If you’re a cross country racer living in the mid-atlantic, you have probably done the Greenbrier Challenge at some point. This USA Cycling event is a stop on the AMBC & MARC Series and also serves as the Maryland State Championship Race. Greenbrier State Park in Boonsboro MD has been the venue of choice for race promotor James Carlson and the Potomac Velo Club for many years. The course is rocky enough to make you consider full suspension but with 800 feet of climbing per lap, a light hardtail is also a popular choice.

I hadn’t raced Greenbrier in several years due to conflicts with National Ultra Endurance Series events. Fortunately, the 2011 edition appeared on a free weekend. With 400 preregistered riders, I threw my hat in the ring with fellow Crew members Daniel Atkins and Mike Keefer. I chose the 22 pound Superfly Elite. It’s a bike I’m very comfortable on in all but the nastiest of terrain. It’s stiff and light and really likes to roll.

I line up with the Cat 1 50-59 men. With me is Trek Co-op rider Dennis Boyle and two guys who’ve been on the podium at USAC Cyclocross Nationals, Jim Bronson and Randy Root. There’s also a guy from Dirty Harry, Charles Patterson whom I know nothing about. In the Cat 1 woman’s group just ahead of us has Betsy Shogren from Dynamic Physical Therapy, Nicole Thieman from Team CF and Misty Tilson of Shenandoah MTN Touring. Just ahead of them is a scary looking group of fast 40-49 year old Cat 1s including Gunnar Shogren riding single speed, 2011 MABRA Cross 45+ masters champion Ron Heubner, Scott RC rider Jay Dodge, Mountainside racing rider Mike Laub, Indy Fab rider Mark The Elk Elsasser and my friend and Bike Doctor rider Bill Marciniak. This group will be doing 4 laps to our 3. My strategy is to catch as many from this group as possible. With only three laps, my race is essentially a long cross race. I plan on pretty much going all out for the first hour. This is going to hurt.

Bang! I drill it like the start of a cross race and capture the hole shot. I feel a rider on my wheel so I don’t let up standing half way up the first climb staying in the big ring heart rate soaring. Over the top on the descent with the water bars, I loft my bike over each one since I’m not sure how slippery they are. As I hit the first trail with rocks I’m surprised at how slick everything is. I’m bouncing all over the place! All the rain had stopped a few days before but all the bike tracks had engraving a damp path through the popular line. I catch and pass a couple of woman from the woman’s field right in front of us and get on the wheel of Misty Tilson right before the rock garden to catch my breath. Misty rides it all well and in control, not super fast but solid. She lets me by at the end and I hear “Oh It’s you!” as I ride through. I pass the rest of the woman including the leader Betsy before the first climb.  Betsy encourages me.

I catch and pass Ron Heubner near the top of the first climb. He was absolutely unbeatable in the 2010 mabra cyclocross races. Either his fitness is way down or he’s having a bad day. At the bottom of the downhill ending the first lap, I catch Chris McGill who also seems like he’s having a bad day. I try to encourage him as others have done for me.

By the start of the 2nd lap I see my ex-teammate Trek rider and winner of the Marathon category earlier in the day Jeff Schalk. His time on his 8th and penultimate lap was still faster than my first one! He’s yelling at me to go harder, so I do and catch my friend Mike Buchness on the first climb. He issues some words of encouragement as I go by. After the water bar downhill till just before the rock garden I ride and chat with my old friend Bill Marciniak. After the rock garden, I see Darren Biggs from the DC MTB Team who’s racing in the 35-39 category. He’s also encouraging me. Up the climb I see Jason Berry from Gripped Racing. He’s riding strong. It takes an extra effort to get by. I encourage him, but it comes out in whispered gasps. On the last climb of lap two I catch Elk who doesn’t seem to be having a good day.

By the start of the last lap, I start to feel some chinks in the armor. My surge is slowing. The rocks are slowing me down more. Up the big climb for the last time I catch Jay Dodge who seems surprised to see me, but is effusive with praise. I ride by him but he latches on indicating that Mike Laub is right up ahead. I can’t seem to close in on Mike. The legs just won’t cooperate. Up the final climb, Jay passes me back along with one of his Scott RC teammates. I keep him tethered.

As we take the turn heading for the final descent I’m right behind Jay. I see Mike Laub on the side of the trail with a flat. Bad luck my friend. You were having a great ride! I’m also able to pass back Jay and his teammate with a fortuitous momentum pass on the rollers leading up to the nasty part of the descent.

I finish 3 laps in 1:24:11 good enough for the win in my category and the honor of having the fastest time for all 3-lap races for the day. Sweet! Dan Atkins finished right behind Patrick Blair for 2nd place single speed and the 3rd fastest 3-lap time of the day. And super star Mike Keefer not only won the Cat-1 30-34 category, but also had the fastest 4-lap time of the day. Way to go Crew!

Superfast Nick Can’t Wait riding for Pro Tested Gear won the Pro Men in 2:04:47 for 5 laps. It looks like he had the fastest lap also at 23:17. Smokin’ ! Subaru Trek Fisher rider Matt Bailey took second honors only a minute back. Team CFs Brandon Draugelis followed in 3rd 30 seconds later. My buddy Wes Schempf was fast enough for 4th. Super heros!

Hats off to Gerry Pflug who continued his winning ways capturing the 40-44 category on a geared bike for a change. Chris Scott was 5 minutes behind but good enough for 2nd in that category. Chris Beck of Team CF was 2nd place Marathoner with 8 laps behind the Schalkinator with 9. Gunnar Shogren won the 45-49 category on single speed. Well done my young friend! Team CF rider Carolyn Popovic finished 2:34 behind Kathleen Harding in the pro woman. Betsy won the Cat 1 30-39 ladies with Nicole Thiemann 2nd. Nicely done!

The battle for a podium spot in my category the 50-59 men continued to the end when Charles Patterson ended up passing Denny Boyle during the final descent to take 2nd. Congratulations to both of you.

Next up, June 3rd, the Mohican 100. See you there.


One Response to “Greenbrier”

  1. JR Petsko Says:

    Good stuff Roger.. Was nice seeing ya again!

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