BIG DAY FOR BIG TEAMS AT THE BikeReg.com MABRAcross TACCHINO CICLIOCROSS
November 4, 2006; Leesburg, Virginia, USA: The penultimate round of the 2006 BikeReg.com MABRAcross series took place in the beautiful and historic town of Leesburg, Virginia on Saturday, November 4. Promoted by the Squadra Coppi, a local club named in honor of the legendary Italian Fausto Coppi, the race was held in the pristine Ida Lee Park and Recreation Center less than a half-mile from the town center. While Catoctin Mountain served as a backdrop, the racers didn�t need any visual reminders about hills as the course featured two very long (for cyclocross), grassy and sometimes off-camber climbs. The repeated climbing was devastating for the slower classes, but even the elite racers characterized the course as �grueling�.
The featured Elite/Pro Men started fast, with a group of 8 getting away up �Mount Ida� on the first lap. One of the pre-race favorites, Greg Marini of Coffee Plus, was the first of the contenders to lose contact when he dropped his chain on the high-speed double barrier dismount on the first lap. Those barriers, placed on a long straight section of track, appeared to be relatively straight-forward -- but for some reason they played havoc with racers all day long. And before the end of this race, they would play a pivotal role again.
Within a few laps, the composition of the lead group had stabilized. Keck Baker (CVCC), Bryan Butts (SPBRC/Bianchi) and Nathan Deibert (Holmes Cycling) were in a three-on-two tag-team match with the FORT Frames duo of Gregg Wittwer and Weston Schempf, who kept taking turns attacking the group. Less than halfway into the one-hour race, Schempf put a gap on the rest of the group. �I put in an effort up the hill toward the finish line and saw that I got a gap, so I kept on going�, he said afterwards. Baker just barely hanging on and unable to work (he was eventually dropped late in the race), and Wittwer not about to chase down his own teammate, the responsibility fell to Nathan Deibert to lead the chase. He rode aggressively, but Schempf�s well-timed attack had given him an insurmountable lead and he won with about a 300 meter advantage. Behind him on the last, some of the best action of the day was unfolding as the man-on-man battle for second place between Deibert and Wittwer flew down the hill and toward the barriers just 500 meters from the end of the race. Wittwer drew gasps from the spectators as he flew across the dismount section visibly faster than any other racer had all day long, gapping Deibert. In desperation, Deibert tried to sprint back to Wittwer, but he accelerated too soon out of the next corner, causing him to fall when his rear wheel to lose traction. Wittwer had time to celebrate as he came across the line to give the FORT Factory Team a one-two finish.
For Velo-Bella Kona�s Melanie Swartz, most of the drama took place during the weeks prior to the race. Swartz is a former BikeReg.com MABRAcross champion who lives just 35 minutes away from Leesburg and is also a former member of the promoting Squadra Coppi club. She was also a front-row starter at last-year�s National Championships due to her placings in UCI races. At Leesburg, she attacked on the first lap of the Elite/Pro Women�s race and never looked back, winning by a wide margin. But in the two week�s leading up to the Leesburg race, Swartz and her Velo Bella Kona team had to choose between two of their major objectives for the year -- trying either to win the BikeReg.com MABRAcross series championship or scoring UCI points in New England for a better start position at the U.S. National Championships. At the end of the day, after the course had been knocked down and cleaned up, Melanie Swartz summed up her decision in one sentence, �Sometimes, supporting your local race is more important than UCI points.�