Worcester, Mass.
June 15, 1997

McCormack gunning for CoreStates

By Lynne Tolman

   Saturn is gunning for the CoreStates USPRO Championship today <June 15> in Philadelphia, and all eyes are on Frank McCormack of Leicester to win the national road racing crown.
   McCormack, 28, already has three starts-and-stripes jerseys.  He won the national criterium title in 1995 and 1996 and the cyclocross title last December.  With no Tour Du Pont this year, the CoreStates championship is the top race on the American pro circuit, its $117,810 prize list the largest one-day purse in the world.  The winner gets $25,000.
   McCormack got everyone's attention last Sunday by winning the 108-mile Thrift Drug Classic in Pittsburgh, Pa., first of three races last week leading up to the CoreStates finale.  Saturn's Chann McRae of Plano, Texas, won Tuesday's CoreStates Invitational in Lancaster, Pa., and Australian Jay Sweet won the CoreStates Classic on Thursday in Trenton, N.J.
   In Pittsburgh, McCormack was in an early nine-man breakaway that dwindled to him, Californian Chris Horner (Francaise de Jeux) and Polish rider Piotr Wadecki (Mroz).  A chase group that included Saturn's Bart Bowen and McRae got close to the leaders in the final laps, and "I thought they were going to catch us," McCormack said in a telephone interview last week.
   "About 3K out I decided I'd attack," he said, exploiting Horner's fading strength on the hills and Wadecki's weakness in the corners.  "Horner had gotten dropped the last two times on the climb, and the other guy wasn't cornering too well, and there was a section with a lot of turns, so I attacked just going into those corners. I knew if I left it for a sprint, it's possible somebody else could slip away and force me to chase."
   The gambit worked, and McCormack soloed to the finish line to capture the $15,000 prize.  Wadecki finished 7 seconds back, and Horner was third, 20 seconds down.
   McCormack knew the Pittsburgh course well after last year's Olympic trials race there, where he outgunned Motorola and U.S. Postal Service competitors in a chase for second place behind Steve Hegg.  The Saturn rider ended up third overall in the trials and an alternate on the U.S. Olympic team.
   McCormack sat out Tuesday's race as planned rest time for today's showdown, and on Thursday he worked with teammates to lead out Mike McCarthy, who finished sixth.  "I got hit with a rock in the ankle in the last lap," McCormack said, and although the damage was only momentary, "it was the worst possible timing."
   Today,  "I think a lot of the Europeans will be going a lot better than they were last weekend," McCormack predicted, and stiff competition comes from Americans such as 1996 winner Eddy Gragus and Darren Baker from the U.S. Postal squad and Jonathan Vaughters (Comptel/Colorado Cyclist).
   "We're not going to underestimate anybody but we're not going to be intimidated by anybody either," McCormack said.  "Saturn, everybody's riding fantastic and we're hoping we can pull something off."
   Two local teams fared very well in The 24 Hours of Canaan, a marathon mountain bike relay race in West Virginia last weekend.
   Team Grundle (Tod Benoit of Sturbridge, Dave Cormier of Oxford, and Peter Maly and Jeff Fairbanks, both of Charlton) placed eighth out of 182 amateur men's foursomes, bringing home about $500 worth of bike merchandise in prizes.
   And the Dirt Bitches (Mary Misiaszek of Monson, Sarah Paparella of Worcester, Jennifer Rowe of Westminster and Kirsten Geppesen-Wade of Putney, Vt.) placed fifth out of 11 women's teams.  Misiaszek and Paparella were on the winning team last year.
   Racers rode a 12-mile trail loop at a ski area from noon Saturday to noon Sunday, with riders on each team taking turns doing laps.  The winning pro team turned in 19 laps; Team Grundle, 16, and the DBs, 15.
   "This is just something we've been wanting to do," said Benoit, 32, a sales engineer for a paper company.  "We race every weekend, but we never did anything like this before."
   Maly's company, Charlton Optical, and Atlas Box Co. of Sutton sponsored the riders with donations totaling $1,000 to the American Lung Association.
   Benoit's lights went out during a night lap and he lost about 20 minutes navigating the woods with a handheld flashlight, and Cormier broke his seat post in a crash and had to switch to Maly's bike mid-lap.  Fairbanks cranked the fastest lap of the foursome, at 1 hour, 16 minutes.
   "What a good time," Benoit said, "especially at night when you got on the part where you see a whole string of riders below you, for about half a mile.  It was like a movie."
   Now the team is talking about competing in a similar 24-hour race Aug. 23-24 at Jiminy Peak in Hancock, and Benoit and Maly are even thinking of entering Canaan next year as solo riders.
   In more conventional competition, Fairbanks, 17, a student at Shepherd Hill Regional High School in Dudley, is leading the sport junior males 12-18 in the Nike ACG points series after three races.  And Maly, 35, won the sport men 35-44 event June 1 at the Wrath of Sun Valley race in West Stafford, Conn.
   Other Central Massachusetts mountain bikers who had first-place finishes in recent races:  Peter Hult of Harvard, junior male beginners 12-18, and John Foley of West Brookfield, sport men 19-26, in The Knobular race June 1 at Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Westford; Marty Walsh of Northboro, junior male beginners 15-18, and John Jenkins of Petersham, expert men 45 and up, in the Wrath of Sun Valley.
   Jenkins also won the masters 45 race at the Watershed Wahoo on May 18 in Candia, N.H.  Foley leads his category in the Trail 66 points series after two races.
   The Rhode Island Department of Transportation has just published a bike map of the entire state, with roads color-coded for cycling suitability.  The map includes blowups of Providence, Newport and the East Bay Bike Path, a popular 14.5-mile paved route from Providence to Bristol.  For a free copy, call 401-277-2694, ext. 4042.
   With the Waltham City Council's vote Tuesday, all six towns along the proposed Wayside Rail Trail have endorsed the conversion of the Central Massachusetts rail line to a 23-mile recreational path, to be maintained and policed by the towns:  Berlin, Hudson, Sudbury, Wayland, Weston and Waltham.  A proposed two-mile extension through Belmont would connect the path to the Minuteman Bikeway in Cambridge.  Next steps for the towns are to lease of the right-of-way from the MBTA and to seek design funds.
   In Hudson, the Wayside trail would share 1.5 miles with the proposed Assabet River Rail Trail, a 12.5-mile path from Marlboro to Acton.  Last month the Metropolitan Area Planning Council selected the Assabet project as a priority for federal transportation enhancement funding, with $668,000 recommended for right-of-way acquisition and $105,000 recommended for design of the four-mile Marlboro-Hudson segment.

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