Both familiar and new faces to Alaska endurance sports finished on top of the brand-new Alaska Cyclocross State Championships on Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails.
Anchorage’s Will Ross, 30 and a Service High School graduate, won the men’s elite race, while Anchorage’s Kate Ginsbach, 30, took the women’s elite race.
Ross has a long trail of accomplishments in bike racing and triathlon to his name, including winning the Fat Bike Birkie, the largest fat bike race in the world, in 2015 and 2016.
This was his first time racing at Tsalteshi since 2006, when he skied in the Arctic Winter Games. Ross also won the Soggy Bottom 100 mountain bike race on the Resurrection and Devil’s pass systems in 2012 and 2014, setting a course record in 2014 that has since been broken by Soldotna’s Adam Reimer.
Ginsbach moved to Anchorage in the beginning of September from South Dakota, but has a long record of bike racing, including taking fifth in the Women’s Division 1 (Club) race at the 2018 USA Cycling Cyclocross Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky.
They were drawn to Tsalteshi by the first Alaska Cyclocross State Championships, a goal of race organizer Mark Beeson that became reality this year. The championships were sanctioned by Tsalteshi’s Chainwreck Cyclocross Series, Anchorage’s Arctic Cross and Fairbanks’ Brown Leaf Classic.
Cyclocross is a form of off-road bike racing during which racers can encounter any number of conditions and obstacles. Saturday, those conditions included mud, grass and sand. Another characteristic of the races is obstacles, with racers Saturday dismounting to hop over barriers and to take a brief run through the woods while carrying their bikes.
“It’s a good combination of fitness, power, recovery and technical skills,” Ross said. “You have to have everything to be able to do well at it.”
Cyclocross races are not a specific distance. They are set for a specific time and racers complete as many laps as possible during that time period. Saturday’s course was 2.2 miles with 115 feet of elevation gain and loss.
Ross completed six laps in 55 minutes, 22 seconds, for the win, while Anchorage’s James Stull was second with six laps in 59:25.
As the course director for Arctic Cross, Ross is used to showing up at 8 a.m. and tending to the course all day before getting to race. He said showing up and just racing was nice.
Ross also gave Saturday’s course high praise, adding that it differed from the grass and hard clay that typify Anchorage courses.
“There’s a lot of tricky corners, and it took me a few laps on a few of them before I figured out a line,” Ross said. “The course also evolved a lot. Everything was different at the end of the race.”
Ross added that it was nice to finally get a win at Tsalteshi. He described himself as a late bloomer who was only 80 to 100 pounds when racing against Russians and Scandinavians and failing to get on the podium at the Arctic Winter Games.
Ginsbach also enjoyed the layout. She said she took off fast and tried to keep up with the guys, but then figured somebody would pass her back. Nobody came close. She was the only woman to complete six laps, doing it in 1:06:58, while Anchorage’s Amber Stull was second with five laps in 56:08.
“This course was really fun and it played to my strengths — singletrack, short, punchy climbs and sand,” she said.
Ginsbach has used cyclocross to help get her back into shape after spending this summer studying to pass the bar exam. Getting through law school while racing at a high level isn’t easy, and for that she thanked her whole support network, especially parents Jane Farrell and Pat Ginsbach.
The men’s and women’s masters 40-plus races were contested at the same time as the elite races. Chris Wrobel turned six laps in 1:02:24 for the men’s win, while Coley Gentzel was second with six laps in 1:04:19. The women’s winner was Rose Garner, with four laps in 56:55.
The day’s first race was for girls and boys under-18, and men’s and women’s masters 55-plus. This race was designed to go 35 minutes, as opposed to the 50 minutes of the late race.
The winners of the 35-minute race were both in the under-18 category — Kenai’s Jim Hall and Anchorage’s Kalima Glascott.
Saturday’s day of racing was doubling as the Polar Vortex, a season-ending cyclocross event at Tsalteshi that has been held every year, except one, since 2014. Hall said the one time he did the Polar Vortex previously, he wasn’t close to the front.
But breaking down the day to two starts gave him a chance to command a race.
“This is a great gathering of friends and family,” said Hall, a home-schooled senior in high school. “It’s a fun time, but it’s competitive too.”
Hall’s victory brought up another aspect of cyclocross. He was riding a bike with plus-size tires, which would not have been legal in the elite races. Cyclocross races are contested on much thinner tires, adding to the challenge.
“The course conditions were like spring breakup,” he said. “I’m glad I was on plus tires. Kudos to everyone who did this on a cyclocross bike.”
Hall turned three laps in 33:36 for the victory, while James Peot was second with three laps in 35:02.
Glascott, an eighth-grader at Romig Middle School, was able to win despite this being her first year of cyclocross. Her father, Bob Glascott, also competed.
“It was really fun and harder than a lot of the other races,” Kalima said. “It was more techy and more sandy, but I like that, because it means I have to work harder.”
Glascott had three laps in 39:35, while Dara Stull was second with three laps at 44:30.
Joe Loffredo won the men’s 55-plus race with three laps in 37:33, while Soldotna’s Patty Moran is the women’s 55-plus state champion thanks to three laps in 44:50. Kenai’s Will Morrow also took a state championship in the singlespeed division with four laps in 1:06:30.
Beeson organizes the Soldotna Cycle Series and Chainwreck Cyclocross Series and this state race was his goal of pushing cycling on the Kenai Peninsula and in Alaska further ahead. The cyclocross nationals this year are in Tacoma, Washington, in December, so that also spurred Beeson to make it happen.
“I’m really pleased,” Beeson said. “I felt a little bit underprepared, but everything went smoothly.”
He was particularly happy with the way the course shaped up. Up until the night before the race, frost had exploded in the sand on the lower trails, making for a rough ride. Rain early Saturday helped knock down that frost and smooth out the course immensely.
“I want this to become a yearly thing, and I don’t want it to be just at Tsalteshi,” Beeson said. “I want it to be around the state wherever they have cyclocross. I want people to be excited about being a state champion.”
The season awards for the five-race Chainwreck Cyclocross Series also were given out after the race. Morgan Aldridge finished out a dominant summer and fall of biking at Tsalteshi by taking the women’s title, followed by Jen Showalter and Moran. If Chainwreck were run without men’s, women’s and juniors categories, Aldridge would have been first overall.
David Edwards-Smith took the men’s championship, followed by Nathan Kincaid and Brian Beeson. Landen Showalter was the top junior, followed by Dylan Hogue and Madison McDonald.
Alaska Cyclocross State Championships
Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails
Men’s Elite Race
1. Will Ross – 55 minutes, 22 seconds (6 laps); ; 2. James Stull – 59:25 (6); 3. Oliver Sternicki – 1:00:17 (6); 4. Clinton Hodges – 1:01:28 (6); 5. Brad Manderfeld – 1:02:01 (6); 6. Zac Cole – 1:04:55 (6); 7. Tyle Owens – 1:05:12 (6); 8. Brian Beeson – 57:31 (5); 9. Dave Edwards-Smith – 58:40 (5); 10. Nathan Kincaid – 1:00:36 (5); 11. Jordan Chilson – 1:03:32 (5); 12. Dustin Henkin – 1:09:07 (5); 13. Zac Gee – 1:00:40 (4); 14. Tom Kobylarz 1:03:58 (4).
Women’s Elite Race
1. Kate Ginsbach – 1:06:58 (6); 2. Amber Stull – 56:08 (5); 3. Cadence Stull – 57:39 (5); 4. Morgan Aldridge – 59:18 (5); 5. Jen Showalter – 1:08:01 (5); 6. Melissa Smith – 1:01:54 (4); 7. Alicia Kincaid – 50:04 (3).
Men’s Masters 40+
1. Chris Wrobel – 1:02:24 (6); 2. Coley Gentzel – 1:04:19 (6); 3. Scott Hauser – 56:29 (5); 4. Marc Romano – 59:55 (5); 5. Dan Bailey – 1:00:28 (5); 6. Rob Carson – 1:01:50 (5); 7. Tony Eskelin – 1:03:07 (5); 8. Jon Iannoccone – 1:03:55 (5); 9. Jeff Helminiak – 1:06:06 (5); 10. Jeff McDonald – 1:06:50 (5); 11. Jamie Nelson – 1:07:43 (5); 12. Tor Dahl – 57:24 (4); 13. Will Morrow – 1:06:30 (4) (Singlespeed State Champion); 14. Carl Kincaid – 46:44 (3).
Women’s Masters 40+
1. Rose Garner – 56:55 (4).
Men’s Masters 55+
1. Joe Loffredo – 37:33 (3) Men’s Masters 55+ State Champion; 2. Bob Glascott – 39:43 (3); 3. Dan Eck – 41:27 (3); 4. Bruce Ross – 41:36 (3); 5. John Tabor – 46:46 (3).
Women’s Masters 55+
1. Patty Moran – 44:50 (3); 2. Cindy Miller – 33:53 (2); 3. Jane Adkins – 43:09 (2).
1. Jim Hall – 33:36 (3); 2. James Peot – 35:02 (3); 3. Dylan Hogue – 41:59 (3); 4. Landen Showalter – 43:10 (3); 5. Ethan Hogue – 46:14 (3); 6. Robert Carson – 52:45 (3); 7. Ollie Dahl – 36:47 (2); 8. Nels Dahl – 21:39 (1).