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  • Sun August 21 2005
  • Posted Aug 21, 2005
By KURT MENSCHING, Journal Sports Writer PHOTO: Tandem riders Kim and Brian Eppen of Iowa City, Iowa, surprised fans and competitors alike by winning the 48-mile Subaru Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Epic Hard Rock race. They finished seconds ahead of men's individual winner Brian Matter. (Journal photo by Kurt Mensching) MARQUETTE - Shocked and surprised. Fans near the finish line of the Subaru Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Epic were shocked Saturday when the first Hard Rock bike to cross the finish was a tandem ridden by Kim and Brian Eppen, not an individual racer. The married racers from Iowa City, Iowa, finished the 48-mile course in 2 hours, 31 minutes, 19.4 seconds for first place overall, just seconds ahead of the top men's individual finishers. "We're surprised, too," Brian Eppen said. "We were back aways on the first climb and we caught up. We got dropped, then caught up. It whittled down to three of us the last mile. We had to sprint it out against those two." The top men's finisher, Brian Matter of Sheboygan Falls, Wis., edged Tristan Schouten of Sheboygan, Wis., by less than two seconds, finishing in 2:31:22.0. Schouten's time was 2:31:23.8. Matter laughed about being beaten by a tandem. "Two people on one bike, come on," he said. "If Tristan and I both rode this bike, we'd win, too." It's probably happened before somewhere, but few, if anyone, expected a tandem to finish atop the standings in an elite race like the Ore to Shore. If it could be done, the Eppens were the team to do it. Kim currently ranks first in the women's elite division of the Wisconsin Off Road Series, while Brian is second in the men's elite division. Last year, they finished in 10th at the Ore to Shore. "We never thought we would even come this close," Brian said. The single track and steep climbs were difficult for the duo, while they said they enjoyed the second half of the course most. When told a tandem team won the event, women's Hard Rock winner Sara Kylander-Johnson was thrilled. "Sweet, I know them," she said. "They're good friends of ours. That's awesome. "They haul. They're very fast. Those tandems, you can fly on downhills and flats if you just put your head down and go." Kylander-Johnson, a former Northern Michigan University athlete who now lives in Duluth, Minn., finished in 2:48:21.9. Race director Scott Tuma was surprised, as well. "Unheard of. Totally unheard of," he said. "On this course, for them to beat the caliber of riders that are here, is just phenomenal. They're unbelievable athletes." Matter was happy to defend his men's title and glad his friend, Schouten, also raced well. "I put in a really hard two-week training program and it paid off," Matter said. "It feels great." A sprinkling of rain over the past few days and some Saturday morning helped make for a fast course, he said. "We were flying, Tristan and I," he said. "We got away a couple of times, but everybody kept catching up to us." Kylander-Johnson, who finished third last year, changed her strategy this year. "Last year I tried to pull away too hard," she said. "This year I worked it a lot better." She said she cramped up some, but not nearly as bad as last year. The Hard Rock single speed race was won by Rich Rudolph of Genoa City, Wis., in 2:56:09.0. The race turnout was strong for the 28-mile Soft Rock, a course designed more for recreational riders. Many local athletes participated. Zach McBride of downstate Kalamazoo finished the Soft Rock in 1:27:41.0, about one-and-a-half minutes ahead of second place. "I just rode hard and gave everything I could give," he said. "All those guys rode hard, too, but I just had a little bit more today." McBride said he broke away from a three-person pack about 30 to 45 minutes into the race. "The course was nice," he said. "It was kind of wet, so it wasn't super fast. I crashed, too, about 15 minutes in. I just tried to get back on the bike and get my composure back and race as hard as I can." The women's Soft Rock winner was Anne Grabowski of Shoreview, Minn., with a time of 1:35:37.8. Chris Korpi of Gladstone won the single-speed division in 1:37:08.8. Turnout was bigger than expected in both races, Tuma said. "We've got a big race in our kids race, like 500 kids in it," he added. "Way more than we've ever had before." Tuma thanked his volunteers and the riders who turned out for the race. "It's just a great day," he said.

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