BelGioioso Elite Series Race Report: WORS # 1

Note to WORS Photographers: Submit entries to the Iola Photo Contest following these instructions. Tristan Schouten (Mafia / Felt) and Kim Eppen (Mercy-Specialized) won the first race of the 2011 Wisconsin Off Road Series on Sunday at the Iola Bump & Jump. Despite late-season snowfall in recent weeks the sandy course was dry and fast, thanks to Herculean efforts by the race organizers, including draining standing water in the ski jump bowl. Still, cool temperatures and gusting winds presented a challenge in the open. It was not the wind but the steep climbs that fractured the men's field early in the race. A group of four broke away after setting a blistering pace on four climbs within minutes of the start. They were never caught. Tristan Schouten, Brian Matter (Gear Grinders / Trek), Brian Eppen (Mercy-Specialized), and Mike Anderson (Trek 29er / Sram) worked together through the first lap to extend their lead on the rest of the field. During the second lap, Schouten began to pull away on another steep climb and only Matter could hold his wheel. The two rode together until the fifth lap, when Schouten pulled ahead to take the win in 1:37:07. Matter followed in second at 1:37:11. The two Sheboygan racers train together, and share a love of both mountain bike racing and cyclocross. Both Matter and Schouten have won the WORS Overall three times in the last decade, and both are planning to contend for the Series Overall in 2011, as well as cyclocross Nationals in Madison, WI this January. In hot pursuit of Schouten and Matter at Iola, Eppen and Anderson traded places and worked together. During the fifth lap, Eppen pulled into the lead in an open section and held his advantage to the finish, crossing the line at 1:38:10, 7 seconds ahead of Anderson. Mike Phillips (Adventure 212 / Specialized) led the charge from the chasing field, finishing in fifth in 1:39:25. The women's field likewise started fast, with past WORS Overall winner Kim Eppen leading the charge closely followed by defending 2010 champ Abby Strigel (Trek Stores of Madison). More than half the field were still together in their first pass into the jump bowl when Diana McFadden (Trek Mountain Co-op / Adventure 212) dropped her chain. Within seconds, she'd been passed by the remainder of the field. She remounted her bike determined to chase back. "I red-lined it," said McFadden. "I just rode as hard as I could until I saw [Adventure 212 teammates] Michelle [Peariso], Sarah [Agena] and Lisa [Krayer]. Within a half lap, McFadden had caught her teammates, and the four women began to chase Eppen together. While McFadden chased from behind, the defending champ Strigel had been riding with Eppen, but broke her chain and was unable to finish. The Adventure 212 women rode together through the first lap. "It was cool coming through the spectator area all together," said Agena. "I had a great time all riding as a group." Teammate Lisa Krayer agreed. "We've all been out there by ourselves during a race, and this was just so much more fun to all race together and push each other." In the second lap, McFadden began to pull away, still chasing Eppen, who was now minutes ahead. "It happened gradually," said McFadden. "I could still see Sarah [Agena] behind me for a while." Eppen's lead was insurmountable and she rode strong to a finish time of 1:28:59, nearly 10 minutes ahead of McFadden who finished in 1:38:14. The remaining podium positions went to Adventure 212, with Agena (1:39:29), Krayer (1:40:59), and Peariso (1:42:16) rounding out the top five. Although McFadden will not compete in the Series Overall, her teammates will be back for the rest of the WORS races and will be a force to be reckoned with in the Series Overall. Complete Iola Race Results can be found here. Check back here later this week for the complete race report for all racer categories.

Tristan Schouten (Mafia Racing) and Brian Matter (Gear Grinder / Trek) talk about the first race of the Wisconsin Off Road Series, and the upcoming 2011 WORS season. Schouten and Matter took 1st and 2nd place, respectively, in the men's BelGioioso Elite Race today.

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