WORS race report: Sheboygan Wigwam MTB Challenge

Kylander-Johnson and Phillips win at WORS Series Finale in Sheboygan
by Claire Cannon. Report also online at cyclingnews.com

The 2010 Subaru-sponsored WORS Series came to a close in Sheboygan, WI at the 16th annual Wigwam MTB Challenge. BelGioioso Elite Series overall winner Abby Strigel (Trek Stores of Madison) was beaten for the first time this WORS season by 3-time former WORS Elite Series champion Sara Kylander-Johnson (Trek Mountain CO-OP). With 10 individual race wins in 2010 for the series overall, Strigel is now the first person to ever win the WORS BelGioioso Elite Overall four times.

In the men’s race, Mike Phillips (Adventure 212 / Specialized) rode away with the $800 purse for first place at the Wigwam MTB Challenge, while Tristan Schouten (Mafia / Felt) was crowned 2010 WORS Elite Series overall winner in absentia.

WORS Sheboygan 2010
Sara Kylander-Johnson (Trek CO-OP) rides one of her favorite sections of trail at WORS Sheboygan. Photo by Danny Marchewka.

The Sheboygan course begins with a sprint prime less than a mile from the start line. In the women’s race, Strigel led the group to the stretch of pavement within sight of the prime banner, when Kylander-Johnson sprinted to take the prime.

“Abigail led the start, and I was really glad she did, because I just did not want to work that hard,” recalled Kylander-Johnson who felt the effects of a cold in the week before Sheboygan, and was unsure until that morning whether she would start. “Then we sprinted. Abby’s fast, so I had to work really hard to get ahead of her. It’s great to see her going so fast.”

“I didn’t really know what was going to happen once we got on the pavement,” said third-place finisher Robin Williams (Mercy Specialized). “It felt really fast. We had all lined up on the trail, but then we hit the pavement before the prime and all of the sudden we were five-wide going towards the hole-shot. The dynamics were constantly changing before we got into the singletrack.”

Coming into the race at Sheboygan, Strigel too felt the ill-effects of a cold and considered Kylander-Johnson the favorite. Despite being seemingly unbeatable on many WORS courses for nearly three years, Strigel has yet to win at the WORS season finale, where Midwest stars Jenna Rinehart and Sara Kylander-Johnson have traded dominance since 2005. Strigel’s strategy was to conserve in the early moments of the race and then attack in the singletrack.

Once the race entered the woods, however, the two women were closely matched. Strigel was hot on the heals of Kylander-Johnson but was unable to pass outright, and both recalled a fierce battle for control of the race during the first lap.

“We were basically sprinting, side-by-side, whenever the singletrack was wide enough,” recalled Strigel.

WORS Sheboygan 2010
Abby Strigel (Trek Stores of Madison) crossing the creek at Sheboygan. Photo by Danny Marchewka.

Kylander-Johnson did not cede control and ultimately surged ahead. Despite cramps during her third and fourth laps, she ended the day with more than two minutes of margin to collect the $750 prize for first place. Despite some mechanical troubles with shifting, Strigel chased hard and finished nearly 6 minutes ahead of third place.

“The women that I was racing with today were amazing,” said third place finisher Robin Williams, of Iowa City. “I had so much fun. This is my first time racing here, and the course was better than I could ever have guessed it would be.”

Although the Iowa racer suffered a slow puncture of her rear tire on the last lap, she was able to hold off Lori Sable and Lindsey Kriete for third.

“I felt and heard a loss of air going over a root. Then, in the swooping turns by the river, my traction started to feel almost too good. Just digging into the trail. But I knew it wouldn’t last,” laughed Williams. “I was gentle in the turns and pushed it on the flats and I was glad to hold my spot.”

The remaining two steps on the podium went to Lindsey Kriete and Lori Sable, who traded positions many times throughout the 4-lap contest and crossed the line less than 30-second apart.

“Lori Sable and I spent a lot of time in the singletrack together today, going back and forth,” recalled fourth-pace finisher Kriete. “That was really fun. It’s always nice to have someone to race with out there. This course is technical but very fun.”

WORS Sheboygan 2010 Photo Contest Finalist
The BelGioioso Elite Women's Podium at the 2010 WORS Wigwam MTB Challenge in Sheboygan. Photo by Amy Dykema.

Phillips takes a career-first win at Sheboygan

“I felt really good, it was very comfortable today,” said men’s winner Mike Phillips. “I had to go pretty hard towards the end and it kind of caught up with me, but for a WORS race, I felt pretty good. I usually do pretty well here. It’s technical with punchy climbs, but mostly a power course and that’s good for me. I’ve always wanted the top spot on the podium here, so it’s pretty awesome.”

WORS Sheboygan 2010
Mike Phillips (Adventure 212 / Specialized) in the lead at WORS Sheboygan. Photo by Danny Marchewka.

In the men’s race the sprint prime went to Phillips’ teammate, Darrin Braun.

“I was sitting third wheel,” recalled Braun. “Nathan [Guerra, Mr Tree Racing / PowerBar] was on Ted [Hanes, Fond Du Lac Cyclery]. I just poked out and put in a couple quick pedal strokes. I was surprised to get it.”

WORS Sheboygan 2010
Darrin Braun (Adventure 212 / Specialized) over the Subaru Log Jump at WORS Sheboygan. Photo by Danny Marchewka.

“Today I tried to not go out really hard, like I normally do,” said Phillips, who did not contest the prime. “Darrin took the prime and Nathan [Guerra] took over the lead. I tried to ramp it up more gradually, and eventually I got around Nathan.”

“I thought I was going to pull it off in the first lap,” recalled Guerra. “I got the holeshot into the singletrack and started getting little gaps. I felt really good on that first lap, but Mike stuck with. We got a gap, then, going up the Equalizer, he got a little gap on me and laid it down. He’s really good at the steady power, and I couldn’t hold his wheel on the flat. I thought I’d catch him in the singletrack and started getting closer, but I clipped a pedal on a tree and went down hard. After that, I was chasing and battling it out with Darrin.”

WORS Sheboygan 2010
Nathan Guerra (Mr. Tree Racing / PowerBar) climbs the Equalizer. Photo by Jared Brodjeski.

Braun and Guerra, who sometimes train together, exchanged both places and banter at Sheboygan. “I was saying to him out there, ‘don’t let me catch you!’”, laughed Braun. Eventually, Braun did pull ahead to finish second, while Guerra took third. For both, it was a career-best performance at the WORS season finale.

The fourth step on the podium was taken by Chris Peariso, while singlespeed racer Ron Stawicki took fifth.

“I had a poor start today and a teammate up front, so I didn’t really feel like chasing,” said Adventure 212 / Specialized’s Peariso. “I ended up riding with Scott Kylander-Johnson and Seth Lenss. We had a great time, you know, riding and talking. And I think a got a couple good cookie recipes from Seth. It's always good to race in Wisconsin.”

WORS Sheboygan 2010
Men's BelGioioso Elite Podium at WORS Sheboygan. Photo by Amy Dykema.

With the 2010 WORS series at an end, the 2011 WORS Series schedule has been announced. The 12-race series will begin in May 2011 and conclude in October. WORS will once again host the Pro XCT Series at their Mega-event, the Subaru Cup, in June.

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