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Marathon Nationals Report from Evan Plews

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |October 10, 2011 2:07 AM
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Marathon National Championships - Bend, Oregon

Written by: Evan Plews

Eyewitness accounts confirmed that local riders Adam Craig (Rabobank) and Carl Decker (Giant) were in a class of their own on Saturday at the USA Cycling National Marathon Championships in Bend, Oregon. The pair known outside MTB racing for their rally racing exploits teamed up again to destroy the Elite mens field in short order. After opening a significant gap in the first part of the race, they cruised through both aid stations nearly wheel-to-wheel and finished only seconds apart. While Sam Shultz and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Trek) gave chase it seemed futile at best as the leading duo continued to build a stunning lead of over 10 minutes before the end. Colin Cares (Kenda/Felt) rounded out the podium in fifth place.

A similar scenario played out in the women's Elite race with Monique Pua Mata (Sho-air) jumping out to an early lead prior to the first feed zone and never looking back finishing nearly five minutes ahead of Kelli Emmet (Giant) and almost 10 minutes ahead of Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Trek). Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt) and Jana Repulski joined them on the podium.

My sponsors and I had targeted this event from the beginning of the season and I hoped earn an elusive stars-and-stripes jersey from the outset. While I enjoyed the three-hour drive over the Cascades after so much travel to other events this year, it was hardly a home course feel. I rarely visit Central Oregon but had recently had a chance to ride the upper loops of the course. It was typical of the region this time of year--dry, dusty, and rough with little sustained climbing. The trails bend to and fro constantly and with the incessant chatter racing in Bend can be deceivingly difficult. The marathon course was no exception.

We began in the Old Mill District south of downtown and headed out of the city on pavement toward Mt Bachelor. The single speed race immediately came apart with the high speeds as Cary Smith (Hammer Nutrition) and I set the pace. After about 5 miles we turned into Seventh Mountain resort and followed a mix of double and single-track until we crossed the pavement at the bottom of Storm King trail. By this time only Cody Peterson and Dax Massey (Honey Stinger) were still at the front. From there, we followed another gradual double track climb up to the Larsen (named for the late, great Steve Larsen) and Tiddlywinks trails. Mr. Smith pulled away on the climb and while Peterson tried to follow it was clear that neither of us could match the svelte rider from Jackson, Wyoming. As we descended toward Funner trail, I passed Cody and began to pull away but was still losing time myself.

As we reached the first feed station at Wanoga snow park, Cary was already two minutes ahead. He was able to maintain this margin as we raced back around Tiddlywinks to the Kiwa Butte trail and down to Edison snow park. I was descending well, and I hoped that I would be able to maintain the deficit before we reached the second feed zone back at the top of Wanoga. My hopes were buoyed as I got word that the gap was still two minutes and I attacked the final descents on Tiddlywinks and Storm King with everything I had enjoying the berms, whoops, and doubles all the way! As we turned onto the pavement at the 41 Road, I had trimmed the gap to under a minute, but that was all I had. Cary was rolling 194 inches and there was no way to reel him in as we returned to town on a series of paved, double and single-track sections. We finished with a parade lap through the old bone yard at the Mill, and I had surrendered another 30 seconds while Cary Smith had added the Marathon title to his cross-country championship from Sun Valley.

The course was nothing like the trails I ride at home, and a polar opposite from the Marathons from years past, but it was well done and definitely challenging. I don't remember being this hammered from any event in recent history and I suppose that is a good indicator that over ten miles of pavement and just 4600 feet of climbing can still be brutalizingly competitive. I look forward to seeing if any changes are in store for next year's event and hope I will be able to improve on my second place result.

Read more about Evan including his recent 4th place finish at the Singlespeed World Championships at www.evanplews.com

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