(Kimani Nielsen sprints to the win. Photo by Coppi member and photojournalist Jay Westcott, whose full gallery can be seen here.)
The traveling circus that is the MABRACross Super8 cyclocross series pulled into Lilypons Water Gardens near Frederick, MD on November 6 for the Ed Sander Memorial Cyclocross, and Squadra Coppi's "Dirty Blues" were ready. The high point was the Men Cat 3-4 race, where Kimani Nielsen came through with a hard-fought win and Brad Evans took the last podium spot in 5th. Jake Thompson and Luke Klaussen also set up a Coppi-heavy podium with 3rd and 5th, respectively, in the Junior 15-18 race.
Before all that, however, the Cat 4 men kicked things off while there was still frost on the ground. Rumors had been flying all week about the revamped Ed Sander course this year, so Coppi Joe Metro showed up early and did some super-secret recon on what turned out to be the Lil' Belgians course. He may or may not have been heard to say, "I thought I was turning really good lap times -- I coulda won that field easy!" Joe also gave high marks to the adult course, and after his race, took some great photos of the event. Also in the Cat 4 field, Chris Grengs nabbed a quality 13th, continuing his steady move up the ranks. Chris clearly benefitted from an opener the day before at the Sportif Cup series' Patapsco CX race, which in his words "had just about everything you could ask for in a cross course," apart from a big mud puddle, and is definitely worth checking out next season.
Mark Skubis and Adam Austin represented the team well in the Masters 3/4, though a results snafu meant Adam's finish was not recorded. Both stuck around afterwards to enjoy the great atmosphere fostered by free waffles and beer, and quality food vending options from the Corned Beef King. Nice work by host team NCVC to put that package of refreshment options together. Also present were the Tremendous Thompson Brothers, with Liam holding strong in the 10-14 Juniors and Jake grabbing a steady 3rd in the 15-18 race to keep himself well placed in the Super8 standings. Also in the 15-18 race was Luke Klaussen, who continued to impress in his rookie cyclocross season by leading out the long pavement start and then holding on for 5th.
In the other masters events, both Scott Thompson (45+) and Dave Pedersen (35+) acquitted themselved well on a day that saw a lot of tactical pack racing. Thompson fell in with a strong group of eight riders that charged around the course like a freight train, and slotted in for 16th. Thompson (and sons) and Pedersen linked up with Austin to form a great Coppi cheering section for the last two Azzurri races of the day, the Killer B's (Cat 3-4 Men, with Nielsen and Evans) and the Elite Race (Pro-1-2-3, with Andrew Welch).
In the 3-4 race, Nielsen and Evans stayed with the fast-starting front group and showed patience to wait out the early attacks as riders burned themselves out on the Sander course's exposed open fields and paved climb. About halfway through, Nielsen was first to respond to a solid move by Antietam Velo Club's Erik Krause, while Evans sat on wheels in the group behind. A lap later, Evans dropped the chasers and was bridging up to Nielsen when dark horse Jimmy Picard (unattached), in his first cx race of the year, came by and added some new horsepower up front. Nielsen used the help to close the last bit of the gap to Krause, then dominated the final sprint to take the win. Evans conceded an additional spot on the last lap and came in for a solid 5th. Nielsen now sits third in the overall Super8 series, well within striking distance of the lead with three races remaining.
In the Elite race, Welch had the formidable task of holding off the duo of Trek-LiveSTRONG star (and eventual winner) Joe Dombrowski and multiple-time MABRACross elite champ Wes Schempf (C3) as they tore their way around the course, lapping riders right and left. Welch finished in a respectable 15th.
The Super8 series continues on November 13 with the Schooley Mill Cyclocross in Highland, Maryland. Rumor has it that Jonny "I'm a Cat 1 in Heckling" Burns will be there to check out the beer tent and maybe even race. Can he take it as well as he can give it?