Photos by AE Landes.
Cole House (616 Fabrications) and Ruth Sherman (Corning/NoTubes/Swan Cycles) won the Stan’s NoTubes Foundry Cycles Iron Cross bike race in Michaux State Forest, Pennsylvania, on Sunday. In its 11th year, Iron Cross delivered an epic 68-mile day of endurance cyclocross racing over gravel roads, rocky singletrack, ATV trails and pavement. Racers competed in perfect trail and weather conditions, with sunny skies and comfortable temperatures all day.
Racing in his first-ever ultra ‘cross race, House made two decisions that helped him toward victory: he previewed several sections of the course, and he decided to race a mountain bike.
“I had no idea what to expect. I have never done this race, said House. I came out early to ride a couple sections, and I actually drove the road sections. That paid off big time. There was so much climbing – if you don’t know how long it is mentally, you can kind of give up. If you know where you are, it’s a big advantage.”
House opted for his mountain bike upon the advice of others. “Some said it was pretty rocky. On the road sections, ‘cross bikes had a bit of an advantage, but you could draft and not do too much work. Racing my mountain bike was how I got my gap for the win – on the trails. I knew that was where I had to push it.”
The course began with a rocky prologue loop before heading out for the first of two different, much longer loops. House got a good start, but after backing it off the pace of the initial leaders, he ended up making a wrong turn during the first singletrack section. As he realized his mistake and made the correction, two groups of top riders passed, and he had some work to do to catch back up on the next road section.
House regained the leaders heading into the infamous hike-a-bike section, where the decisive split would occur.
“When they had said ‘run-up’, I was thinking we were going to run up a little rocky hill. Instead, we ran up a cliff. That was shocker,” said House, who had not previewed that portion of the course.
A group of four, including House’s teammate Mike Simonson (616 Fabrications), Cole Oberman (Breakaway Bikes.com/The Gunshow v2.0) and Adam Farabaugh (Garneau-Quebecor Pro Cycling Team) emerged as the leaders after the grueling hike-a-bike and the subsequent aid station #1. They worked well together for a bit to keep their advantage, but the repeated, hard climbing was still to come after the half-way point following aid station #2.
Oberman pushed the pace on the climbs and got away. Only Farabaugh could bridge up to him, while House and Simonson suffered a bit behind them. House was climbing better than Simonson, but held back briefly with the initial hope that he and his teammate could work together to reel in Oberman and Farabaugh.
“Mike was suffering, and I knew the descent, so I went for it and I caught them just before Bunker Hill Road,” said House, who made his move on his two rivals in the second major singletrack section of the day. Although it was not as rocky as earlier singletrack, several logs and a steep climb made the section more challenging for those on ‘cross bikes.
“I just popped over those logs,” said House. “That’s where a mountain bike really paid off, and I got a gap of a minute there over the other two. From there, I went all out.”
Alone at the front, House was surprised to see Farabaugh later in the race after the Farabaugh had missed a turn.
“From then on, it was damage control, and I knew I had a good chance of winning,” said House, who finished in 3:59:52. “I didn’t want to blow up or lose it in the last part. I rode my pace and made sure no one was catching me, and I pulled off a win.”
Behind House, Brian Toone (Friends of the Great Smokies-FGS Cycling) was making spectacular forward-progress up through the field. Toone was with the leaders on the prologue, but got dropped on the first technical descent of the first big loop. “I accidentally came unclipped and couldn’t get back in, and so I had to run down one of the descents.”
Toone chased with Masters 40+ eventual winner Ron Glowczynski (BikeFlights.com) to catch leaders just before the hike-a-bike. By the top, he had made a four-man chase group just behind the four-man lead group.
“I ended up on the big climb thinking I should go as hard as possible because I’m not as good on the singletrack, so I went as hard as I could and left the guys I was with,” said Toone. “From there until the end, I was by myself, and I ended up catching three of the lead guys to take second. It was fun. I loved it. The ATV trails were so fun on the descents. It was so fast.” Toone finished 3:08 after House.
Oberman, Nathan Goates (Round Here Racing) and Simonson rounded out the top five.
Michaux local Cheryl Sornson (Team CF) was off to a fast start with teammate Selene Yeager hot on her heels. However, Sornson flatted on a gravel descent early in the first half of the race.
“One of those sharp shale pieces caught my tire and cut it almost in half,” said Sornson. “Fortunately I had a number plate from my last race that was Tyvek, so I was able to boot it. It was still sticking out, but I was able to limp back about 10 miles into aid station #2.”
When Sornson flatted, Yeager took over the lead, but while racing with a group of men, she went off course. “Right before we were going to come toward aid station #2, we asked a moto which way, and he said straight so we went straight. We went four miles off course,” said Yeager. “I didn’t see the arrows – I will own it, I’m bad at that. I had good legs today from the time I woke up this morning, so I was disappointed.”
With favorites Sornson and Yeager no longer in front, Stephanie Swan (Team CF) was in the lead until Ruth Sherman caught and passed her.
“I had about 30 seconds and I did my best to stay away, but Ruth had the better climbing legs and caught up around mile 50. She continued at a fast pace and got away from me at mile 60. I left it all out there and rode as well as I could,” said Swan.
Sherman was in the lead, but she didn’t know it until she finished.
“Somebody told me Cheryl was out, but I had no idea about Selene, so I assumed I was in second or third most of the way,” said Sherman. “I was by myself a lot which always makes me nervous because I’m afraid I might go off course. I did the race four or five years ago, but it was a different course.”
Carla Williams (Joe’s Bike Shop Racing Team) and Swan chased Sherman.
“I was pretty much by myself until right at the end,” said Williams. “I was riding in third until near the end when I passed Swan and came up on Ruth near the finish, at the end of that last climb.”
Williams rode most of the race in her small front chain ring, after breaking her front derailleur on the prologue. “I could get up all the hills ok; it’s just that some of the straight aways were a little tough,” she said.
Swan finished in a time of 4:49:07. “My race was long and grueling and a little luck played into it with the top two women having issues, but I’ll take it.”
“It was a fun course with a difficult finish,” said Sherman.
Sornson was able to get a new tire from neutral support at aid station #2. Not knowing that Yeager had gone off course, Sornson was surprised to see her rolling into the aid station as she was about to roll out. The two teammates paired up to begin an epic chase.
“She and I rode together to work and work. We were kind of with each other and kind of against each other, and we almost caught the top girls, but it wasn’t enough. Selene was on fire today – she was climbing awesome.”
Yeager rolled in for fourth place, less than two minutes off third and just over five minutes off first. Sornson was fifth.
Daniel Rapp (Toasted Head Racing) won the singlespeed men’s category in 4:19:54, ahead of Gerry Pflug (Team CF) and Stephan Kincaid (SSCXWC13Philly and Stan’s NoTubes)
“Today’s race went well,” said Rapp. “I was apprehensive about the race and changed my gearing at about 6:00 am this morning to make it a little harder. I think it paid off. The gear hurt, but it was ultimately the right decision.” Rapp switched from a 36×18 to a 36×17.
“Unfortunately, some of my competition had some rough luck, so I capitalized on that,” said Rapp.
One pre-race favorite, Gerry Pflug, flatted early in the race, though later rode himself back into second place.
Another favorite, Kincaid, crashed hard on a fast descent. “Thirty miles in, I realized there were just five of us. Figuring out who was where, I turned around to look and a hit a pothole and flew off my bike just before we got to aid station #2,” said Kincaid, who cracked his helmet, briefly blacked out and initially felt a little dizzy after the incident before he collected himself enough to decide to keep racing.
“My biggest disappointment about the whole thing was that I crashed Madison Matthews (The Bicycle Shop / MBR / Maxxis), who won the U25 category at the Trans-Sylvania Epic,” said Kincaide. “A top 10 result for him would have been great for his resume.”
Kincaid went on to finish third. Matthews, who crashed into Kincaid, broke his bike and had to withdraw from the race.
Matt Ferrari (FreezeThawCycles) and Roger Masse (Team CF) rounded out the top five.
Masters 40+ Men
Racing his fifth Iron Cross, Ron Glowczynski won the Masters 40+ category.
“With the new course, I had no idea what to expect. It was all the same elements, just mixed up in different orders. The last section was tough, said Glowczynski. Everything for the later part of the race was all new. There was a lot of climbing back up to the finish.”
Glowczynski worked his way into the lead by picking off the three men who were in front of him. Once he got to the front, he decided to play it conservative and race his strengths.
The last man he caught was Garth Prosser (Specialized Factory Racing/ Ashford Surgical/ Pura Vida Adv), who had stopped to change a flat tire.
“When I caught Garth, I was feeling good. He was maybe three or four minutes into his flat change, and I thought, ‘Well, he’s my best friend, so I guess I’m going to have to go for it.’ I stayed away. I really like descending, and I just let it go on the descents.”
Glowczynski finished ahead of Jesse Kelly (Team CF) in second, Alec Petro (Corner Cycle) in third and Jake Wade (Toasted Head) in fourth. George Ganoung (ABRT) was fifth.
Summing up the day of racing, Glowczynski said, “I enjoyed the race – regardless of the fact that I won. It was different – they changed things up a little bit. It’s always fun to come out and do this race.”
- Cole House (616 Fabrications) 3:59:52
- Brian Toone (Friends of the Great Smokies (FGS Cycling)) 4:03:00
- Cole Oberman (Breakaway Bikes/The Gunshow v2.0) 4:04:44
- Nathan Goates (Round Here Racing) 4:09:16
- Michael Simonson (616 Fabrications) 4:10:47
- Ruth Sherman (Corning/NoTubes/Swan Cycles)4:49:08
- Carla Williams (Joe’s Bike Shop Racing Team) 4:49:09
- Stephanie Swan (Team CF) 4:52:35
- Selene Yeager (Team CF) 4:54:12
- Cheryl Sornson (Team CF)4:56:23
- Dan Rapp (Toasted Head) 4:19:54
- Gerry Pflug (Team CF) 4:30:18
- Stephan Kincaid (SSCXWC13Philly and Stan’s NoTubes) 4:32:07
- Matt Ferrari (Freeze Thaw Cycles) 4:35.26
- Roger Masse (Team CF) 4:38:08
Masters 40+ Men
- Ron Glowczynski (BikeFlights.com) 4:11:44
- Jesse Kelly (Team CF) 4:16:15
- Alec Petro ( Corner Cycle) 4:16:53
- Jake Wade (Toasted Head) 4:18:16
- George Ganoung (ABRT) 4:21:57