the ski hill each lap.
Jorden Wakeley, Brian Matter, and Cole House are all expected to race as well, making it a rather conservative ten riders with a real shot at the win. Jamison Sheppard, Dan Ellis and Justin Kreuger are all looking to make top ten finishes, no small feat in a start list as thickly mined with explosive talent as this.
The women’s field is a bit more of a mystery, with only Universal Racing’s Katie Clayton actually registered. Kaitlyn Patterson has expressed an interest, where she’ll do bar to bar with TC locals Susan Vigland and Lauri Brockmiller. Patterson has proved to be in a class of her own when the trail tips up, and having that card to play makes racing her a bit of a head-scratcher. She doesn’t need to attack early, doesn’t need to set a pace, and if she does get away the first time up the climb, she’s strong enough to fend off a chase that isn’t completely organized.
The course is expected to be the same as last year, aside from some small changes that shouldn’t even be all that noticeable. It’s a race without any secrets; there isn’t a surprise climb or tight section that will throw you off the wheel. It’s a drag race with a hill climb at the end, and every rider will hit the base of the descent either in small groups or alone after even a single trip up to the highest point in Benzie County.
We’ll have a race recap up Saturday night, with some #CHOICECUTS from photographer/beard model Brian Beckwith.