Despite a one week delayed start to the season, the trails at the Iola Winter Sports Club were in pristine condition. Racers came from all around the Midwest to gather for the first WORS race of the season, the Iola Bump and Jump. Under blue skies and warm air the trails at Iola were fast and flowy as racers were able to weave their way through the oak trees of Central Wisconsin.
The start of the BelGioioso Men’s Pro/Cat 1 was led out by the infamous hole-shot specialist, Ben Senkerik(Team Extreme). The Iola Bump and Jump course features a long double track lead out with a steep climb to the tops of the Nordic ski jumps. Spectators gather at possibly the best vantage point of the season and watch the racers spill into the landing bowl and snake from one side to the other as they climb up and out. Cole House(Hacienda Brewing/Pete’s Garage) and Pete Karinen(Broken Spoke Racing) wasted no time in taking control of the race as the two quickly opened a gap. After spending some early season time at the US Cup races in California, the two Pro riders clearly displayed an edge over the rest of the field.
Coming into lap 2, the lead group had a sizeable gap with Senkerik and Caleb Swartz(Linear Sport RT/Trek) chasing. Laps 3 and 4 remained uneventful with the gaps staying relatively consistent. The final laps of the men’s race became very strategic. Heading into the last lap, House attacked on the start hill and Karinen could not hold. House’s lead would extend to 40 seconds to secure the win with Karinen coming in second. Meanwhile, the battle for third place between Senkerik and Swartz heated up when Senkerik attacked on the second to last lap. Partially into their last lap, just as Senkerik began to settle back in, Swartz countered with his own move and gave it everything he had. It was just enough to hold steady for third place with Senkerik finishing fourth 50 seconds later. Brenden Bellew(Penn Cycle) rounded out the top five.
The BelGioioso Women’s race was the biggest field WORS has seen in years. With over 15 Ladies, spectators were excited and knew it could be anyone’s race. With 2017 WORS overall Winner Leia Schneeberger(Broken Spoke Racing), Minnesota’s 18 year old sensation Anna Christian(LaMere Cycles), and host of returning veterans, it was about to be a show for all! Katrina Hurst(Linear Sport RT/Trek) nabbed the hole shot as the ladies sprung up the first hill.
Early on it was a big group but as the leaders entered the first section of single track the lead pack consisted of Christian, Schneeberger, Hurst, Caitlin Neuman(Brazen Dropouts) and Lauren Lackman(Rib Mountain Cycles). That group was whittled lap after lap as Christian continued to drive the pace. She easily rode away to an ultimate gap of two plus minutes to secure the first WORS race win of the season and first in her career. Behind the winner sorting it out for second was Hurst and Neuman breaking away from a Schneeberger with lactic acid settling in. Neuman slowly began to open a gap on the last lap to clinch second with Hurst finishing third 30 seconds later. Schneeberger fell into a battle with Lackman for fourth place and wound up in fifth.
Next stop WORS heads to the farm for the Englewood Open on Saturday May 19th.