Yeager wins women. Oberman second overall. Pflug second single speed.
October 5, 2014. Michaux, PA. Quite likely the final edition of this event at the Michaux State Forest venue, the twelfth running of the Iron Cross Race did not disappoint. Part of the American UltraCross Series, the original high-speed gravel road/mountain-bike-light format of racing covers 68 miles consisting of gravel road, dirt road, pavement, run ups, and short stretches of relatively tame mountain bike trail. Promoter Mike Kuhn and his crew at the Outdoor Experience, have been incredible stewards of this event for many years. “The park is just too popular now.” said Kuhn referring to the increase in usage the Michaux State Forest has undergone in recent years. “We have to look at different venues for 2015”.
Rare Disease Cycling riders showed up in force to contest three of the four divisions of racing. In the end, five podium positions were earned, far exceeding earnings of any other team.
Senior Men Under 40
The race was won by long time Iron Cross participant Jeremiah Bishop (Alpine Loop Grand Fondo). “I was there for the early editions and I love the mash up of drop bars vs flat bars.” reminisced Bishop following the race. “So much fun to have the drafting and the run up.” Bishop said referring to the steep 10 minute Wigwam hike-a-bike that is one of the iconic features of the race. “Its a wacky event but challenging and has that Michaux vibe that kicked off my racing career. Its an honor to win this race especially after the Mini Munga on SDS.” concluded Bishop referring to his heavy training load in preparation for the Million Dollar Munga in December.
Second place and first man on a cyclocross bike, Rare Disease Cycling rider Cole Oberman prompted a pivotal attack attempting to achieve an small elite group at the front. “I sat in for the early part of the race, just making sure I wasn’t caught out on any potentially decisive course features. Around the 15 mile mark I made my move.” recalled Oberman about the early setup for his attack. “I went to the front and forced the pace as we approached the infamous Wigwam run up. I kept the pace hard as I quickly stepped my way up the 10 minute incline. I managed to open a one minute gap on the rest of the field.”
“I eased the pace a bit and let Jeremiah Bishop (Alpine Loop Grand Fondo) and David Flaten (Giant Mid-Atlantic) come up to me. We quickly went to work trading pulls and extended our lead.” described Oberman of the moments following Wigwam.
“Eventually Jeremiah, riding a mountain bike, launched an attack in a single-track section.” said Oberman describing the technical section leading up to the Larry’s Tavern “Aid” station. “I chased as hard as possible but my Crux was no match for (Jeremiah riding a mountain bike in) the semi-technical trail. Dave and I chased for the rest of the race, eventually battling for second on the climb to the finish.” Oberman won that battle.
“Iron Cross is one of my favorite late season races. It’s beautiful, gritty and just plain hard. I’m more than stoked to come home with a solid 2nd place!”
Third place finisher David Flatten (Giant Mid-Atlantic) describes the Wigwam selection that whittled the front group to three. “The cool thing about racing with Cole and JB is that we train and race each other all year. We know our strengths and weaknesses. I put in a dig before the last rideable climb before the field leading to the long run up. Cole and Jeremiah quickly responded and when I looked over my shoulder it was just the 3 of us. Cole encouraged us to put in a solid dig leading to the run up to create separation. Cole looked like the road runner, his feet were moving so fast. He was taking quick light steps all the way to the top and was out of sight in a short amount of time. Jeremiah and I made contact going up the next run up as we were able to ride halfway up it with out mountain bikes. That was the selection, and we never saw anyone again.”
RDC’s Andrew Dunlap experienced a flat tire not 500 yards into the prolog and eventually ended up briefly working with teammate Selene Yeager on his way to a 21st place finish.
The Open Men’s top-8 consisted of Jeremiah Bishop in 1st, RDC’s Cole Oberman 2nd, David Flatten 3rd, Justin Lowe 4th, Aaron Snyder 5th, Brian Patten 6th, Calvin Hoops 7th, and Francis Cuddy in 8th.
Top honors went to Rare Disease Cycling rider Selene Yeager. Her Iron Cross win, combined with her season opening win at Monster Cross, framed an incredible season of success on both the cross and mountain bike with two UltraCross bookend wins. “I knew there was a pretty strong field and that I’m in good form.” Yeager recalled about her chances. “I really wanted the win so I just went from it from the gun. I actually nearly vomited and it was COLD!” said Yeager referring to the 38 degree starting temperature. “This year, they stared us nearly 10 minutes behind the men so it took me 10 miles to find some dudes to work with while the chase women were working together to reel me in. But I managed to stay away.” remembers Yeager. “I never looked back. So hard tho, that last 10 miles….”
Finishing forth, Rare Disease Cycling teammate Stephanie Swan remains in the mix for a high UltraCross Series finish for 2014. Early in the race, last year’s winner Ruth Sherman (Corning No Tubes), Pathfinder of West Virginia’s Nicole Dorinzi, and Swan formed the Selene chase group. “Ruth turned into Lippencote trail ahead of Nicole and me and got a slight lead.” recalled Swan about the first single track test. “I got a gap on Nicole toward the bottom and then I saw a Rare Disease Cycling jersey and a friendly face whiz by – Andrew Dunlap!”
Andrew had flatted at the start of the race and was catching riders quickly. “He towed me back to Ruth’s group on the fast asphalt stretch after Lippencote and paced me all the way to the extended rocky (Wigwam) hike-a-bike section.” recalled Swan of the temporary alliance. “I trudged up the steep trail right behind Ruth, but she hopped on her bike a little faster at the top. The little gap she got, combined with me going slightly off-course heading back onto the gravel road, put just enough distance between us that I could not catch her. She was in my sights until around mile 30 of the 68 mile race.”
Read Stephanie’s full race report here.
RDC’s Mary Boone finished 22nd among the women.
The Open Women’s top-5 consisted of RDC’s Selene Yeager in 1st, Ruth Sherman in 2nd, Katrina Dowidchuk 3rd, RDC’s Stephanie Swan 4th, and Nicole Dorinzi 5th.
Senior Men Over 40
Specialized SRAM rider Garth Prosser made his usual strong Iron Cross appearance by winning the 40+ division and going toe-to-toe in an exciting sprint finish with single speed winner Mike Montalbano. Montalbano won the sprint. Second place went to George Ganoung a multi-time Iron Cross veteran. Nathan Goates was third, Stephan Kincaid forth, and Rob Campbell finished fifth rounding out the top-five.
Past Shenandoah Mountain 100 and Mohican 100 winner in single speed, Toasted Head rider Mike Montalbano showed the Iron Cross field of strong single speed riders that he is still a force to content with in this unusual discipline.
“After playing it super conservative at Shenandoah and Fools Gold, I was ready to throw down at Iron Cross.” recalled Montalbano about his relatively conservative pace he started with during his final two hundred-mile mountain bike races. “I was amped at the start and found myself with a 100 yard gap on the entire field after the prolog loop. Knowing there was a really long downhill to recover on shortly after, I wasn’t worried.” recalled Montalbano about the start.
Montalbano was soon joined by the large front group. A bit of climbing came next followed by the Lippencote trail. “I knew Gerry Pflug had done this race last year. Besides a few people telling me what to expect, I had no clue what was coming up, so when Pflug surged I followed.” remembered Montalbano about the first single track section. “I passed as many as I could because to sit behind someone might mean missing a good wheel on the roads to follow.”
After a few miles on the road section between Lippencote and Wigwam, Montalbano attacked. “I was able to get a small gap on Gerry and held it till the run up on Wigwam. Here I gassed it knowing I could open the lead a bit on the steep run up.” said Montalbano of the separation from the Rare Disease Cycling rider and 5-time NUE single speed champion Pflug. “I made it a point all day to make sure, that if I’m not riding it I’m running, no walking. The rest of the day I continued to push but with an eye over my shoulder. You can’t count a multi time NUE champion out. I never came unglued and even caught quite a few more on the run in to the finish, sprinting it out with Garth Prosser for 5th overall. I had fun on the course and am saddened to hear this is the last Iron Cross at this venue. I’d definitely come back.”
Rare Disease Cycling rider Gerry Pflug finished a tough day in the saddle as the second place single speeder.
“I always look forward to doing Iron Cross. It’s a fun late season endurance race to do and also an important stop on the American Ultra Cross Racing Series.” said Pflug about the race. “After my string of bad luck at the race last year with having two flat tires, I decided to race on my single speed mtb this year, instead of a cross bike. Unfortunately, I had another type of bad luck occur during the race when I was involved in a crash, after being hit by another rider. I suffered some deep road rash and had some hip pain from the crash, but managed to keep pushing hard and finish as the second placed single speed rider. The winner of the single speed race, Mike Montalbano, had an excellent ride and I’m sure he would still taken the win even without my crash. It was a tough day of racing, but still fun to do nevertheless.”
RDC’s Roger Masse, fresh off his 2014 NUE Series win in the Masters division racing geared bikes, contested Iron Cross on his Specialized single speed mountain bike. “I really like racing the single speed. It’s such a different riding experience.” said Masse about his choice of racing category. “I knew with Monty and Gerry in the mix, unless either of them had a major problem, I was racing for 3rd” recalled Masse about his chances. “I was, however, also concerned about Joe’s Bike Shop rider Ethan Frey.”
“My fitness is good right now, so I decided to run harder gearing than I have in past editions.” said Masse about his 36×17 gear choice which was functionally the same as Montalbano’s winning combination of 34×16. “I was able to ride all the same sections as last year… they were just harder.”
By the halfway point, Masse, as he had hoped was in 4th position behind Montalbano, Pflug, and Frey. “I thought it was over, but my luck changed when I passed Ethan on the mid point of the final climb just as he was finishing up a flat tire change.” recalled Masse of the late contest for single speed third. “It’s a hard climb and I was already near my limit. Ethan caught me after 3 or 4 minutes and made his move on one of the steeper pitches. I had no response and had to settle for 4th by 30 seconds.”
The single speed podium consisted of Mike Montalbano in 1st, RDC’s Gerry Pflug 2nd, Ethan Frey 3rd, RDC’s Roger Masse 4th, and Alan Royek in 5th.
Full results here.