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Francestown sisters heading to cyclocross national championship

  • Sisters Molly and Ella Dishong of Francestown are heading to the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in Louisville, Kentucky on Dec. 11-16. Courtesy photo—

  • Sisters Molly and Ella Dishong of Francestown are heading to the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in Louisville, Kentucky on Dec. 11-16. Courtesy photo—

  • Sisters Molly, above, and Ella Dishong left, of Francestown are heading to the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in Louisville, Kentucky on Dec. 11-16. Courtesy photo

  • Ella Dishong of Francestown carries her bike over an obstacle during a cyclocross race earlier this year. Courtesy photo



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, December 06, 2018 9:41AM

Ride. Run. Climb. Repeat. The Dishong sisters of Francestown will complete that vicious cycle on the big stage next week as they compete in the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in Louisville, Kentucky.

Cyclocross is an intense offshoot of traditional bike racing, the crossroads of mountain biking and road racing.

“In mountain biking, you’re not going 100 percent the whole time; but in cyclocross you’re trying to go as fast as you can, as hard as you can, the whole time,” said younger sister Molly.

Racers ride mountain/road bike hybrids – “You have different bikes than mountain biking, but the tires look the same, but narrow,” Ella said – and take to an off-road style course about one-and-a-half to two miles long. Races are timed, between 30-45 minutes in length; once the lead rider has completed a couple laps, race officials determine how many laps must be completed within the time period, based on the leader’s pace.

Here’s the twist: scattered through the course are obstacles that force riders off their bikes.

”You have to get off your bike at least twice a lap,” Molly said. “Either run up stairs, run up a hill, go over a barrier or go through sand.”

The girls started racing cyclocross when they were eight and nine, tagging along with their dad, a racer himself who introduced them to the sport. Now in their teens, the sisters seek out mountain biking and cyclocross races around New England. It’s a relatively niche sport that involves some traveling to find competition, which means the Dishongs find themselves racing through the hills of Western Massachusetts or along the Gloucester coastline.

Next week, though, they’ll make an even bigger trip, when they head down to Kentucky to compete in the cyclocross national championships. The girls are scheduled to compete in the women’s 11-22 race on Friday and the junior 15-16 race on Saturday, up against the best youth racers in the country.

 “Just going out there, racing my hardest and hopefully getting a good finish would be great,” Ella said. “Plus the experience, racing with different girls I’ve never met before and seeing how I do against them.”

 “I want to do really well,” Molly said, “but I think it’s just being out there and trying as hard as I can that would make me feel successful.”

The Dishongs got some assistance along the way to help them get to the national championships. Both girls ride custom bikes made by a family friend, Bill Whitcher, who runs Guipago Custom Cycles.

 “The bikes are as light as possible because we have to pick them up all the time,” Molly said.

And, the two were both awarded scholarships from Orchard Cross Cyclocross, a racing organization in Hampton Falls. The girls were evaluated on “their racing resume for 2018, their contributions to the #NECX community and their passion for our sport,” according to a release from Orchard Cross.

The pair will take a break from their ConVal studies for a few days, head down to Kentucky and race. And when they return? They might just be national champions.