LEICESTER -- Defending champion Jan Wiejak of Washington, N.Y., churned and skidded his way to a second national cyclocross title yesterday at Leicester High School.
New England favorite Mark McCormack of Plymouth, racing for the first time in a Saturn jersey, started out ahead in the National Cyclocross Championships, but lost the lead to Wiejak after losing tire traction a few times too many in the deepening snow. McCormack will join his older brother Frank, who placed sixth yesterday, on the Saturn professional road cycling team next season.
Wiejak, a former Polish national team member, said the slippery conditions slowed down everyone in the 157-man field. McCormack "makes a pretty good gap," he said. "I just tried to go very steady. The first three laps, I crashed three or four times. I think every rider crashed."
Mark McCormack said he and his brother were up until 11 the night before the race at Frank's house in Leicester modifying his shoes with metal toe spikes. "I had no trouble running up the hills," he said. "It was the tires sliding on the corners. If you could have had studded tires, you would have been OK today."
In the women's race, Jan Bolland (Volvic) of Boulder, Colo., led from the start, bumping last year's champion Shari Kain (Ritchey) of Half Moon Bay, Calif., to second place.
Bolland, who started her racing career in New Hampshire, said the hard part of yesterday's race was "to try to ride a little less aggressively" to maintain control on slick parts of the course, which snaked around and between three school buildings. "I opted to get off and run it over by the tennis courts by the middle school," she said.
Damon Kluck (Bontrager) of Eureka, Calif., stayed out front and finished first in the juniors' race but was disqualified for having a gear larger than the 94-inch maximum. The restriction, for juniors, is meant to encourage developing riders to spin, not hammer, although 'cross racers rarely if ever use such big gears, said U.S. Cycling Federation district representative Tom Vinson. The USCF has already voted out the rule for next year.
The disqualification left the gold medal to Tim Johnson (CCB) of Middleton, who led this year's New England cyclocross points series. Phillip Breton of Wells, Maine, got second place, and Joshua Thornton (Eurotek) of Providence was third.
Matt Van Enkevort (Control Tech/Gregg's) of Kirkland, Wash., sprinted past Larry Hibbard (Ritchey) of Santa Cruz, Calif., on a snow-greased sidewalk in the home stretch to win the masters' race, first of the day. Tom Masterson (World TEAM) of Fairlee, Vt., who won in 1993 and 1994, placed third.
Van Enkevort said his toe spikes made up for the edge that mountain bike tires gave Hibbard. After Hibbard reeled him in, passed him and widened the gap when Van Enkevort slid into some trees, Van Enkevort said he told himself, "I didn't fly all the way out here to come in second," and gave it all he had.
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