The fun started on Saturday with the second annual Rock Criterium. Held on a funky course in the heart of historic Mount Morris, racers were challenged by six turns, shifts in elevation and blistering hot temperatures.
The day peaked with the Men’s Elite Race where Nalgene/Mt. Borah p/b IQ Dentistry swept the podium.
After a series of early attacks, Brendan Housler of Nalgene soloed off the front at a blistering pace. Following him was a small chase group that included two of his teammates, Dave Richardson and John Hunter (Hunter took second at The Rock in 2015), as well as Craig Polston of Projekt and Austin Skomra of Verge Velo/NRS.
As the race progressed it became obvious that no one was going to catch Housler; he eventually lapped the main field and then attacked them a few more times for good measure before sitting up, separating himself from the group and allowing them to sprint out the pack finish.
The chase group managed to stay way from the main field with Richardson breaking soloing late in the racing for second place and a $300 win. Hunter then won a sprint between the next three riders to secure third and the podium sweep. However all were rewarded for their efforts as Polston and Skomra were all still in the money.
With the prize money going 7 places deep ($1,600 total in the field) two riders out of the main field were still going to win cash, making for an exciting sprint in that group as well. Johan Mead-Vancort of Team Towpath took 6th as well as a $100 prime early in the day followed by Niles Vaivers who rounded out the money in 7th. At just 19 years old, Mead-Vancort is one of top ranked young riders in the country and Vaivers of Ontario Canada was back for his second time as he took third in The Rock last year.
In addition to first class racing, Bob Lonsberry of WHAM 1180 (a Mount Morris Resident) and Josh Williams of The Genesee Sun entertained the crowd with color commentary. You can see several photos and full race videos on the The Genesee Sun Web site.
In addition to walking away with $500 cash for his win, Housler also received a handmade trophy. The trophy, constructed by Kris Andersen, Steve Sawyer and Chris Bookman, displayed a large piece of American Rock salt mounted on a plaque, which was engraved with our race logo. The trophy also came wired with lights inside the salt, making it a rather unique piece of hardware.
With more than twice the racers from last year, the crowd was treated to a great show as Chris Schryver of Full Moon Vista launched an uncatchable breakaway that showed a solo effort equally as impressive as Houlser’s.
At 55 years of age, Schryver, who is one of the most accomplished racers in Western New York, male or female, beat the field by 2:30, and as the Women’s Elite Winner, Schyver also received the same handmade trophy that Housler won.
However, the rest of the Women’s field, which was loaded with talent too, was not discouraged as they sprinted for primes and podium finishes to collect the rest of the prize money. In a tight final sprint, Emily Elbers of Farm Team Elite Women’s Cycling took second while Brandi Bashor of Finish Strong took third to round out the cash.
With seven different fields offered throughout the day, each field was larger and faster than in 2015.
The day kicked off with the Men’s Cat 5 and Women’s Cat 4 fields where we saw regional bike shop owners take the course and in both races and end up on the podium. Among the women, Rebecca Erb, owner of The Bike Shop, (with locations in East Aurora and Buffalo) put on a clinic as she broke away from the field and lapped everyone except for her teammate and second place finisher Katelyn Murray.
Geneseo bike shop owner, Mike Duke, of Cyclepath also landed on the podium as he took second in a tight sprint finish behind Matt Doyle of Hoselton/Tryon Bike. Maybe next year we can get more shop owners in the mix and give them their own field: they can race for your business.
My money is on Erb.
As the day progressed things got hotter and races got faster. The Masters, Juniors and Men’s 3/4 all put on great shows before lunch and then many raced again later in the day in either the Men’s 4/5 or the Men’s Pro 1/2/3.
Although the crit races were a great success, the fun didn’t end there. On Sunday more than 60 riders gathered in Mount Morris to tackle the first ever Rock Gran Fondo. The fields were mixed with riders who raced the day before and riders who were focused solely on the fondo.
The fondo offered three ability options with a 30-mile (The Piccolo Fondo), a 55 mile (The Medio Fondo) and a 100 (The Gran Fondo). All three courses posed significant climbing and all three were fully supported with rest stops, timed results, and mechanical support. All riders also receive a post-ride dinner from Questa Lasagna, an event t-shirt and a swag bag and door prizes.
The story of the day was definitely the difficulty of the more than 8,000 feet of climbing on The Gran Fondo course, which was highlighted by the infamous Vista Hill at mile 60. The climb is about three miles long and gains 1,000 feet of elevation with an average grade of 5.3 percent.
But don't take my word for it. Check out this video clip from Housler.
However Vista is one of two Category 2 Climbs on the course. At mile 71 riders then climb a two mile climb to the top of Mead Hill where they gain about 800 feet on an average of 7.4 percent.
Between the distance, the hills, and the heat, the course was a challenge for even the most experienced riders as several were forced to cut it short or walk their bikes at the steepest grades.
Although the shorter rides are more accessible, difficulty is always relative and with more than 3,000 feet on The Medio and 1,500 feet on The Piccolo all riders should be proud of their accomplishments. I hope as we progress with this new event that it becomes known for the challenges and rewards of beating the course in a fun and friendly environment with lots of extras thrown on top.
Thank you to all the racers, riders, volunteers, officials, commentators, mechanical support and timing support that made the weekend smooth, safe, and fun.
In the meantime, check out our Facebook page for lots of photos and videos that have already been posted and will continue to be posted in the coming days.
If you enjoyed the event, please share it with your friends. Also make sure you support our sponsors and the Village of Mount Morris year-round in appreciation for all they have done to make this possible.