With a race that will live in the annals of New England cyclo-cross history, Mark McCormack (Team Clif Bar) eked out a bike length win over Tim Johnson (Cyclocrossworld.com-Louis Garneau) in a sprint finale at Sunday�s Caster�s Grand Prix in Warwick, Rhode Island the sixth and final stop of the 2005 Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series, presented by Cycle-Smart. But while McCormack carried the day in treacherous snowy conditions, Johnson wrested the overall Series title from the four-time defending champion in a battle of true New England �cross icons.
The harbor side course, a new addition to the Verge NECCS, offered a radical menu of challenges, including fresh snow packed to an icy glaze, two extended runs through soft beach sand, and enough twists and turns to cause a degree of dizziness. The blustery December weather did nothing to slow down McCormack, who shot off the front of the Elite men�s field on the first lap with Barry Wicks (Kona). Johnson bridged to the pair on the third lap, blasting out of his first-lap doldrums with an impressive bit of speed.
Wicks was soon dropped off, leaving McCormack and Johnson, to battle it out. Johnson only had to stay upright and finish second to guarantee a Series win, but he chose instead to battle the entire race, attacking McCormack repeatedly and with conviction. A much-improved runner over the past several years, McCormack always managed to negate Johnson�s moves on select sections of the course. With no surrender on his mind, Johnson chose to lead the technical sections on the last lap, trying to force McCormack into a mistake, but the savvy Massachusetts native stayed upright and sprinted past Johnson in the closing meters of the paved finish chute.
�With this today I won half the Verge NECCS races this season, which I�m really happy with,� said McCormack. �I had one bad race, at Chainbiter, but with the quality of the guys in the Series you can�t really afford to have any bad races. Tim excels on the slippery stuff, he has a lot of confidence in his abilities in these conditions so I knew I had to stay with him and pick my own spots to go fast.�
For his part, Johnson felt a strong result and the overall jersey were a better outcome than he�d ever expected when he launched his cyclo-cross comeback in September.
�No way I expected to win the Verge NECCS,� said Johnson. �My worst result of the year has been fifth so I�ve been really consistent and I guess it shows.�
Having finished second in the overall Series points chase in 2004, Maureen Bruno Roy (Independent Fabrication) was well primed to upgrade her spot on the overall podium in 2005. And with a convincing win in Warwick, Bruno Roy picked up a much-cherished double: the Series leader�s jersey by virtue of a victory. Using her background as a collegiate runner to its fullest advantage, Bruno Roy sped through the race�s two extended waterside running sections, all while riding a mistake-free race through the many ice slickened twists and turns of the Goddard Park course. Bruno Roy�s win was enough to put her over the top and secure her the Series win over the absent Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com-Louis Garneau), winner of the first four Verge NECCS races.
Christina Vardaros (Velo Bella), in town to prepare for next weekend�s National Championships, turned in a �never say die� performance, keeping Bruno Roy within a 30 second margin, though never seriously threatening the lead. Vardaros tallied second, an impressive result for the Californian. Proving herself no fluke on the �cross scene, Amy Wallace (Verizon Wireless-Wheelworks) nabbed the final spot on the Elite Women�s podium for the second day in a row.
�I knew after yesterday that I could win today,� said Bruno Roy. �I made some mistake on Saturday and combined with not feeling 100 percent I couldn�t win. So I wanted to race hard today, make no mistakes, and win the Series.�
Even though he crashed out of the final race, Jesse Anthony (Team Clif Bar) ran away with his second consecutive Under-23 Series title. Jonny Bold (Corner Cycle) swept the weekend�s proceedings in the Masters 35+, winning both days in impressive fashion. Kevin Hines (Gearworks-Spin Arts) edged teammate Scott Wade in the Masters 45+. Chris Case (University of Texas) won his second Men�s B race in as many weeks, following up his impressive showing from the snow bound Sterling, Mass. event last week with a stellar performance in snowy Warwick. Jerome Townsend (Bicycle Alley) closed out an impressive campaign in the Junior Men�s Series, winning the finals and sweeping the Rhode Island weekend. Silas Anthony (ECV) won the Junior 15-16 and Shawn Hudlin (BCA-VOMax) won the Cub Juniors). Phil Bannister (Putney-West Hill) ran away with the Masters 55+.