Sunday, September 23, 2007

Star Crossed Cyclocross

Or should we say, Star Crossed grass criterium. This year they changed the course significantly from years past, and added in a lot of long flat straight paved sections, making for a super fast paced course, without too much technicality. Just one set of barriers and the traditional log step run-up. Never the less it was a great time. The crowds are always good the atmosphere is awesome to start the year.

I was definitely nervous before my race. I was going up against Dale Knapp and some other dude wearing a stars and stripes jersey of a Masters national champion in cyclocross. I was lined up in about the middle of the filed, about 40-50 guys strong. Right next to me was John Bravaard, a Portland rider, real nice guy, who always does real well in the local races, as well as his team mate David Divinney and Tim Butler from River City Cycles. These are all guys I was hoping to keep up with as they are top finishers in the local race series. The start had some good jostling and throwing of elbows down the front straight, including some guy just leaning into me. By the second turn I was at the end of a big lead group; close to half the field, with no one too close behind. I spent the next 2-3 laps working my way through people. I was feeling good, but didn't really know how good until Margi told me I was 10th, sitting in the middle of a small group. So I dug in and broke free from that group, which included David Divinney and Tim Butler, trying to chase down Bravaard. I made it to 7th, and realized I was 2 slots behind Dale Knapp! The guy's a legend in US cross. I think I was so surprised with how I was doing I became a little too complacent to hold on to 7th, and I slipped from Bravaard some. Meanwhile Divinney, Butler and a couple guys organized a chase and working together they were making their way back to me. With a lap to go I had a 10 second lead on them and they were gaining while I was just trying to hold on. At the final turn one of the guys was right on my back wheel, and it lead to a sprint finish for 7th......he got me at the line.....oooommmpppphh. But still, I finished 8th in a strong field of really experienced and talented riders. I'm really happy with the results. I'm also really glad there were a bunch of people cheering for me. I don't even know who some of them were, but it helped to cruise past the beer garden and have people cheering me on!

The night ended with two awesome races in the women's and men's pro races. In the women's, a pack of 6 women formed a lead group that included Wendy Simms (Canadian Nat Champ) Josie Jaques Maynes, Wendy Williams and Sue Butler (River City) and two other women. They battled for the entire race, with the annoying announcers talking only about Simms the whole race, and how she was going to pull off the win. On the last lap the hammer was dropped and the two unknown ladies dropped off, leaving for a group sprint, with Wendy Williams taking it at the line!!! Way to go Portland.

In the men's race, right off the bat Ryan Trebon (Kona, National Champ) Teammate Barry Wicks and the Swiss National Champ Christian Hueler (sp?) broke free. By the end of the first lap it was a three person race. The Swiss just sat in and let the Twin Towers do all the work. You could just see it coming. No matter hard they tried, the Kona boys could not drop the swiss, which explains why he is 5th in the world right now. At one point Barry made a move and then stacked it coming off the track and fell behind by 10 seconds. Amazingly, a half lap later he was leading again. They are so fast and strong. But on the last lap Trebon poured it on, dropping Wicks, but everytime he got a small gap Hueler would get back on, resulting in a sprint finish with Hueler taking it in a near photo finish!!! A pretty exciting first night of 'cross.

Well time to get ready to drive out to Hood River for another race. My legs are toast, this is gonna hurt....Thanks to Miss Adventure for the photos and race support! Also a shout out to Matt Wills, who did the ballsy move of upgrading from B's to A's, buying a UCI license to race against some super strong men, got taken out by another rider in the first lap and had to drop out of the race. You're a bigger man than me, I would have taken the heckling and raced B's.