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Ken Benesh gets first open win at muddy Cross of the North #3, praises pit crew

October 23, 2013
Pit crew in action at Cross of the North #3 men's open race

Pit crew in action at Cross of the North #3 men’s open race

At a glance the men’s open race at Cross of the North #3 might have looked like a slap-stick comedy.

Riders made progress in slow motion over and through heavy, peanut butter mud. Unable to gain purchase going uphill on the slick oozing mess, they ran. More than usual. Riders slipped and fell, sometimes twice, three times in a single spot. Some like Skyler Trujillo (Boo Bicycles) spent lots of time up close and personal with the goo.

“You can point to any part of this course and I was lying on it at some point,” he said, after finishing with a respectable sixth place.

Bruce Hecht checks over Gage Hecht's "B" bike at the pit

Bruce Hecht checks over Gage Hecht’s “B” bike after Gage enters the pit

But a closer look revealed the cost of the conditions. Spencer Powlison (Evol Foods) led the race early on with form to match ambition, but had to pull out when his rear derailleur broke. Gage Hecht (Specialized Racing Team) broke his rear derailleur too and also did not finish.

A rider needed more than great legs, a “B” bike, and luck to win this cyclocross race.

In those gunky conditions the guys relied on gripping course poles for stability around sharp turns, the power to drive a bike twice its normal weight, and a pit crew. Pit crews labored to make mud-laden bikes functional even as the power-washer ran out of gas. Feeble streams of water from hoses were no match for glop that clogged everything and clung for dear life to every surface. Mixed with dried vegetation, the mud could have been used to build adobe houses.

With lap times running about eleven minutes, pit crews worked at a frenzied pace against the clock to deliver cleaned-up bikes twice a lap. When asked how long it was taking to ready a bike, Erinn Benesh, sister and crew to racer Ken Benesh (Evol Foods), replied with bucket and brush in hand, “We’re almost five minutes with this one and we’re not done.”

Erinn Benesh worked alongside her husband to get Ken’s bikes ready ten times during the hour-long race. And then the reward. After that tenth turnaround Ken Benesh won his first race of the season and first ever open race.

Ken Benesh wins his first ever open race

Ken Benesh wins his first ever open race

After the race the Evol Foods rider downplayed his part in earning the victory.

“I had a taste of it getting second a bunch lately and so it’s nice to finally get a win,” Benesh said. “But really when it comes down to today it was having the best pit crew.”

The conditions helped him and he relied on his strength: “I tend to do better in power courses anyways, and this was just power.” It was fun on course, he said, then clarifying, “when you’re not falling. I think I only went down twice, I kind of caught myself. So it was just staying smooth, picking good lines, and taking your time through things. When you try to rush stuff that’s when you end up crashing.”

Race action

Tim Allen of Feedback Sports, who had won the day before, took the holeshot and escaped unscathed through thick mud on an off-camber slope early in the lap that laid several riders sideways.

Tim Allen in the lead after the first messy turns

Tim Allen in the lead after the first messy turns

Powlison, Hecht, Mitch Hoke (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies), Allen Krughoff (Raleigh-Clement), Steven Stefko (First City Cycling), Benesh, Rotem Ishay and teammate Trujillo emerged next.

The scene changed with the advent of lap two. Powlison took over first on course with a twenty second lead. Hoke passed Allen who held third. Gaps lengthened between riders.

After more than twenty minutes of riding and going into lap three, Hoke moved into first with Powlison second. Krughoff, Benesh, and Stefko churned by Allen when he stopped to clear mud off his bike. Trujillo found his pace not far behind.

Riders swapped out bikes with each pass by the pit – except for Powlison and Hoke. When Powlison’s rear derailleur snapped he was forced to end his ride and Benesh passed Krughoff with Hoke his target.

Mitch Hoke cruises by the Cross of the North #3 pit. He had one bike.

Mitch Hoke cruises by the Cross of the North #3 pit. He had one bike.

Hoke brought one bike, an Orbea Terra T105. As others pitted, he rode serenely by, turning over the pedals with some magic formula to make the mud obey that worked until Benesh and then Stefko slid by him with one lap to go.

Benesh won with a gap of nearly a minute to Stefko. Hoke held on for third. Eight of the eighteen starters weren’t able to finish.

For full results see the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website.

The winning pit crew (l-r) Errin Benesh Vito, Breeze Brown, and Colin Vito

The winning pit crew (l-r) Errin Benesh Vito, Breeze Brown, and Colin Vito

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