Strigel and Schouten Defend At Treadfest

by Claire Cannon

During the tenth race of the Wisconsin Off Road Series in Lake Geneva, WI this Sunday, overall leaders Tristan Schouten (Mafia) and Abigail Strigel (Trek Stores of Madison) faced tough challenges from within the WORS Series ranks, as well as from out-of-town contenders with serious racing credentials.

In the women’s contest, former WORS Overall Champion Kim Eppen (Mercy-Specialized), of Iowa City, IA made an appearance at Treadfest for the second year in a row, along with WORS Series rider and teammate Robin Williams. In the men’s race, Brian Eppen, also of Mercy-Specialized, was on the start line, along with two-time road cycling Olympian and 2009 Tour of California King of the Mountain winner Jason McCartney (RadioShack / MellowJohnny’s), of Coralville, IA.

Evening rains late Friday set the stage for beautiful racing conditions on the rocky, technical course. The intense climbing and tight singletrack sections at Lake Geneva afforded Strigel and Schouten a chance to further their winning streaks.

Strigel Takes a First At Treadfest

WORS Media Photo - Treadfest 2010

<p.“Kim Eppen is really fast, and she was making me hurt very badly on the first couple of climbs,” said women’s winner Abby Strigel. “Somehow I got by her on the first lap, and just tried to hold the gap. It was a huge honor just to be anywhere close to Kim Eppen on bikes, so my race was incredibly exciting. I knew she was pretty close, though, behind me. I was trying to go as fast as I could, and I got lucky.”

Last year at Treadfest, Eppen surged to an early lead and finished the race over two minutes ahead of the field, with Strigel following in second. This year, the two women reversed places, and Strigel maintained her gap throughout the race to finish almost two minutes ahead. Apart from a race several years ago where Eppen broke a thumb but still finished, Strigel had never before beaten the Iowa racer in a head-to-head competition.

“I came for a great workout, and as always, WORS delivered,” laughed Eppen. “The start is always brutal. I guess that’s the best and the worst all at the same time. You can’t take yourself to the the edge like that, but you can in a WORS race. I got what I came for. WORS is just the best venue in the country, ever.”

Eppen’s teammate Robin Williams also had a great race at Treadfest, finishing third in the Elite women’s field. With her finish at Treadfest, Williams met her goal of eight WORS races in 2010 and qualifies for the Series, something she’s been trying to accomplish, despite a demanding work schedule in Iowa City, for three years.

WORS Media Photo - Treadfest 2010

“I love all the singletrack and I think they did a really nice job with it this year,” said Williams (Mercy-Specialized). “I always love the rock garden.” After racing 12 miles missing the seat of her bike in her previous WORS race, the Reforestation Ramble, Williams added: “I've had some serious mechanicals the last two races I've been in, and so it was really nice to have a clean race today.”

Williams is currently in contention for the BelGioioso Elite Series women’s podium at WORS, and strong finishes throughout the season may place her as high as third place at the end of the year. Lisa Krayer (Adventure 212 / Specialized), who has a strong hold on second in the Overall, finished fourth at Treadfest, less than a minute behind Williams. The tough course spread out the rest of the ladies field, and fifth place Renee Bach (Chain Smokers) crossed the line nearly seven minutes later to claim the final spot on the podium.

Schouten Takes The Win and Perhaps The Series

“I was probably a little defensive today,” said BelGioioso Elite men’s winner Tristan Schouten. “I had the Series lead coming in to Treadfest, but I wanted to wrap it up tight today. There were two guys I was watching. But, I had really good legs today and I knew it after we started, so I went to the front and tried to put it away early.”

WORS Media Photo - Treadfest 2010

The men also started fast up a series of climbs to the top of the ski hill. The tight singletrack at the Treadfest course leaves little room for passing, so the first few minutes of open climbing can be critical. Opening up the charge with legs that took him to two Olympic games, Jason McCartney (RadioShack) led to the top of the ski hill, and the group quickly separated.

“I knew that I had good legs by the time we were on the last climb to the top of the hill,” said Schouten. “The group was already breaking apart and I was not at my limit, so I knew that was good. Jason McCartney led through the first singletrack and then I snuck around him in the second section. Nathan [Guerra] bridged to me shortly after and we instantly had a pretty good gap, so we just kept that going.”

“I had a good race,” said second-place finisher Nathan Guerra (Mr. Tree / PowerBar). “I felt really strong, especially during the last two laps. I thought maybe I could close it down to Tristan, but he obviously felt really good too! I talked to him after and he said he had no pain today, so he had a great race.”

“I liked the singletrack here today,” continued Guerra. “I felt that it flowed well, and it was technical enough that you could get away if you were riding it really fast.”

“The rain helped,” agreed Schouten. “The course was really tacky, and you could hit it really hard, which was fun for me. I enjoyed it.”

Third-place finisher, and 2009 WORS Overall Series winner Brian Matter (Gear Grinder / Trek) found himself in an unusual position at the start of this year’s Treadfest.

“I had what I’d call a really bad first half-lap,” said Matter. “I was riding back in the teens, and wasn’t really feeling it. But, half-way through, something clicked and I was having a really good time in the singletrack. I moved up, moved up, moved up, and ended up with a pretty good result.”

Riding with Matter for a time was Jason McCartney (RadioShack / Mellow Johnny’s). As a a two-time Olympian, holder of numerous stage victories and King of the Mountain titles, and VeloNews 2004 Rider of the Year, McCartney’s name is known to many, but was new to the WORS roster on Sunday. Brian Matter was riding with McCartney at the start of the second lap.

WORS Media Photo - Treadfest 2010

“When we came out into the open climb at the start of lap two, he just crushed it,” said Matter. “He gapped me, but I closed the gap again once we got into the singletrack. We kind of worked together for a while, until I led into a section of singletrack and opened a gap. This was a good, mountain bike-style course, and the most fun I’ve had on the mountain bike all season. I think this was a perfectly designed course for my Trek Top Fuel bike.”

In one of his best finishes for 2010, Chris Peariso (Adventure 212 / Specialized) took the fourth step on the podium, while McCartney placed fifth in the BelGioioso Elite men's Pro / Cat 1 race.

The next race in the WORS Series, the Bear Paw Rock and Roll, will be hosted on September 26th along the edges of the Nicolet National Forest by the Bear Paw Adventure Resort. Local race organizers promise an excellent event at the newest venue on the 2010 WORS circuit, including a mountain biking film festival on Saturday evening with prizes for the best homemade video. The WORS Series will wrap-up on October 10 at the Wigwam MTB Challenge in Sheboygan, WI. The contest for the Overall this year looks to be a good one to the very finish.

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