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Full Report and Pics - Sunburst Showdown - WORS #4

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |June 21, 2010 9:41 PM
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By Claire Cannon

Undefeated 2010 Series Leader Abigail Strigel (Trek Stores of Madison) and WORS newcomer Barry Wicks (Kona) won the fourth race of the Wisconsin Off Road Series, the Sunburst Showdown in Kewaskum, WI.

Wicks, who recently moved to Evanston, IL, can now be considered a local at the Wisconsin Off Road Series won the WORS Crystal Lake Classic earlier this season.  As Wicks lined up with the other WORS BelGioioso Elite Series men at Sunburst, there was one questions on everyone’s mind; whether all six and a half feet of Wicks’ lanky frame could be made to fit beneath a thick, low-hanging branch on the back half of the course.  By mid-race, WORS photographers had the branch staked-out in hopes of catching the tight squeeze on film, but Wicks proved just a little too quick. 

Others wondered who would give Wicks a run for his money.  Past WORS Overall Men’s BelGioioso winner Tristan Schouten (Mafia Racing) stepped up, attacking on the climbs and trading pulls with Wicks throughout the 5-lap race.  On the 5th and final lap, Schouten led out of the last section of singletrack, but Wicks was just a little too quick. In a critical open section, the Kona rider powered ahead to gain the high ground, and a narrow ledge and lapped traffic before the finish negated the chance for a sprint.  Wicks finished in 1:35:17, and Schouten rolled in three seconds later.  Darrin Braun, who lost contact with the leaders after an attack by Schouten on lap three, waged a solo chase for the last 2 laps and finished 1:32 back, for third.  Fourth place went to Nathan Guerra (Mr. Tree Racing) at 3:11, and Brian Matter took 5th at 5:13 back.

In the women’s race, Abby Strigel was challenged throughout the 4-lap race by Lisa Krayer (Adventure 212 / Specialized).  Krayer is having her best year to date, and has raced to second place behind the defending Champ in nearly every event of the 2010 Series.  In the contest for the Overall, Krayer is currently chasing Strigel by less than 50 points.  Still, Strigel is accustomed to crossing the line with a comfortable margin on the rest of the field.  At Sunburst, Strigel and Krayer traded pulls and banter throughout the race, and it was Krayer who led out of the final section of singletrack.  Similar to the men’s race, the decisive attack came at a critical power section, and Strigel had the legs.  She won in 1:34:55, with Krayer following just 5 seconds back.

"Abby made an attack, and I thought, ‘Gosh, if you can stay on her wheel and out-sprint her, you’ll have your first win!’,” recalled Krayer. "A second later, I was like ‘Oh - that’s not going to happen.’  She just went.”

"Lisa made me work really hard,” said Strigel after the close finish. "At the start, being the superstar that she is, Lisa just took off.  I think I worked harder during this race than I have all year.  It was really tough, but it was really fun.”

Both women said they are looking forward to the upcoming Subaru Cup, presented by Trek, where Strigel will race the Pro XCT and Krayer, who races as a Cat 1, will contest for the Midwest Regional Championships title. 

First year Pro Meghan Korol (Mafia Racing) finished behind Strigel and Krayer at 3:20 back for third, while Robin Williams (Mercy-Specialized; 5:52) and Claire Cannon (Trek Stores of Madison; 8:43), finished in 4th and 5th, rounded out the women’s podium.

Sunburst is a deceptively simple track with a reputation among WORS Elite racers as one of the most demanding courses on the circuit.  Singletrack climbs pitch sharply uphill and open, grassy sections conceal tight corners.  There is little opportunity to rest, and Sunburst favors riders with the fitness and power to tough out a short, intense battle.  This year, there were additional challenges.  Rain during the week before the event left the track slick in the woods and sticky in the open.  In addition, the upcoming WORS Subaru Cup, presented by Trek, on June 26 and 27th had many WORS racers "training through” Sunburst.

"It was hard,” said Wick after his win. "The course is pretty deceiving.  The first lap you’re thinking it’s not so bad, but by the fourth or fifth time around it’s starting to wear you out a bit.”

"I did a slightly harder workout than I normally would have done the day before this race, thanks to my awesome coach, Craig Manthe,” said Strigel.  "He said today was going to be tough, and it was.”

"I knew from the race last year that [Sunburst] is really one of the hardest races on the circuit,” said WORS Racer Brian Matter (Gear Grinder / Trek).  The 2009 WORS BelGioioso Overall Champion, Matter has the type of "street-cred” at WORS that comes from winning the WORS Overall more than any other male racer in WORS history.  Last year, ahead of his win at the Chequamegon 40, Matter was in excellent form at Sunburst and put the screws to the rest of the WORS field with a dominating win.  This year, with his training focus on cyclocross later in the season, Matter was unable to contest when the attacks came, and finished in 5th.

"[Sunburst] is relentless,” said Matter. "Climb after climb after climb.  I had a big training week this week.  So, when Barry and Tristan went hard over the top of the climb [during the second lap], and it felt like somebody was pulling my brakes, I lost contact.  And that was it.”

"I'm always a little bummed when I can't be part of a good battle,” Matter wrote later.  "I know that Barry showing up to a WORS race is a good opportunity to race against another fast guy. Tristan and Barry were battling it out and I could only watch from six switchbacks away.”

Darrin Braun held on a little longer, then lost contact on the same climb during the following lap, when Schouten attacked.  In 2009, Braun’s success as a first-year Cat 1 was almost unprecedented in the men’s series when he finished fourth in the Overall standings.  After an upgrade to Pro for 2010, Braun’s been a consistent contender and, at the Trek Big Ring Classic, jumped onto the 2nd step of the WORS BelGioioso Elite podium for the first time.  It’s clear he’s got his eye on the top step.  After finishing third at Sunburst, Braun couldn’t help but sound a bit disappointed.

"I guess I had a little higher expectation for myself today,” said Braun. "I’m happy considering the crowd.  The pace was OK for the first lap or two, I think, and then Tristan [Schouten] wanted to take over control.  We climbed up that first section and Tristan got around Wicks and just put the hammer down.  That’s where I got popped off.”

Braun, too, is looking forward to racing at the Subaru Cup Pro XCT at Mt. Morris this weekend. 

"Last year, that course was just the best for me because of the climbing,” said Braun.  "This year, it will be a different story because there will be a hundred guys just as good as I am.  I don’t expect a front-row call up, so we’ll probably have to do a lot of passing.  I’m going to try to stick with some people I know like [past Subaru Cup winners] Tristan and Matter.  We’ll see what happens.  It should be fun.” 

The Bontrager COMP Series Cat 2 men were led by Patryk Limanowicz who completed four laps in 1:27:48.  The CycleOps Sport Women’s race was led by Anna Ganju in 1:22:35 for three laps.

The next race of the WORS Series, the Subaru Cup, presented by Trek, will be held at Nordic Mountain outside Wautoma, WI on June 26th and 27th.  For details, see http://www.subarucup.com

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