35+ Category Preview: Rich Is Man To Beat.
Damn. Those old guys are fast.
The Masters 35+ field is among the most competitive across the board in Florida Cyclocross. While one racer was able to walk away with the overall series title last season, there were quite a few competitors who showed up and had to fight tooth and nail for their spot on the podium. Often the 35+ category racers find themselves in the hunt for the overall win in the 60 minute “A” race as they are coupled with the Category 1/2s. In short, these guys are among the fastest in the state.
That is how one can best describe the 2011/12 FLCX Season of Jack Rich (Infinity Bike Shop). In ten starts last season Rich took the top step seven times. These victories were often by a margin of one minute or more over the second place finisher and he also found himself in the hunt for the overall race podium with the 1/2s on several occasions. To further illustrate his domination, Rich was able to forgo the last race of the season and compete as a cat1/2 to help his teammate Chris Slack (Infinity) secure the cat1/2 FLCX Series Championship.
Jack Rich takes a bottle on his way to victory in the 35+ last year in Orlando. (Photo: Michelle Blake)
Will Timonere Show?
Only one racer was able to top Rich more than once last season and that was Tony Timonere (Top Gear Bicycles). A fixture on the mountain bike scene where he often places among the top in solo competitions, as well as, in co-ed events with his partner, Tracey Wallace (Top Gear Bicycles). Timonere was able to beat Rich at Kelby CX in Tampa and on the second day of Swamp Cross in Gainesville. Timonere opted to go for the State Championships in the cat3s last season and came up just short with a second place finish. This totals up to three races entered and two firsts and a second for the effort.
Timonere has been on Twitter and Facebook discussing his desire to do more races this upcoming season, and if this is the case we may see a real tight battle for the 35+ series title in 2012/13.
352 Racing Sandwich.
Week in and week out two of the most consistent racers in the 35+ category were Ben Smith and Graham Partain of 352 Racing. Smith capitalized on absences of Rich to take wins twice last season on Day 2 of Tally Cross and the season finale in Orlando. Both wins showed the speed and capability of Smith, a former NORBA National Mountain Bike Pro, who returned to racing last year after almost 10 years off the bike. While Smith was able to taste victory in 2011/12, Partain managed to deploy his diesel engine to feature on several occasions and was often times biting at the heels of Smith. If the 352 Racing Old Timers are able to keep it up for this season we could see a real challenge to Rich’s superiority in the 35+ category.
Will the final podium shuffle in 2012/13? (Photo: Michelle Blake)
Atkins and Company
The efforts of Scott Atkins (Gearlink) should not go unnoticed. Just a year shy of entering the 45+ Category, Atkins managed to pull of a strong 4th place finish in the series last season, just 10pts shy of the podium. A fixture at almost every race last season Atkins will be a huge contributor for Gearlink in the team trophy competition.
You may notice that Jack Rich lost three times in 2011/12. Timonere beat him twice, but who managed to top Rich at the State Championships? Kevin Hofmann (unattached) was the man and he is very well known in local mountain bike circles as one of the strongest around. If Hofmann decides to show up for some races this season, who knows what is going to happen.