By Claire Cannon
The sixth race in the Subaru-sponsored 2010 Wisconsin Off Road Series, the Chippewa Valley Firecracker, was held on Sunday, July 11. Tristan Schouten (Mafia Racing) and Abigail Strigel (Trek Stores of Madison) won the BelGioioso Elite Series Races.
The Firecracker is a popular venue on the WORS circuit, in large part because the trails at Lowes Creek Park in Eau Claire are heavily weighted toward tight, swooping singletrack. "Think rollercoaster,” said local race organizer Craig Manthe.
While the Lowes Creek trails are a blast to ride, they can be a real challenge to race. The heavy doses of singletrack push some racers to their limit, while blistering attacks in the open sections can make or break the race at Eau Claire for others.
"It was hard today”. said men’s BelGioioso Elite Series winner Tristan Schouten. "I was hurting out there. This was not an easy win.”
”Strangely enough, it was probably the wide-open sections where I could really put down power today,” said Schouten. "I told [second place finisher] Nathan Guerra that I felt like we were Jedi Knights flying through the singletrack.”
"It was a lot of fun,” said second place finisher Nathan Guerra (Mr. Tree / PowerBar). "This course has so much really nice, flowing singletrack. The times when it hurt was when we were out on the flats and somebody wants to punch it. Ben Koenig [Rib Mountain Cycles] took a real whipper at the start and got into the singletrack first. Darrin [Braun] chased that down and then it was the four of us for two laps. After two laps I was feeling pretty good, so I went up front in the singletrack.”
"I was getting hurt by those guys and getting gaped,” said Schouten after his win. "I could come back on the open sections. So, I used the open sections to attack or keep the pace hard, and then I tried to recover and keep pace in the woods.”
"I was waiting today, to see what I could do,” said third-place finisher Darrin Braun (Adventure 212 / Specialized). "Tristan said that Nathan [Guerra] was a Jedi in the singletrack today - and that’s true. We held on together for three laps, with Tristan putting the power down on the flats and Nathan being the Jedi in the singletrack.”
Schouten made the attack that stuck on the third lap. He opened a gap in the open, and then got away in the singletrack when Braun, who was leading Guerra, took a spill. Guerra couldn’t close the gap to Schouten, who crossed the line in 2:09:27, 43 seconds ahead of Guerra. Braun held on to third, rolling it in at 2:11:26, followed by teammate Ryan Krayer (Adventure 212 / Specialized; 2:12:35) and Cody Larson of Northfield, MN (2:12:38), who just barely edged ahead of Ted Hanes (Fond du Lac / Oshkosh Cyclery) in the sprint for fifth.
Strigel Undefeated in 2010
In the women’s BelGioioso Elite Series race, Abigail Strigel (Trek Stores of Madison) took the win, opening a gap on the rest of the field within the first lap, and steadily extending her lead throughout the race. Strigel is currently riding undefeated in the WORS Series.
"I love this course,” said Strigel after her win. "[Local organizer] Craig Manthe does a great job every year, and he added even more awesome stuff, so it was super fun. I love riding berms and rock gardens and all of those sections, and especially the large ["Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde”] rock garden at the end of each lap, were a ton of fun.”
Manthe also coaches Strigel, and offered some sage advice to her while course marshaling during the race.
"I actually got to see him out on the course,” she recalled. "So he was coaching me on, and that was nice because he could watch me race, and, you know, say: ‘Now go faster!’”
The ladies seemed to start as fast as possible, as second-place finisher Meghan Korol (Mafia Racing) gapped all but Strigel on the road lead-out.
"It was really fun,” said Korol. "I had a great time. I drilled it from the start on the open section and the climbs and tried to recover in the singletrack.”
"Meghan just took off at the start,” recalled Strigel. "She went super fast and I had to work really hard, actually, to jump on her wheel. But, it was great. It was perfect. I sat on her wheel for as long as I could, then got by her.”
Strigel went on to finish in 1:49:42, with Korol following at 1:52:39.
In the chase were Adventure 212 teammates Lisa Krayer and Diana McFadden, and Lori Sable.
"I feel like I struggled on the first lap,” recalled third-place finisher Lisa Krayer. "I felt like I was in the red that whole first lap. I wanted to stay with the leaders. Meghan [Korol] and Abby [Strigel] had a great start. Eventually Lori [Sable] and I settled in and she helped keep me motivated. I was happy to have her wheel to follow in the singletrack, and we took some turns pulling on the flats. I knew this would be a good course for Lori, and she was rockin’ through the singletrack, so it was fun racing with her. I felt like my legs came around and felt better in the second lap, and when I heard that the gap to Meghan was starting to grow, I decided to try and catch her.”
"I knew that with the amount of singletrack, it was going to be a struggle,” said Krayer. "I like my singletrack, but it’s nice to have the mental break, and there was not much of that. I knew it would be a good course for Abby [Strigel]. I’m sure if you look at her brake pads, they weren’t touched, whereas I probably wore out my own today.”
Even before the mid-way point in the 2010 WORS Series, Strigel has built a nearly insurmountable lead for the ladies Overall. She needs only a few more successful races to lock-in her lead for the year. When asked if she plans to skip any of the remaining races in the 2010 series, Strigel answered with a laugh and a shrug.
"These races are so fun,” said Strigel. "I don’t know how I could not show up. What else would I do?”
WORS Spectators Make Themselves Heard
The 2010 Chippewa Valley Firecracker was well attended by both racers and spectators, with 743 racers and as many spectators. In 2009, the Chippewa Off Road Bicycling Association (C.O.R.B.A.) added a large rock garden within walking distance of the start, called "Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde”. A series of progressively larger berms drops racers into the 50-60 foot stretch of medium-sized jagged rocks, which was lined with fans throughout the Expert race. In addition, the drop-chute hairpin, the "Nucleus”, and a series of bermed switchbacks followed by a steep rock chute in the middle of each lap were all popular spots to watch the BelGioioso Elite and Bontrager Comp Series racers.
In the 3-lap BelGioioso Open Categories, the 50+ men were led by Brett Edgerle of Kohler, WI in 1:54:10. The fastest time in the Open Junior category was posted by Dusty Dale of Cable, WI (1:49:40). In the Cat 2 Bontrager COMP Series, the fastest time was 1:45:30, from Patryk Limanowicz of Chicago, IL.
"There were quite a few sections out there on the course today where we had a crowd of spectators, and it’s always good to see that,” said Lisa Krayer. "It helps motivate you, and it’s great to hear the time gaps too!”
"It’s alot more fun when there’s a cool section where spectators can watch,” commented Tristan Schouten. "Instead of just watching us come through the start-finish area. The local organizers here do a really good job.”
The next race in the Subaru-sponsored 2010 WORS Series will be the Alterra Coffee Bean Classic, to be held June 25 just outside Milwaukee, WI at the Crystal Ridge Ski Area. The Alterra race is expected to draw a large number of racers and spectators throughout the weekend, and also will host popular trail run on Sunday morning.