Sabers snag first place in Rodenbach

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- The Spangdahlem Saber Cycling Club teamed up with the Spangdahlem Varsity Cycling Team to compete in the fifth race of the U.S. Forces Europe Mountain Bike Championship series in Rodenbach, Germany.

"Since we've started racing we've been the largest team at every event and the team that wins the most," said Hector Rodriguez Spangdahlem Saber Cycling Club president. "I'm also pretty sure we win more and compete more often than any other varsity team on base."

This is the Spangdahlem Saber Cycling Club's third year at the Rodenbach mountain-bike race, hosted by Radsport TVR in Rodenbach, Germany. This is also the third time the team has had a huge turn-out. Lady competitors in the women's open category were Francesca Corazza and Patricia Winn. Competitors in the men's open were John Winn, Chris Vachon, Rob Jones and Hector Rodriguez. Rounding out the men's senior category were Brian McRory and Jeff Heagerty. Jack Nevin was the men's master rider.

"The race started out with a large ring ride on a cycling path leading to the first section of single track," Hector said. "The trail then went onto a fire road before a steep, short single track section, followed by more fire road than single track. Repeat about 10 times and imagine how nice this race course is."

Racers are given a number in the order they register and take off in that order. Three racers take off every minute, and the start is separated from the rest of the race.

"The organizers improved on last year's already great course by adding more single track and ending almost every single track section with a passing area before dipping into more of the single stuff," said Hector, a technical sergeant assigned to the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "The Rodenbach race stands out as one of the races we like the most for a lot of reasons, but at the top of the list is the staggered start."

During the warm-up, there were two wrecks on a grassy area that hid some ruts from unsuspecting riders. One of them forced Patricia Winn out of the race with a broken brake lever.

Despite the early pile-up, the team did well overall with Corazza earning a first place. In the men's open category members of the team captured first, second and third place by Rodriguez, Vachon and Jones respectively with Nevin nabbing a master's win. This is also the first time in the mountain bike series the Sabers scored an overall first-place finish.

"The Rodenbach race has something for everyone and the staggered start helps ensure everyone has a great race and rides the way they like," Hector said. "There's enough variety to keep the serious racers, weekend warriors and first timers happy and challenged. With only one technical downhill section, the first-time racer has a chance to make up time on the other parts while relaxing a bit and choosing a good line down the harder stuff. The course is well-marked hours before the start, giving everyone a chance to do some course recon."

The Saber racers agreed a cost of less than 20 Euros for a frikadella sandwich, cake, coffee, two bottles of water and a race was an outstanding deal.

"The organizers were enthusiastic and super helpful," Hector said. "The race was well organized and, as usual, the food was fantastic. We look forward to going back next year and definitely recommend checking out this race, even if it's your first. Two thumbs up and a round of applause for the Rodenbach crew!"