Matter and Eppen win at WORS #4 the Trek Big Ring Classic
For the second year in a row, Brian Matter (Gear Grinder / Trek) won the Trek Big Ring Classic in a three-up sprint. In a photo finish, Matter edged defending WORS Overall Champion Tristan Schouten (Mafia / Felt) and Mike Phillips (Adventure 212 / Specialized). In the women's race, Kim Eppen (Mercy-Specialized) and defending Overall Champion Abby Strigel (Trek Stores of Madison) put nearly five minutes into the chasing field. In the end, Eppenís power and climbing legs were unmatched and she took the win by over a minute at 1:27:37.
In the first lap, the menís lead group included Matter, Schouten, Phillips, Brian Eppen (Mercy- Specialized) and Nathan Guerra (Wheel and Sprocket / Vision). First to exit was Guerra, felled by an early crash in the singletrack. He managed a podium finish in fifth, but was not in contention for the win after his fall. Eppen also crashed at the end of the first lap, then raced to a strong 4th place, though he left a trail of blood behind him. Meanwhile, at the front, Phillips took an early lead through the singletrack. Once Matter and Schouten reeled him in, the group of three leaders was established.
The attacks began. Schouten repeatedly attacked on climbs, trying to make the race as hard as he could, and Matter and Phillips were gapped. But the two chasers, equipped with full-suspension rides, repeatedly caught Schouten on his new hardtail in the rocky singletrack.
"I had the best race of the year today, except for the finish," said Schouten. "I thought I'd won the sprint, but it was a good day. I finally got my mountain bike. Today was my third ride on it, but I felt like I could out-ride anyone on any part of the course except in the singletrack. On a hardtail, I just couldn't pedal in there at all. That brought the race back together every lap."
"This race was awesome - it was just like last year" joked Brian Matter. "The technical singletrack was definitely challenging. I think that was where I was using my advantage to catch Tristan. And on those power climbs, he was just accelerating - attacking. It was fast and tactical, and it came down to a three man sprint. I think I got it with a bike throw. I think I know where to be coming out of that last corner. It's a deceptively long sprint. I kind of sat on Tristan's wheel as he ramped it up and once he plateaued, I tried to go by him. We must have crossed the line very close."
"Brian will tell you, he's been in that position many times before," commented Phillips after the sprint finish. Phillips crossed the line .4 seconds behind Matter and Schouten, unable to hold either wheel in the final moments. "He [Matter] could barely stand up after we came through. I guess maybe I could have worked a little harder too."
Schouten is no rookie when it comes to the sprint and, in a move reminiscent of George Hincapie at this yearís National Championships, he jagged left as he approached the scaffold, forcing Matter to work around him. Schouten threw his own bike forward perhaps a split-second too soon. As the two passed beneath the finish scaffold, Schouten raised an arm while Matter threw his bike forward. After a review of the photos in those crucial moments, race officials declared Matter the victor at 1:41:03.2.
Both Matter and Schouten hold three WORS Overall Series Championships. The battle between these two racers for the WORS Overall in 2011 could decide who will be the first man to take home a fourth WORS title. Their competition may also be an opportunity for other hopefuls, as the series contest is shaping up to be a close one.
In the women's race, Strigel and Eppen surged from the start, trading the lead along a winding road section before the first singletrack. Eppen reached the singletrack with a gap, but Strigel closed it down through the rocky, technical terrain. Then a wall-like climb separated the two for good as Strigel was unable to hold Eppen's wheel. After the second lap, she could no long see Eppen and finished second in 1:29:08.
Emerging first from the group of four women chasing Strigel was Eppenís teammate Robin Williams, who would finish third at 1:33:14. Williams went back and forth with Sarah Agena (Adventure 212 / Specialized), and Agena led through most of the third lap, but she was caught in the end to finish fourth at 1:33:29. Lisa Krayer and Michelle Peariso also raced together for much of the contest, and Krayer took the final podium spot at fifth at 1:34:40.
The next WORS race, The Subaru Cup, presented by Trek will include the Midwest Regional Championships for amateur racers, and the Subaru Cup Pro XCT. For more information, check www.subarucup.com