By CHRIS DOBROWOLSKI
---- — On a sizzling fast Mud, Sweat and Beers course, Jordan Wakeley laid down the hammer.
The Grayling cyclist finished the 2013 event at Mount Holiday in 1:10:42, six minutes better than his winning time last year and more than four minutes ahead of Petoskey’s John Cowen (1:14.54), who was the runner up for the second straight year in the 22-mile Stout race.
Traverse City’s Lauri Brockmiller was the beneficiary of Interlochen’s Bridgett Widrig taking a wrong turn late in the women’s Stout race, edging her Hagerty Cycling teammate for her first Mud, Sweat and Beers title with a time of 1:26:14. Widrig came across the finish line in 1:26:32.
Wakeley, who was simply looking for a repeat of last year, got that and more as he blazed through this year’s course in a time that was a surprise to many.
“I knew there were some real tough guys here,” said Wakeley. “I just felt really good. My legs were amazing today. It was good. The first hill I sat up and waited for somebody to try and go and I was going to sit on their wheel, but nobody wanted to go so I put in a hard effort on Will Power hill and one person came with me and that was it — head down and hammer.”
The one person who did hang with Wakeley for a time was Alex Vanias, but Vanias fell back before the finish and ended up seventh. That was even a shock to Cowen, who thought he came in third for the first several minutes after the race until he was informed by organizers he had indeed come in second once again. Cowen finished in 1:22:20 last year, but the speed of this year’s trail made for a marked improvement.
“It was fast,” Cowen said. “They change the course a little bit every year so it’s hard to compare times. I heard they added a little less climbing this year and it felt like at the end a lot it was downhill so maybe they did. It looked like it was faster overall.”
Cowen said it was impossible to try and keep up with Wakeley after the back-to-back winner turned it on early in the race and surged to the front of the Pro/Elite group.
“We didn’t keep up with him. It was pretty tough. They (Wakeley and Vanias) got away from us on the big hill and I couldn’t get up to them,” said Cowen.
Brockmiller’s win seemed to be bittersweet due to the shake up causing her to unknowingly passing Widrig late in the race. Like Cowen on the men’s side, her finish was quite a surprise.
“My teammate and I we got out front right from the very beginning and she helped me the whole way,” said Brockmiller.
“Then about halfway through she pulled away from me and I thought she was winning the whole time, but when I came across the finish line they announced me as the winner. So I feel really bad because she got a little turned around out there at the end and I ended up sneaking ahead of her. It was kind of a heartbreaker for her. She had me for sure.”
Widrig said the confusion came in the last couple miles where she wasn’t able to see the arrows marking the trail. Still, she was happy for her teammate and pleased to better a fourth-place finish from last year after competing in the Sport class in previous years.
“It was a heartbreaker not to have direction there, but it was a great race,” she said. “We worked so well together. I’m happy for my teammate that we’re on the podium. I would say both of us came away as winners. To come in second in Pro is great for me. I’m happy with that. The conditions were wonderful. They did a great job on the course.”
Matt Acker was third in the men’s Pro/Elite class with a time of 1:15.11. Finishing third for the women was Melissa Ryba, who finished in 1:34.28.
Dylan Hescott recorded the fastest time in the 12-mile Pale Ale race. Hescott finished in 54:51, while Langley Scherer had the best women’s showing in the Pale Ale race (1:04.07).