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Crystal Lake Classic - Rhinelander, WI

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |June 7, 2011 2:26 AM
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Strigel and Matter win at the WORS Crystal Lake Classic

By Claire Cannon

On a day that had seemed unpromising, the sun came out for Wisconsin and dried the sandy trails at Crystal Lake to a perfection of twisting, technical singletrack.  Abby Strigel (Trek Stores of Madison) defended her winning streak at the second race of the Wisconsin Off Road Series on Sunday, while Brian Matter (Gear Grinder / Trek) outgunned Tristan Schouten and Nathan Guerra in the men’s race.  In total, over 540 WORS particpants raced through the woods surrounding Crystal Lake outside of Rhinelander, WI at the second outing of the 2011 WORS Series.

Both Strigel and Matter crossed the line on a Trek Top Fuel, and credited their smooth performance on Rhinelander’s suspension-pounding singletrack to their full-suspension, 26” wheel bikes.

"I raced smart and the Top Fuel was the bike of choice again, and Abby won on the Top Fuel too,” said Matter after the race.  "Just good tire pressure, good bike and raced smart.  In the third lap, I went pretty aggressive in the singletrack and got the gap that I needed, and went with it.”

Matter separated from defending WORS Overall Champion Tristan Schouten (Mafia / Felt) in the singletrack on their third lap, and pulled away from the last man on his wheel, Nathan Guerra (Wheel & Sprocket / Vision) in the fourth.  He finished in 1:59:01, just ahead of looming rain clouds.  Schouten, who is still without a bike of his own in 2011 and was riding a 5-year old bike borrowed from a friend on Sunday, was unable to maintain contact with the two leaders through the rough, technical singletrack.

"I know this course demands a full suspension, or you just can’t pedal enough,” said Schouten.  "After last year, when I was on a hardtail, I remember I was able to pedal my bike only half as often as racers on a full suspension, which is not good. Matter was strong today and this course did not suit me particularly well.  There is really only singletrack to separate the racers, and I’ve spent limited hours on a mountain bike so far this season.  Hopefully after a good weekend of [road] racing down in Iowa, I’ll have some good fitness for the next WORS race, and a bike.” 

Second-place finisher Nathan Guerra set the pace for much of the contest, racing to step back on to the top spot of the WORS podium.  A WORS Series racer for over seven years, Guerra began as a Cat 3 and has steadily climbed through the field to finish in 3rd place overall in 2010.  This year, Guerra is looking to contend for the Overall and set an aggressive pace in the singletrack at Crystal Lake.

"I went to the front before the first singletrack and just put it down as hard as I could,” said Guerra.  "It was scary because I was hurting pretty bad, but it looked like everybody else was too.  It came down to Tristan, Brian and I by the end of the first lap. About half way through the third lap, Brian went to the front.  I think he got sick of me punching it, then taking it easy, then punching it again.  He just put the hammer down for the last half of the third lap and we lost contact with Tristan. Then, in the last half of the fourth lap he did the same thing to me, and I was gone.”

Guerra chased hard to finish at 1:59:51, while Schouten rolled in at 2:01:24. 

Behind the trio battling at the front, a sudden crash downed 2010 second-place Elite Overall finisher Darrin Braun (Adventure 212 / Specialized) on the first lap.  Braun was already riding injured, having bruised or cracked at least one rib before the race.  After his hard crash, Braun was in visible distress and having difficulty breathing. Several racers who were then riding within the top 10 immediately stopped to aid Braun, including teammate Ryan Krayer, Mike Anderson (Trek 29er / Sram) and Iowa City racer Brian Eppen (Mercy-Specialized).  Though now recovering well, Braun suffered a broken rib.  After the race, he was quick to offer thanks to those racers, volunteers and emergency medical staff who helped him to safely recover.

Braun’s teammate Chris Peariso finished in fourth at 2:02:15 while Ben Koenig (RMC / Red Eye Brewery) took the final step on the BelGioioso podium out of an Elite men’s field of 57 at 2:02:20.

Strigel wins in the singletrack

In the women’s race, Abby Strigel (Trek Stores of Madison) did her best to gain an edge over Kim Eppen (Mercy Specialized) in the abundant singletrack.  The two women have met in Upper Midwest contests for several years, and only recently did Strigel prevail, beating Eppen for the first time at WORS Treadfest in September 2010.

"I like all the bumpiness and the twisty turns at Crystal Lake,” said Strigel.  "I feel like it’s a fairly technical course and I enjoy it. Despite my love for this course, it is a back killer and I was very happy to be on my Top Fuel not only for the tight twisty single track, but also for the beating you take while racing there.”

After the women’s field of 16 Pro and Cat 1 racers was led out by Michelle Peariso (Adventure 212 / Specialized), Strigel went to the front and separated from the group, with only Eppen holding her wheel.

"I know what Kim is capable of,” said Strigel. "So, I just went as hard as I could up all the climbs.  I think she’s a little stronger on the climbs than I am. Once we hit singletrack, I just tried to do my thing because I thought that would be the only way I could get any kind of lead on her.”

"I had never been to that course before,” said Eppen after her race. "I figured I would try to stay with Abby and get a feel for the course on the first lap and see what happened.  We hit the single track together and she was ripping it up!  I was following a bit too closely, hit a few whoops and caught some big air and about filled my chamois!  I figured I had better shut it down a bit and regroup so that I didn’t launch myself into a tree. Meanwhile, Abby was rocking the single track while I rocked myself right off the back, and continued to go backwards. It was a rough day for me, but I give props to Abby.”

With the threat of Eppen spurring her on, Strigel rode into the Elite men’s field and pushed herself even harder in the open sections and climbs to keep her advantage in singletrack.  Without knowing the gap until after the finish, she crossed the line with a lead of nearly five minutes over Eppen at 1:43:20. 

Eppen, in turn, put considerable time into the remainder of the women’s field, finishing in 1:48:13, five minutes ahead of teammate Robin Williams, who took third at 1:53:12.  Adventure 212 / Specialized teammates Michelle Peariso and Sarah Agena went on to round out the BelGioioso Elite podium in 4th and 5th place, respectively. 

The next WORS race, the Trek Big Ring Classic, will be held at 9-mile Forest outside of Wausau, WI on June 12.

 

 

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