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Cole Paton (Orange Seal Off-Road) is celebrating his first major gravel win in Stillwater, Oklahoma today.
The 23-year-old broke away from a strong lead group at around mile 94 to solo to the win at The Mid South.
“It was super exciting,” he said at the finish. “I didn’t really know what to do, Dennis was kinda coaching me through the race and I felt good at the end and sent a flyer. It was a hail mary into the headwind, but I just put my head down and tried not to look back.”
Dennis van Winden, who finished second, is Paton’s coach and teammate.
“He’s made so much progression in the last couple of months,” van Winden said of Paton. “This is the first one of many more to come.”
Neither of the Orange Seal riders had any mechanicals during the 100-mile race.
Adam Roberge finished third in the bunch sprint that included van Winden, Brennan Wertz, John Borstelmann, Chase Wark, Pete Stetina, and Ted King.
Conditions at The Mid South were significantly better than anticipated after a few inches of snow fell overnight on Thursday. Saturday’s conditions were fast and dry albeit cold. The temperature at the start was 25F but had climbed to 50F by 2pm.
Colin Strickland, who had multiple punctures on the day, said that the race featured larger groups and more road tactics than usual.
“Mile 0 to 22 were pretty calm,” he said. “A few of lobbed a few attempts to get a breakaway moving but the field was so large and it was a windy fast course, so nothing rolled.”
The first pinch point of the race came at around mile 24 when riders hit the muddy doubletrack that required walking. Strickland said that, for the lead group, things came back together after that.
Pete Stetina, who finished 7th, also found this year’s edition of the race to be more akin to a road race than a technical gravel race.
“Lot’s of pack dynamics,” he said. “There was a block headwind, kinda like Unbound where nothing could move and it really just became tactical.”
At around mile 50, there was a crash involving the lead group. Stetina said that there were moments of trying to reign in riders in order to keep the bunch together.
“There was an unfortunate crash with Payson and Brennan and Ted and we had one guy off the front with 50 miles to go,” he said. “I tried to calm the guys down and say, ‘we keep the same pace as the guys in the front, don’t attack, and unfortunately Payson never came back.'”
McElveen broke his collarbone and injured his left hand in the crash.
Paton, who is a multi-time collegiate XC MTB national champion, is targeting the Life Time Grand Prix this year. The series includes three gravel races and three mountain bike races. Paton said that racing gravel has been a learning experience.
“It’s super strange for me,” he said. “There’s so much patience in gravel racing. I’m used to mountain biking where it’s full gas from the start. It’s such a big learning curve, and I’m so thankful to be racing with Dennis, my coach.”
The Mid South 2022
- Cole Paton, 4:52:26
- Dennis van Winden, 4:53:42
- Adam Roberge, 4:53:42
- Brennan Wertz, 4:53:43
- John Borstelmann, 4:53:43
- Chase Wark, 4:53:43
- Peter Stetina, 4:53:43
- Ted King, 4:53:43
- Innokenty Zavyalov, 4:53:46
- Bradley Houk, 4:55:11
Full results can be found here.