Fort Buenaventura, Ogden Utah – December 4 2010
Hulick, Powers and O'Conner take top steps at Fort Buenaventura.
A sort of winter has descended on northern Utah. It's sort of cold, it’s sort of wet, and last week, it sort of snowed. This Saturday saw a gathering of Utah ‘crossers in Ogden. Under grey skies in the chill air of “sort of winter,” they battled one another and the elements. Utah Cyclocross organizer Matt Ohran brewed a perfect blend of dirt, river rock, grass, pavement, and wet leaves. The successive waves of racers churned up snow, dirt, and grass into a thin gruel. Fallen leaves added a slippery glaze and made for treacherous corners.
Erika Powers (Revolution) led out the women's train for 40 minutes of fun and games. Kelsy Bingham (Roosters) quickly joined Powers and the two dueled throughout the remaining laps. The leading pair opened a sizable gap on the field. No one could match their pace. Evenly matched on speed, Powers and Bingham waged a fierce battle as each rider sought to find the magic mix of strength and finesse in the tricky conditions. With three laps to go Powers at last cracked Bingham. “That was hard...” commented Bingham later. Powers survived solo to the finish and claimed her first victory of the season. The Revolution rider has ridden a consistent season and currently ranks number two overall in the UTCX series behind Kris Walker of Contender. Bingham finished second and sits third in the overall series. Best of the rest, Jen Hanks (Revolution) took the third step on the Ogden podium.
Then, it was time for the men to have their turn. The elite A’s and the masters 35+ A’s raced together and faced increasingly sloppy conditions. Slip, slide, crash summed up the race for many in the field. Bart Gillespie (Revolution) took a day off from his normal domination of the UTCX men’s A category. In his absence, Jason Sager (Jamis) and Kevin Hulick (Bikers Edge) took an early lead. Soon, Mitchell Peterson bridged across to Sager and Hulick. And then, there were three. Sager and Hulick traded attacks. Both riders managed brief escapes, but could not break the elastic. The muddy course left its mark on bikes, jerseys, and faces. In the end, Hulick proved the strongest rider, and escaped the grasp of Sager and Peterson. Sager placed second, followed by Peterson in third. The absent Bart Gillespie continues to lead the series, followed by Reed Wycoff (Contender Bicycles) and Eric Rasmussen (Kühl/Scott).
But the fun was just beginning as the Masters 35+ A’s lined up. This race has become one of the most compelling stories of the season. Though the Church of the Big Ring has dominated the series, they have not had it easy. The weekly cast of characters chasing series points has included Art “A-Train” O'Connor, Bo “B-Train” Pitkin, Tim Matthews, X-Men Thomas Cooke, and series promoter Matt Ohran (Cannondale). The races have fallen into an increasingly familiar pattern with Pitkin, Cooke, and O'Connor leading the charge. As a twelve-time Utah State Cyclocross Champion, O’Connor knows how to bring it for the big races. In Ogden, Big Ring riders O’Connor and Pitkin, and the X-Men's Cooke dashed off the line and took an early lead. Soon, O'Connor decided to go it alone, and the current state champion rode smoothly away from the lead group of four. O’Connor quickly built a commanding lead, and left his rivals behind to battle for the scraps. Tim Matthews, Pitkin, and Cooke exchanged attacks and looked evenly matched. Then, disaster struck for Cooke when he crashed in the mucky conditions. Determined to challenge, Cooke quickly rallied, but the crash had sapped his powers. With Cooke out of the running, the Church of the Big Ring swept the podium for the second week in a row. In the overall series, O'Connor sits ahead of Cooke by a margin of approximately 20 points. Pitkin currently holds third.
The Utah series takes a break this weekend to allow riders to travel to Bend, Oregon for the U.S. National Championships. Preliminary reports suggest conditions will be more than sort of snowy. The Utah series concludes after nationals with a final event worth double points.
Only Bart Gillespie in the men’s A race can sleep soundly in the knowledge that his series lead is almost certainly secure. Gillespie enjoys a cushion of 150 points over the next placed rider Reed Wycoff. Just about anything can happen in the masters and women’s races with so many points on the line at the final event of the series. The final installment, to be held in Herriman Ut, is certain to offer an exciting finale to this season’s Utah Cyclocross Series.