Billed as a sneak preview of the course for December�s National Championships in Rhode Island, Saturday�s Gearworks Bay State Cyclo-Cross, round four of the 2005 Verge New England Championships Cyclo-Cross Series, presented by Cycle-Smart, added an extra bit of intrigue: a healthy blanket of snow. The Sterling, Mass. course, designed by National�s course guru Tom Stevens, was already challenging before the four inches of white fluff came down on Thanksgiving Day, but the added element of dodgy traction and sub-freezing temps made for an epic day in the fourth race of the 2005 Verge NECCS.
Verge NECCS Elite Men�s points leader Tim Johnson (Cyclocrossworld.com-Louis Garneau) reveled in the slick conditions, taking a solid victory over four-time defending Verge NECCS champ Mark McCormack (Team Clif Bar). McCormack�s teammate Jesse Anthony got the action started on the first lap as the Under-23 Series leader pushed the pace hard going into the race�s main run-up. With McCormack falling back due to a technical bobble in the treacherous conditions, Anthony and Johnson were on their own. Johnson powered away from Anthony on lap three, cracking open a lead that, while seriously threatened in the waning laps, never disintegrated totally.
McCormack fought back in the closing four laps, trimming Johnson�s margin down to a mere six seconds with two laps to go. But while McCormack could see Johnson he couldn�t catch Johnson, who goosed the pace just enough to make a last-lap lead change impossible. McCormack settled for a credible second, while Johnson solidified his overall Series lead. Anthony rounded out the top three and also finished on top of the U-23 podium.
�I had a great start, pretty much the best one I�ve had all season,� said Johnson. �I knew there would be a lot of crashes on the first lap and with the slippery course a good start was important for staying out of trouble. Some guys definitely lost time because they were caught behind crashes, so I picked a good time to have such an excellent start.�
Using the B Men�s race as a warm-up, in which she finished third, Elite Women�s Series leader Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com-Louis Garneau) ran her Verge NECCS win streak to four with a run away romp through the snow in Sterling. Bessette led all but the first 100 meters of the race, showing why she already has two cyclo-cross titles to her credit so far in 2005 � Canadian National Champion and U.S. Gran Prix Champion. Maureen Bruno Roy (Independent Fabrication) and Mackenzie Dickey (Bicycle Alley) collected the final two podium spots, but the day belonged to Bessette. Sterling marked the Canadian�s final Verge NECCS race of the year as her schedule in the coming weeks will take her to Europe for a World Cup.
�The Series has been great preparation for going to race in Europe,� said Bessette. �It�s too bad I have to miss the final weekend but I feel lucky we have such good races in New England in the first place. I�ll be ready for the World Cups I think.�
The 2005 Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series concludes the weekend of December 3-4 with the Rhode Island �double dip� of W. E. Stedman Co. Grand Prix of Cyclo-Cross in South Kingstown and Castor's Grand Prix in Warwick.