July 16th, 2015 by Marie Dershem
The Kalamazoo race weekend has it all. The weekend starts with a fantastic cycling clinic, run by TEAM OAM NOW/Athletic Mentors, on Friday evening, which leads into Saturday’s fast and fantastic Miller Energy BTR Criterium (also the State Championship Criterium for the Juniors, Women and Masters men), which energizes riders and spectators alike for the final event of the weekend, an incredibly fun and an beautiful road race to benefit the Make A Wish Foundation.
The weekend was filled with so many fantastic races, it is hard to know where to begin. TEAM OAM NOW/Athletic Mentors team members had several podium finishes, but as always, with TEAM OAM NOW, the podium spots truly belong to the entire team working together to put the individual on the podium.
A perfect example is the CAT 4 Women’s team. At the BTR Criterium Jenny Steketee, a fantastic rider with an ever- growing resume of top finishes, taught Elaine Sheikh how to work together in a race situation. It was Elaine’s first criterium. Going into the race, they had a strategy. Jenny, who is a fantastic sprinter and strong rider, knew she could get away from the field. Elaine, a triathlete, has the horse power to stay away from the field. Both riders worked together with Jenny sprinting away from the field early in the race and Elaine hopping on her wheel and working with Jenny to stay away. Trading pulls, they gained a huge lead and easily took first and second in the women’s CAT 4 State Championship Criterium. In Sunday’s road race, they welcomed triathlete Kaitlyn Patterson to the team’s arsenal. Knowing Kailtyn’s time trial ability, they knew she take off on her own out front and time trial the race to a win. Jenny, a sprinter extraordinaire, knew she had the skills to win the field sprint. Elaine had the job of following Jenny’s wheel, preventing anyone from jumping on and attempting to outsprint her. This scenario played out perfectly with Kaitlyn taking the win out front and Jenny taking second place in the field sprint.
The Women’s CAT Pro 1/2/3 Criterium race had TEAM OAM NOW/ Athletic Mentors teammates Marie Dershem and JoAnn Cranson mixing up the field. The race started early with 2 women off the front. JoAnn led the chase, organizing the field into a chase that heightened the pace, but did not reel them in. A few more women attacked and attempted to bring the break back into the group. Marie hopped on a wheel that lead one of the chases. After catching the break, Marie and the three other women worked together to increase the gap. But, after a few pulls, two of the women fell off and the break contained Marie and a Wolverine team rider, Kristen. These two women worked together to build their lead. After a few laps. Professional rider, Janelle Cole, bridged up to the break and the three women worked together to eventually lapped the field. Meanwhile, JoAnn was involved in a crash and, unfortunately, broke her collarbone. With 3 laps to go, Janelle attacked the break and Marie and Kristen were unable to respond. Janelle took the PRO 1/2 State Championship leaving Marie and Kristen with a sprint finish. Marie ended up with a 2nd place podium finish in the CAT 1/2 category.
The following day, Marie found herself without a teammate for the Race for the Wishes Road Race due JoAnn’s unfortunate crash. She also, however, found herself standing next to Kristen again. Knowing each other’s ability to break away and stay away, it took only a glance for an alliance to form. Marie and Kristen looked at each other at the start line, nodded, and knew the plan. With this 3 lap race, they had the opportunity to test the field on the first lap and determine the best place to break away. Marie chose the first hard hill and on that second lap. She jumped on the hill and Kristen hopped on her wheel. The two rode away from the field to build a 4 minute lead by the end of the 53 mile race. This brought Marie and Kristen to familiar territory… a 2 person sprint finish… just like at BTR Criterium. Marie determined that her best bet would be to let Kristen lead them both into the last corner and up toward the finish. Kristen did an excellent job of trying to drop Marie off her wheel in the final straight-away, but Marie held it. As they neared the finish line, Marie came out from behind Kristen’s wheel the real sprint began. At the line, neither Marie nor Kristen knew who had won… it was truly a photo finish. Soon, the timer announced that Kristen had crossed the line before Marie and Marie took second… what a finish!
The Kalamazoo Race Weekend saw a full turnout for the masters 55+ squad with all 7 racers toeing the line for the BTR Ctiterium on Saturday and the Maple Hill Race for wishes on Sunday. Due to the early start time for the masters 55+ criterium, many of us were up at 4:30AM to make the trip to Kalamazoo, get registered, warm up and be ready to race at 8:00. This was the first crit in the 55s for new team members Leonard VanDrunen, Larry Strayhorn and Steve Buccella but nonetheless everyone rode like veterans and did an excellent job of chasing breaks and keeping the field intact. All were very much in the mix throughout the race and were there as the sprint wound up heading into the last turn and onto the finishing stretch. Though we finished off the podium, it was a successful effort and a good learning experience for our newer racers. It was especially rewarding to have Dave Stebbins and Glenn Dik back racing with us after their successful efforts at the National 24 Hour Challenge in June.
On Sunday, a large 55+ field containing all the best masters racers in Michigan lined up for the Maple Hill Race for Wishes. At 1:00PM all 7 team members rolled out for what turned out to be an eventful first lap. We expected the attacks to start in earnest on the second of three laps but instead, Dan Hofstra and Craig Webb lit it up the first time up the hill at 4 miles and put in an attack the the field was not able to reel in. Our guys spent a majority of time at the front with huge pulls being taken by Leonard VanDrunen, Dave Stebbins and Glenn Dik among others. A lack of cooperation from the rest of the field combined with a massive effort from the two leaders doomed the chase and by the end of lap one we were all racing for third place.
Lap two was relatively uneventful with Bill Gilboe attempting a doomed solo break and the field rolling through the start/finish together. A bad strategy decision by team captain Mike Krywanski caused our squad to miss a break by a small group midway through the last lap and at that point, all the podium places were up the road. Coming into the finish, Leonard led around the last corner with Mike leading out the sprint for Steve and Loren who both came around and finished at the front of the main field. It was disappointing to miss the podium when several of our riders were clearly capable of making the break but again, we plan to learn from our mistakes. It was however, a great race and a great racing weekend.
The Masters 45+ were out in full force this past weekend fielding 4 riders at BTR and 5 at the Race for Wishes. Strongman Chris Abston was out with an injury and Jon Morgan made his return to racing after a lengthy recovery from a ski racing injury so the squad is in a rebuilding mode as they shift the focus to other riders. At BTR this put all the pressure on team all-rounder Rich Landgraff, Terry Ritter, and perennial worker Mike Wyzalek.
The BTR 45+ race had a stacked field of about 40 riders and the pace was consistently fast. No breaks were successful so it came down to a field sprint with the team focused on neutralizing late flyers by other teams – Terry and Mike had worked a lot during the course of the race so Jon chased down a last lap flyer by series leader Mike Gardiniak which was also an effort to string out the field and give Rich room to get into sprint position. Unfortunately, in the bend on the back side of the course a rider missed the corner and rode off the course onto the grass. The 6 riders coming up the outside including Rich were forced out onto the grass through a team tent in a giant ball of flying dust and grass. Rich emerged mostly unscathed with a bruised foot, but the placing for OAM was gone for the day.
At the Race for Wishes Mark Olson came off the bench to ride in place of Abston and the team rode to counter a lot of breaks until the right one formed for Rich. Mark’s deep experience showed and the team rose well throughout the race. The group was weary by the last lap after covering many attacks and Rich went it alone through the final climbs in hopes of making it to the downhill into Lawton or to be joined by a good break partner. The race came together before Lawton and the squad set up for a field sprint. Mark took Rich to the front through the final corner and Jon took the inside and jumped early. Both efforts were placed well, but the distance to the line was too long and both were swarmed before the line. As this squad gels we expect great finishes in the latter part of the season.
The Men’s Pro 1/2 field raced two long races, starting a 70 minute criterium on Saturday and enduring a 106 mile road race on Sunday. The men’s elite team rode incredibly well at the BTR criterium. With the absence of our star sprinter Cory Stange and TT specialist Alex Vanias, the team had a lighter representation than the norm. The plan was to keep throwing attacks and get any of TEAM OAM NOW/Athletic Mentor’s four riders in the break. After several good punches by every one teammate, Pete Ehman found his way to a move late in the race that took him to the line. Amazingly enough, Pete had only decided to race the morning of the race due to an injury that he received from a spectacular crash two weeks ago at the Herman Miller Crit. In the end, Pete landed just off the podium in 4th place with his teammates, Collin Snyder, Dan Yankus, and Chris Gottwald placing mid-pack. The following day, the team rode incredibly strong for the 106 mile road race. With attacks and breaks throughout, the race was exhausting. Dan Yankus was able to break away with a few others and landed a podium spot in 3rd place. Teammates, Collin Snyder, Pete Ehman and Alex Vanias ended 7th, 13th and 14th.
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