This weekend's Smokin' Spoke, the third and last race in the new WORS Marathon Series, drew nearly 600 racers to Camp Tesomas outside Rhinelander, WI. WORS series racers enjoyed blue skies overhead and a dry course beneath their tires after two successive races held in wet, muddy conditions. More than halfway through this year's overall Subaru sponsored 2007 Wisconsin Off Road Series, the Spoke course was warmly welcomed as a new addition to the WORS lineup. The challenging track was studded with small hills, rapid descents and mogul-like, wooded singletrack. More than one bridge kept riders on their toes while a few wide-open passing lanes required both stamina and speed as nearly everyone decided to put the hammer down at the same moment. Overall, the 10 mile lap length gave riders plenty of individual challenge and opportunities for teamwork.
Youth racers Madeline Labecki of Milwaukee and Brett Poulton of Lake Forest IL, took top honors in the Hayes Disc Brakes Citizen Series, keeping their respective Marathon Series winning streaks alive. In the Citizen races, Rhinelander's own Mary Lucas led the ladies with a time of 2:01:13 for two laps. Matthew Amman of Milwaukee led the Citizen men with a time of 1:35:42. In the women's CycleOps Sport race, Kaitlin Anotonneau of Racine topped the field with a winning time of 2:49:44 for 3 laps, while Ben Koenig of Schofield led the Men's field in 2:23:28. In the Cliff Bar Comp Series race Karl Schult of Crystal Lake, IL had the best overall time of 3:00:46 for 4 laps.
Despite the length and speed of the course, the finish line saw many closely-contested battles at the Spoke. In the BelGioioso Elite race, Sara Kylander-Johnson (Trek/VW) was one of a few to beat this trend, dominating the ladies field with a time of 3:09:11 for four laps, more than 13 minutes ahead of the current WORS series overall leader Anne Grabowski (Nature Valley/ PENNCYCLE, 3:22:17). By contrast, in the men's Elite race, the top three finishers, Jesse Lalonde (Gary Fisher 29/BKB; 2:40:24), Brian Matter (PCW/Trek, 2:40:37), and Marko Lalonde (Gary Fisher/BKB; 2:40:57) crossed the line within 30 seconds of one another.
As with previous races in the new WORS Marathon series, the Spoke seemed to bring out the best in racers of each category. The rough terrain also put bikes to a brutal test. Mechanicals and flats along the track were numerous and forced more than a few competitors to retire in frustration. WORS series racers I spoke with found the course challenging and fun. The variety provided by the Marathon Series format once again found Citizen, Sport, Comp and Elite on the track at the same time. Although the track was somewhat less conducive to passing than previous Marathon courses, the post-race talk suggested that WORS regulars are mastering passing on both sides of the equation. The Elite series riders were especially singled out for their excellent passing etiquette and technique, consistent with the hypothesis that polite passing does, in fact, make you faster.
The enthusiastic local event organizers worked hard to provide for racers and spectators both on and off the course at this first-ever event for WORS. Camp Tesomas at Crystal Lake provided plenty of opportunities for fun for racers, friends, family and spectators alike. More than a few of us enjoyed a swim in the spring-fed lake after the race. Local organizers even may be persuaded to let us try our hand at rock-climbing next year. Lakeside cabins, comfortable camp grounds, showers, concessions and wonderful group of local volunteers made everyone feel welcome. Racers enjoyed fruit and brownies after the race, the encouragement of smiling volunteers at the water stations, the ever-popular misting tent and more cowbell in the woods. WORS riders are certainly looking forward to a chance to ride at the Spoke again next season.
More photos of the event can be found online. And, as always, make sure to check out Extreme Photography.
See you in two weeks, September 9, at the Sunburst Ski Area in Kewaskum WI, for the Sunburst Showdown!
Article and photos by Claire Cannon.