Schouten and Strigel win at WORS Season Opener
By Claire Cannon
Nearly 850 racers and as many spectators attended the first race of the Wisconsin Off Road Series, the Iola Bump & Jump near Stevens Point, WI on May 2. Abigail Strigel of Madison, WI (Trek Stores of Madison) and Tristan Schouten of Sheboygan, WI (Mafia Racing) took home the top honors from the Belgioioso Pro/Cat 1 races.
Both the menís and the womenís fields started hot, fueled by contenders ready to string out an early-season field on five substantial climbs within the first half of the lap. The menís race separated during the first lap into a front group of Brian Eppen (Mercy / Specialized), Tristan Schouten, Mike Anderson (Gary Fisher 29er / SRAM), Brian Matter (Gear Grinder) and Darrin Braun (Adventure 212). The gap formed between Adventure 212 teammates Darrin Braun and Chris Peariso, isolating the first chase group, which included Peariso, Nathan Guerra (Mr. Tree Racing), Matt Gehling (Trek Stores of Madison) and Maciej Novak (Team Polska). Meanwhile at the front, Eppen put the hammer down and charged ahead. In the surges, the lead group lost Matter, who joined the chase, and Anderson, who hung on to claim fourth. Schouten eventually closed the gap on Eppen and passed him to take the win.
In the womenís BelGioioso Elite race, Meghan Korol (Mafia Racing) was determined to challenge for the holeshot. On the first climb, she was chased down and passed by 2009 WORS Overall Champion Abby Strigel (Trek Stores of Madison) and 2009 Iola winner Kim Eppen (Mercy-Specialized). Eppen went on to pass Strigel midway through the first lap, but suffered a mechanical while in the lead, and could not finish. Once Strigel resumed the lead she never looked back, crossing the line nearly two minutes ahead of the field in 1:38:54. In the race for second-place, Adventure 212 teammates Lisa Krayer and Diana McFadden caught and passed Korol during the first lap. For the remainder of the race, the two women worked together while Korol kept them just within sight, and held on to fourth. Chasing Korol for most of the race was Claire Cannon (Trek Stores of Madison). Cannon was caught and passed in the final lap by Sue Juedes (Mad FORCS). Juedes, who is training for an Ironman and had a bike ride scheduled in her training plan for the week, claimed the final podium spot during her first mountain bike ride of the season.
Menís Series Starts Fast
"The menís race started out hard with Tristan setting the pace for the beginning,Ē said Mercy-Specialized racer Brian Eppen. "I led into the first set of singletrack and felt good, so kept the pace hard. From five of us, it reduced to Tristan and I halfway through the second lap. I continued to lead, opening slight gaps in the singletrack, but nothing major. Tristan kept the pace hard through the start/finish on lap three and I was pushed to my limit. I got gapped to around 10 to 15 seconds through the fourth lap, and he got a good gap and was out of sight for the final lap to the finish.Ē
Schouten also races road and cyclocross, and is in good early-season form. He recently won two Wisconsin Cycling Association Criteriums in the Pro / Cat 1 / 2 Fields racing for the ISCorp Cycling Team.
"Basically whatever is happening that weekend, thatís what Iím doing,Ē said Schouten after his win. "Iím just getting used to racing mountain bikes again. It was hard to come from the road and jump back onto the trails. Iíve raced at Iola for probably 10 years now, and I pretty much have it memorized. That helped. I should do enough of the WORS races this season to be in contention for the Series Overall, and Iím going for it.Ē
Schouten won the WORS Series Overall in 2001 and 2002, and if he takes the crown again this year, he will dethrone 2009 WORS Overall Menís Champion Brian Matter as the only 3-time winner of the menís BelGioioso Elite Series.
Matter has stated that his focus in 2010 will be on cyclocross, though his hat is in the ring for the WORS Overall. The Sheboygan racer was named to the U.S. menís cyclocross world championship team in 2009 and usually skips the first WORS race of the season. This year, he got started even later than usual to be fresh for cross season.
"Pretty much, my training plan started a week ago,Ē said Matter. "I had a pretty solid block Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. A good ride yesterday. Iím kinda training through this one. I wanted to test the fitness and see where Iím starting out. WORS is good, I like racing here, and Iím definitely always going to give it my best.Ē
Both Schouten and Matter will have young guns such as Nathan Guerra and Darrin Braun to contend with. Braun, who took third this weekend, called Iola a "C-priorityĒ race and has his eye on the top step of the menís Overall in his first year as a Pro. With 70 series riders already registered, and guest stars like Brian Eppen of Iowa and Mike Anderson of Michigan in attendance, the 2010 BelGioioso Elite menís series is shaping up to be one of the fastest in WORS history.
"My lungs felt like they were bleeding.Ē
WORS 2009 Overall Champion in the BelGioioso Elite womenís field, Abby Strigel can be a woman of few words. She offered up the bleeding lung comment above when asked about the dust at Iola this weekend. When asked about the mechanical that sidelined Kim Eppen at Iola this year, Strigel said simply, "She would have kicked my butt.Ē
As the first woman to win the WORS Overall 3-times, Strigel is no slouch and can certainly let her riding do the talking. She has been the dominant female Pro XC racer in Wisconsin for the last three years and seems ready for another strong season. The WORS BelGioioso womenís field has had to up the ante to contend, and several ladies are now in pursuit of Strigelís title. Lisa Krayer was stronger than ever in her first race of the season this weekend. Meghan Korol, a former endurance runner and member of the University of Wisconsin Triathalon team, also placed well at Iola. Sue Juedes, a 9-time WORS Elite series podium finisher, rounded out the top five at Iola.
"Iíve raced here at Iola many times, because I raced the complete WORS Series for 9 yearsĒ said Juedes. "I have a home nearby, and I just love these trails. The course is so fast, and fun.Ē
A Good Start to the Season
The popular course and great weather helped the Iola Bump & Jump to boast a great turnout, even for Americaís largest state mountain bike racing series. With 849 racers at the first event of the 2010 season, Series Director Don Edberg confirmed that Iola was the largest WORS XC field since 2005. This June, the USA Cycling Pro XCT Tour will make a visit to WORS Subaru Cup, presented by Trek. WORS will also host the first-ever USA Cycling Midwest Regional Championships.
"Weíre really excited for the year,Ē said Edberg. "Itís encouraging to see so many new faces, as well as so many riders returning to WORS after some time away. I sometimes read the blogs of our racers. After Iola, someone wrote that the first WORS race of the year makes all the hard work of spring pay off when you spend a weekend having fun with great friends and doing something that you really love. I couldnít have said it better myself.Ē
Complete results for the Iola Bump & Jump can be found at http://wors.org/results. Information about the Subaru Cup Pro XCT and Midwest Regional Championships can be found at http://www.subarucup.com.