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Saturday, October 31, 2009 -- Morgantown, WV
Marilla Cross - WVCXS Series #3 (iPO Event Id#: 11733)

[Details] [Coverage] [Photos] [Overall Results] [Results by Class]

Record Turnout at Marilla Despite Mud!

Story and photos by J.R. Petsko,

Marilla Cross
Marilla Cross/Natures Essence Photo
On Saturday racers and spectators converged on Marilla Park in Morgantown, West Virginia for the 2nd annual Marilla Cross. The event in its first year had a good turnout of around 50 participants, but no one expected 90 racers to show up on Saturday! Round number three of the WVCXS saw the largest attendance ever for a West Virginia cyclocross race. That fact had everyone pumped all day long.

Race #1 started at 9:30am with a very strong wind but dry and warm temperatures. The start included the Single Speeds, Masters and Women's Open class. Jon Martin (WV Night Club) took the hole shot and early lead but was followed by a pack that included Stephen Rowand (Wamsley Cycle/Team Rowman), Don Powers (Pro Bikes), Montana Miller (Pro Bikes) and series single speed leader Marc Glass (Backyard Bike Club). Mid way though lap number one Martin was pulled back in by the pack and Rowand counter attacked. Rowand, who's first ever cross race was on this very same course one year ago, looked to have made some serious improvement to his cross game after finishing 18th the previous year. His attack looked to be holding. Behind him Powers and Miller were in a battle.

Marilla Cross
Marilla Cross/Natures Essence Photo
Miller, who earned the "Rock Star" award for riding a fixed gear bike in two races, looked strong and was able to just stay ahead of his Pro Bikes teammate. Then Mother Nature decided to show up! The 70 degrees and wind started to change and change fast they did. Rain came. The course had already been a little damp so it did not take long for the circuit to go from not bad to slick!

The condition change did not affect Rowand at all as he took home the victory for his class and the first race overall. Miller rode his fixie to a well deserved second followed by Don Powers in third. Jon Martin was able to hold onto forth just in front of co-race director Marc Glass.

As the single speed boys were duking it out more excitement was going on a little ways behind them. Betsy Shogren (Cannondale Factory Racing/Pathfinder/) was putting rubber to the dirt. Shogren had a slow start and found herself somewhere around mid pack at the beginning but now was moving up and moving up quickly.

Behind her Traci Rodosta (Desire Title/New Orleans Bicycle Club) was looking strong and was holding off Jackie O'Lantern (Chrissy Buerkle/Speedgoat), Ruth Cunningham (Pro Bikes), Laurie Johnston (WV Night Club), Stacie Truszouski (Steel City Endurance) and Rachel Teodori (Steel City Endurance).

It was anyone's race for the final podium spots behind Shogren. As the laps counted down things settled in for the women as Rodosta and O'Lantern looked to have solid holds on second and third respectively. However the final two podium spots were going to go down to the wire. Cunningham was feeling the pain and worked extremely hard on the final lap to take home fourth in the race and was followed just behind by local Laurie Johnston in fifth!

Marilla Cross
Marilla Cross/Natures Essence Photo
For the Men's Masters my money was riding on Kean Bird. The start saw Bird, Bob Vernon, Matt Marcus, Bryan Davis, series leader Fritz Kessler (Breakaway Velo) go away together. However, my prediction was not to come true after Bird received a early first lap flat.

Marcus and Vernon started to pull away from the others and it looked to be a two man race. Vernon is one of those riders that you never know how much they have left in the tank due to his facial expressions never changing. I would hate to play poker against that guy.

Marcus was just barely able to keep Vernon at bay for the class win. Behind them found Bryan Davis in third and Fritz Kessler in fifth. Hats off to Bird who was able to recover after the flat and finish up in fourth place.

As race number two got ready to start, the course had become wet, muddy, slick and fun if you ask me. It was just the kinda conditions you think about when cross racing comes to mind. For this race I was in the action, racing in the Clydesdale/Tandem class. During the same race however the Men's B class would be racing.

The race started at a moderate pace that I found to be manageable. Out front was Men's B riders Duncan Oliver (WVU Cycling), Rob Lochner (Iron City Bikes), Danny Welsh (Western Maryland Wheelmen), Robert Chaney, Scott Benson, Mike Maher and Chris Schott. Oliver and Welsh chose mountain bikes for the race due to the muddy course that was degrading lap by lap while Lochner stayed with the cross bike. The mountain bike gave Oliver an advantage in some of the muddy corners but Lochner would even things up on the flat and road sections of the course. Towards the final laps the muddy course became hysterical in sections.

Marilla Cross
Marilla Cross/Natures Essence Photo
The approach to the "Hill of Death" was as slick as the Mon Ice Rink and a mass of spectators made their way to the section to view the carnage. Oliver, however, seemed to be unfazed by the course and took the class win. Lochner finished second followed by Welsh. Rob Chaney took home forth in the Men's B while Scott Benson finished with an impressive fifth.

In the Clydesdale/Tandem class it saw the Tandems school the Clydesdales. I (J.R. Petsko-Backyard Bike Club)found myself in the lead after the start but it was short lived as those pesky Shogrens and their Cannondale Factory Racing Tandem went flying past me. I was feeling comfortable in second until a mistake in the gravel pit saw the team of Cunningham/Pokrivka (Pro Bikes) go past me as well as well as Rick Plowman. I recover and was feeling good as I passed Plowman and then found myself on the Pro Bikes tandem's rear wheel. Just as I thought I would be able to pass them for second in the class a mechanical! My derailor grabbed a hold of one of the rear spokes and it sent me my flying over the bars. It took what felt like an eternity to get the derailor free of the back wheel and get racing again.

By that time the second place tandem was gone. Behind me Mike Miller was able to get around Plowman and moved himself up into the fourth spot. At the finish it was the Shogrens first, Cunningham/Pokrivka second, me third, Miller fourth, Plowman fifth and Craig Weimer sixth. Most fun I had ever had in a race! Great job guys..

At this point the course was a nightmare of mud that seemed fitting for a Halloween race. Up next it was the main event and the folks with all the horse power, the Men's A race.

Marilla Cross
Marilla Cross/Natures Essence Photo
The field had some super fast East Coast cyclocross names in it like Morgantown's own Gunnar Shogren (Cannondale Factory Racing/Pathfinder/), Gerry Pflug (Speedgoat/SPK), Mike Mihalik (Freddie Fu Cycling Team), Justin Pokrivka (Pro Bikes), Jason Cyr (Regional Cannondale Factory Racing), Chris Mayhew (JVB and don't count out series leader Brad Schmalzer ( There was also some pretty fast local rider lined up at the start like Mike "I'm Not Ryan" Vanderberg, Nate "Ol' school Gunnar" Annon (Pathfinder/Cannondale), Gary Rodosta, Robbie "Shoot 'em up" Loehr, Jacob Brown and Matt Kettering. More fast guys then you can shake a stick at!

The start was super fast and Gerry Pflug wasted no time getting to the front followed by Mihalik. Shogren frond himself in third and was followed closely by Cyr. One lap into the race it looked to be a four horse race out front as they begin to pull away from the other. The once firm ground that we saw at 9am that morning had now become unrecognizable and muddy was everywhere. The traction and but handling was difficult in the easiest spots on the course and in place like the "Hill of Death" it seemed as though it took a super human effort to get to the top. The battle for the lead was just that, a battle.

One lap found Shogren in the lead, the next Pflung, and then Mihalik and so on. At about the mid way point things started to widen even more throughout the field and even in the lead group. Pflug and Mihalik had a gap on Shogren and the gap increased even more when Shogren was forced to stop and remove a layer of clothing due to overheating. This then allowed Cyr to take over the third spot.

Some riders knew they were out of contention for the day and just had fun with it. Matt Kettering failed on one attempt to make the "Hill of Death" and after he slide all the way to the bottom proceeded to put on a break dancing show for the crowd. Nice moves there Matt.

Vanderberg, Annon and Brown where all seen taking drink at the beer stop at the top of the "HOD". Then all of a sudden no more time for games, LAST LAP! Out front Pflug looked to have made the move for the win when a a slight error allowed Mihalik to slip by for the win. Pflug however still finished with a strong second. Shogren, even though it took a few laps, was able to cool down his body temperature and get back around Cyr for the third podium place. Cyr held onto fourth ahead of Justin Pokrivka.

I have said it once and I will say it again. Best time I have ever had at a bike race. My hat goes off to Gary and Marc for all their hard work. It sure showed. Thanks to all the volunteers and the SPECTATORS. You guys brought the event to another level.

Next up on the WVCXS schedule is my very own race, the Blackwater Cyclocross on Nov. 14th in Davis, WV. You can register on line now at and the first 40 preregistered get FREE messenger bags from Endura!

Ps ... the West Virginia Cyclocross Standings have been updated.