DEVENS, Mass. -- The McCormack brothers' reign in cyclocross proved
unimpeachable yesterday, as Frank McCormack of Leicester took the national
championship crown back from younger sibling and Saturn teammate Mark on a fast,
Steve Larsen (Schwinn-Toyota) of Bend, Ore., came in second, sprinting ahead of former espoirs (under-23) champion Jonathan Page (Head Shok-Cannondale) of Northfield, N.H., a McCormack compatriot who used to live in Leicester.
The McCormacks were out front from the start, along with Jonathan Sundt (Redline-JogMate) of Bellevue, Wash., who became an instant crowd-pleaser by riding instead of hoofing it up the steepest run-up and then bunny-hopping the hurdles instead of carrying his bike.
Frank McCormack, 29, opened up a solo gap that would grow to about 30 seconds when he took the same outside line Sundt needed for his stunt. The leader's transition from wheels to feet caused a traffic jam behind him, forcing Sundt to slow down, dismount and scramble up the hill.
"I was just trying to stay in front of him," Frank McCormack said. "I used to take those chances, too, when I was younger; now I just get off and run." McCormack changed bikes at every opportunity -- twice per lap -- to get a mud-free machine that was already in the right gear for the next hill.
Mark McCormack, who lives in North Easton, aided and abetted Frank's escape from Sundt by running up the slope with his bike shouldered sideways in a blocking maneuver.
The crowd, which announcer Richard Fries estimated at more than 3,000, greeted every run-up with cheers and clanging cowbells.
Marc Gullickson (Team GT) of Durango, Colo., briefly spiced up the battle behind Frank McCormack, but only Larsen and Page made it through the Saturn defense, which landed Mark McCormack in fourth place and Bart Bowen (Saturn) of Albuquerqe, N.M., in fifth.
Page's final sprint, putting him one second behind Larsen and one second ahead of Mark McCormack, made up for Page's disappointment Friday in the espoirs race when he blew a tire in the last lap. Tim Johnson (CCB-Volkswagen) of Middleton led a four-man breakaway to win that race, fighting a frosty headwind on the cinder-track backstretch with runner-up Justin Spinelli (NECSA) of Nashua, N.H., falling back and then bridging the gap several times. Page still got on the podium Friday, in fourth place.
Yesterday, Mark McCormack said, Bowen's failure to get up front in the first lap left him in a "kind of awkward" position to protect Saturn's lead. Frank McCormack, who was 1996 national cyclocross champion and also held the national criterium title in 1995 and 1996, "helped me last year, and it's always a privilege to help a teammate," Mark McCormack said.
Mark McCormack, 28, leader of the Saturn SuperCup cyclocross series, said the seventh and final race in the series today, also at Devens but on a different course, is "not sewn up."
Dale Knapp (Control Tech-Kona) of Tacoma, Wash., who was eighth yesterday, "can beat me by one place" for the SuperCup title, Mark McCormack said. "If he wins, I have to get second. If he gets third, I can get sixth" and still win the series. "But I'm going to race tomorrow to win."
Today's racing begins at 10:30 a.m., with the elite men's category starting at 2:15 p.m.
In the women's race yesterday, defending champion Alison Dunlap (Team GT) attacked early on the flat, straight backstretch and stayed ahead of SuperCup series leader Ann Grande (Redline) of Seattle to win. Grande fended off Carmen Richardson (Head Shok-Cannondale) of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Mary Hearn (Polo Sport) of Menlo Park, Calif., to earn second place.
Collegiate, espoirs, junior and masters women were on the course at the same time, with 36-year-old Katie Blincoe (Redline) of Mercer Island, Wash., finishing fifth overall to win two medals: one for the top-5 finish with the elite women and one for first place among masters women 35 and up.
Liz Begosh (NECSA-Richard Sachs) of Providence, a student at Rhode Island School of Design, was also a double medalist, leading both the collegiate and espoirs fields after passing Katherine Greenia (UMass-Amherst) of Northampton and Cori Book (Celestial Seasonings) of Northfield, N.H. Sarah Uhl (NECSA) of Perkasie, Pa., sneaked ahead of Alicia Genest (NECSA-Richard Sachs) of Jamestown, R.I., for the juniors' gold medal.
In the men's masters (45 and up) race, Dan Norton (Redline-JogMate) of Seattle won his fifth consecutive national cyclocross championship, 32 seconds ahead of Mark Hagen (CCB) of Natick. The real battle was for third place, with David Rath (Green Mountain Bike Club) of North Ferrisburg, Vt., edging out Eddie Quinn (Portland Velo Club) of North Yarmouth, Maine, in a sprint to the finish line.
U.S. Cyclocross National Championships
Dec. 20, 1998, at Devens, Mass.
Elite men: 1, Frank McCormack (Saturn), Leicester, Mass., 1:03:48. 2, Steve Larsen (Schwinn-Toyota), Bend, Ore., 1:04:07. 3, Jonathan Page (Head Shok-Cannondale), Northfield, N.H., 1:04:08. 4, Mark McCormack (Saturn), North Easton, Mass., 1:04:09. 5, Bart Bowen (Saturn), Albuquerque, N.M., 1:04:10.
Elite women: 1, Alison Dunlap (Team GT), Colorado Springs, Colo., 40:55. 2, Ann Grande (Redline), Seattle, 41:09. 3, Carmen Richardson (Head Shok-Cannondale), Colorado Springs, 41:26. 4, Mary Hearn (Polo Sport), Menlo Park, Calif., 41:39. 5, Katie Blincoe (Redline-JogMate), Seattle, 42:09.
Collegiate women: 1, Liz Begosh (RISD), Providence, 45:08. 2, Katherine Greenia (UMass-Amherst), Northampton, Mass., 45:44. 3, Heather Peck, 46:44.
Espoirs women: 1, Liz Begosh (NECSA-Richard Sachs), Providence, 45:08. 2, Cori Book (Celestial Seasonings), Northfield, N.H., 46:02. 3, Nicole Reinhart (Shaklee), Topton, Pa., 47:31.
Junior women: 1, Sarah Uhl (NECSA), Perkasie, Pa., 47:33. 2, Alicia Genest (NECSA-Richard Sachs), Jamestown, R.I., 48:19. 3, Allie Warfel (Red Rose Rockets), Millersville, Pa., 49:18.
Masters women (35 and up): 1. Katie Blincoe (Redline-JogMate), Seattle, 42:09. 2, Kathi Riggert (Independent Fabrication), Concord, Mass., 42:43. 3, Jodi Groesbeck (Heart of New England), Sharon, N.H., 43:12.
Masters men (45 and up): 1, Dan Norton (Redline-JogMate), Seattle, 44:40. 2, Mark Hagen (CCB), Natick, Mass., 45:12. 3, David Rath (Green Mountain Bike Club), North Ferrisburg, Vt., 46:23.
Men's "B" race (non-championship): 1, Paul Pontene, 46:29. 2, Scott Plante,
46:36. 3, Sandy Perrins, 46:46.
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