December 4, 2005; Fair Hill, MD, USA: When the Fort Frames/Greater Pittsburgh Orthopedic Associates team traveled to the final stop of the 2005 Verge Mid Atlantic cyclocross series on December 4, they had one goal -- �defend the fort!� With defending champions in both pro classes, and a dominator in the Master�s class, the Fort/GPOA team had their eyes on championships in all three money classes and the team championship. Ryan Leech and Mike Yozell pedaled their Fort bicycles into the record books, but Kona�s Georgia Gould was fast enough to penetrate the fort before the drawbridge was pulled up, taking her first cyclocross championship.
Race day downed to greet racers with a cold, damp, overcast day with wind and fog. An overnight mix of rain and snow, compounded by the previous day�s MABRA championship races that used many of the same sections of the park, turned most of the track into slippery mud. It was the kind of day that even professional meteorologists might describe as �icky�. And, with relatively little elevation change, it was also a good course for the growing contingent of single-speed racers. This was in evidence in the day�s opening race for Class C Men, where Tim Bowman of Trophy Bike/Team Shiftless beat out local racer James Ambagis of Fort/GPOA. Team Shiftless placed two riders in the top three, and three riders in the top six. The concurrent B Women and Junior 10-16 races were won by Amy Breyla (Henry�s Bikes) and Morgan Gerlak (Alan Mid Atlantic).
Fort/GPOA�s first big test came in the Master�s race with Mike Yozell. Yozell, a long-time Elite rider and husband of Pennsylvania Champion Erica Yozell, started the first two races of the season in the Elite class. But, a severely sprained ankle changed his season. �My first race back was Granouge,� said Yozell, �but I didn�t want to come back with a sprained ankle in a C1 race. So, I did Masters.� He won Granouge in the most exciting sprint of the year, and backed it up by winning the following day�s Wissahickon race to take over the points lead. Coming into Fair Hill, he had a remarkable string of 5 consecutive wins in the Verge MAC Masters -- which he extended to six with a wire-to-wire victory.
In the B-race, Verge MAC stalwart Adam Szczepanski (Bike & Blade - Serfs) took his first win over yet another Fort/GPOA rider, Chris Mayhew, by 17 seconds. For Mayhew, the series� principal PA announcer, it was the best finish of the season.
Coming into the Elite Women�s race, Kona�s Georgia Gould of Idaho held a slim lead in the points standings over two-time and defending champion Betsy Schauer from West Virginia and Fort/GPOA. A confirmed mudder, Gould loved the conditions, starting strong and extending her lead throughout the race to finish with a comfortable 3 minute, 25 second advantage over Schauer. It was the first major championship for ever-smiling Gould, who started racing �cross only last year and who quickly endeared herself among her fellow racers. Such was the relationship that when Gould realized that her number wasn�t pinned on properly while standing on the start line, she turned to her closest competitor Schauer -- who carefully pinned it back in place, without drawing blood. The surprise of the race, if not the entire season, was the performance of Marilyn Galegher of Hunt Valley Bicycles. Moving up to the Elite field for the first time, Galegher put in a strong and composed performance to finish third ahead of many established Verge MAC competitors.
The Elite Men, the final race of the 2005 Verge MAC season, started with Fort/GPOA�s Ryan Leech needing only to finish the race to defend his championship, but he was more concerned with honoring unofficial MAC photographer Dennis Smith. Taking the starter�s megaphone on the start line, Leech awarded �Den� with a certificate of appreciation and a cash gift collected from the MAC brotherhood. An hour later, Leech came across the finish line hand-in-hand with Fort/GPOA teammate Gunnar Shogren to clinch the 2005 Verge MAC Championships for both Elite Men and Overall Team. Roger Aspholm (Westwood Video) was able to make a small dent in the fort by beating out Weston Schempf for third place to avoid a 1-2-3 finish by the Fort/GPOA team.
Winning any championship series, let alone a series as prestigious as the Verge Mid Atlantic Cyclocross Series is cool. After her race, Georgia Gould was seen beaming ear-to-ear. Asked if she was smiling because of the championship or because she got to play in the mud, Gould replied, �Both,� then laughed and said, �Actually, it�s not really a smile -- it�s more of a grimace. I�m so cold.� And so, the new champ proved that racing in the Verge MAC is �way cool�.