Mid-Atlantic cyclocross has, over the past decade, become synonymous with Druid Hill Park in Baltimore and an early appointment with Charm City Cross and the MAC Series. Rather than its traditional early-September date, which generally offered heat and humidity, the 2015 iteration of Charm City was raced under cooler, and most would say, more pleasant conditions given the new mid-October date. With some 1600 racers tackling the tough course, made soggy and slow by Friday evening thunderstorms, it was sure to be an exciting day of competitive racing.
Having raced many past iterations of Charm City, it’s been great to see the course evolve over the past two years, with the helpful tutelage of Stef Wyman, to include a flyover, a forced stair run-up, and more elevation gain. With UCI C2 points on offer for the top-10 finishers in both the men’s and women’s elite field, there were very deep fields present in Baltimore to take on the queen of Mid-Atlantic cyclocross.
On the women’s side it was Emma White (Cyclocrossworld.com Devo Team) who lept out to an early lead and never looked back. As she increased her lead each lap, the battle behind her for the podium boiled down to a three rider battle between Kathryn Cumming (Cyclocross Magazine Racing), Brittlee Bowman (House Industries/Withings/SimpleHuman) and the Mid-Atlantic’s own Arley Kemmerer (Level Eleven Racing p/b PB2).
Over the course of the 40 minute race, Kemmerer drove the pace in the chasing trio, which really consolidated their efforts with about 3 laps to go. At that juncture, each of the three riders began to launch probing attacks, testing the limits of their respective competitors, but ultimately it was Cumming who eked out a small gap over Bowman on the climb to the Druid Hill Park mansion house. By the time she dropped down across the pavement, headed for the sand pit, there was daylight between her and Bowman. Despite being the primary engine in the chase to bridge the gap to White, Kemmerer faded to fourth, an unfortunate result given she had never finished off the podium at Charm City. The ride of the day, however, probably goes to Bowman who landed her first ever UCI podium in an inspired ride.
The men’s race had 68 riders toeing the line in the continuation of a trend towards large UCI-rated races on the East Coast thus far into the 2015-2016 season. After a crash-marred start, which immediately strung out the field as they made their way towards the mansion house steps, it was clear that today’s racing was going to be fast given the continually drying course. From the first-person perspective of someone taking on their first UCI-rated race in a decade, today’s race was a sufferfest for everyone. Given the large number of riders ostensibly racing against themselves, or small groups of two to three, and with only a third of starters finishing on the lead lap, this was clearly the case.
After seeing the Emma White show in the women’s race, it was her brother, Curtis White (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld) who was looking to stamp his authority on the men’s race.
A group of three quickly formed at the front with White, Travis Livermon (MOB Pro CX) and Cameron Dodge (unattached) separating themselves from a chasing group of Ben Frederick (BeyondCX), Anthony Clark (Squid Bikes), Cole Oberman (RareDiseaseCycling.org) and Justin Lindine (Apex/NBX/Trek). In a race that saw an extremely quick pace and aggressive racing, the leading trio never stopped to look around or ask for help taking a pull, instead they put their heads down and drove the race. As riders faded, it became increasingly clear that the winner would emerge from the quartet of White, Livermon, Dodge and a resurgent Frederick, who was picking off riders every lap, working towards a great result and building on a successful trip up to the NECX for Holy Week.
As the bell rang for one to go, Dodge went to the front over the barriers, and as the group hit the bottom of the team tent row, he put in a big acceleration. This served to momentarily dislodge Livermon who chased back to his wheel as they went up towards the back half of the course and the mansion house. Over the flyover the group was mostly together, but as they crossed the pavement and headed for the sand pit, it was White’s turn to take to the front, with Livermon on his wheel. Making his way around the planter box dismount in the lead, White was able to be first wheel as the group turned on to the pavement for the last 100 meters to the finish. In a rare near-photo finish, it was White who barely edged Livermon for the top step. Dodge picked up third by putting some daylight between himself and Frederick. Rounding out the top-5 was Anthony Clark who, despite a late-race mechanical, did not freak out, but rather managed to salvage a solid result.
With nearly identical fields on tap for Sunday, look for more tactical racing given that the course will be reversed, offering up greater elevation gain on the climb up towards the mansion house.