We’ve covered Iceman Cometh races, road race state championships, and some of the biggest races in Michigan for the past 369 days, exactly. The second edition of Inside Out Cyclocross for 2013 was the most fun. Period.
After a solid showing at the first race in January, and with more riders looking to test their fitness ahead of Barry-Roubaix in March, the late February date for IOCX was almost destined to become a Sunday circled by eager riders. No one could have expected the sort of turnout at 2pm in Greenville, however. Some of the biggest names in Michigan cycling came out to test themselves over a course that wasn’t even rideable two days ago.
Initially, the race was at risk for cancellation until Village Motorsports stepped up to ensure the course was clear. The helping hand gave Dan McGraw and Freewheeler Bike Shop the chance to put on an absolutely stacked event over one of the most diverse and challenging courses ever ridden in the state.
The BMX track was hardly even on the minds of racers after a preview of the revamped and plowed cirucuit. Over eight inches of snow was turned into a icy, slushy highway that was soon caked with mud. The corners were slick and rutted, the frozen footsteps of people walking lurked like dramatic, cartoonishly-drawn cobblestones deep in the woods.
The C race also boasted a fat bike class, and the wave of roughly thirty or so riders packed down the trail to the icy coating below the snow. Mountain bikes may have been the order of the day, but true to the CX title, most of the entrants were on 35mm tires. Five laps did much to flatten and soften the course, and the early race left it in perfectly picturesque cyclocross fashion for the big show.
The B Race went to an improving Ross Gibbs from North Country Cycle Sport ahead of Dirk Timmer. Both of those men will figure highly March 10 when they make the jump up to the A race. Gibbs walked away with the race early and used his mountain biking skills on the BMX course to stay comfortably in the lead all afternoon.
And the talent on the line was enticing, to say the least. Craig Gietzen returned bearing the biggest target, coming back undefeated and IOCX events in two years. But there was a plethora of big names making the trip to make a challenge, including some of the most talented riders in the state. Aaron Beebe, kolo t.c.’s Cyclocrosser of the Year, made the trip, armed with brother Thomas, as the biggest name on the line. Ryan Cross made his Einstein Racing debut alongside Ryan Bolin, with Nate Versluis flying the Farm Team flag. Making a CX debut was BISSELL’s Alex Vanias, along with Joe Thomas, Jim Braam, Earl Hillaker and Drew Martin.
Chelsea Strate returned to make a bid to keep her undefeated season going, helped by teammates’ Mackenzie Woodring’s decision to be scored with the men. No other women finished, with Strate doing more than enough to stay perfect in 2013. She’s now focusing on going a perfect 4 for 4 in the Northern Michigan Fat Bike Series next week at St. Fatty’s Day.
The 24 man A Race broke up quickly over the demanding terrain. From the gun, Versluis and Gietzen were off the front, with Aaron Beebe recovering from an immediate crash and mechanical before joining them ahead of the field. Ryan Cross looked incredibly handsome in his new Einstein Racing kit, plowing his way as the lone chaser. Cody Sovis was riding in the top five, deciding to empty the tank to try to stay away rather than ride with streaking Joe Thomas, Alex Vanias and Thomas Beebe.
It was within two laps that the terrain and conditions began to take their toll. Ryan Bolin was the first to go down on the BMX track, ending his day. Hagerty-TOLaw U-25’s Wes Sovis crashed inside and then over a snow pile barrier before calling it a day, his handlebars bent and pointed the wrong way. Einstein’s other contender, Bennett Paul, was ruled out midway through the race, with other riders calling it quits, too. In the end, just 16 of the 24 starters finished.
The win came down to a late chain issue for Gietzen. His wheel hit a barrier, and the ten seconds to fix the chain was enough for Beebe to get a gap and lay it on. Behind, Nate Versluis rode effectively to hold on to third, with Ryan Cross getting better every lap before settling for fourth. A flying Lion of Leroy, Alex Vanias, blazed past Joe Thomas on the final circuit but came up short of catching Thomas Beebe, the Beebe clan a win and a fifth on their big day out. Joe Thomas came in seventh, with Cody Sovis slipping handsomely back to eighth on the afternoon. Jim Braam and a resilient Earl Hillaker filled out a flying top ten.
The next race will be March 10, making it an ideal testing ground for top end fitness ahead of the much anticipated Barry-Roubaix March 23.