Sheppard has found a sweet draft © Dave Roth

Sheppard has found a sweet draft © Dave Roth

by Robbie Carver and Josh Liberles

Sherwood, Oregon – You never can tell what the weather will be like in Oregon. Participants in last week’s Cross Crusade, for example, waded through a post-deluge muddy slog, while those 1,200 strong who lined up for today’s Crusade in the Sherwood Equestrian Park were more concerned with overheating and seeing through the clouds of dust on the sunny, dry day.

The long, challenging course began with a fast, descending start as racers navigated a 180-degree turn into an s-dive down the staging hilltop. Following the descent came a steep, tacky run-up, which only a handful of Elite racers could ride. As racers crested the hill, a dry double track took them alongside wheat fields and through oak groves, down a screaming, tire-rolling descent and then up to a set of barriers, through another grove and across a barrier-plus-ravine dismount. “Every time I thought I’d go flying off the road and into the ditch,” said winner Ryan Trebon of the corner preceding the barriers. Though many racers would have been happy with this much challenging course, they still had to climb the longest ascent of the series so far: a gradual, two-hump gravel climb that sapped all remaining strength from the legs.

In the women’s race, Alice Pennington used her toughness and climbing prowess to distance all challengers and establish her lead at the top of the series. This marked Pennington’s first Crusades victory of the season after hard-fought battles to claim the second step the past two weeks.

Alice Pennington was in a league of her own today © Greg Hudson, Corsa Concepts

Alice Pennington was in a league of her own today © Greg Hudson, Corsa Concepts

Brigette Brown (River City Bicycles) was the next closest rider – she finished in second place, almost two minutes behind the on-fire Pennington. Bend, Oregon, resident Serena Bishop (Sunnyside Sports) rounded out the podium. Local phenom Sue Butler, who stomped the opening Alpenrose Cross Crusade, was busy mixing it up in the World Cup in Aigle, Switzerland.

“The course today was pain cave land,” said Pennington. “I was pretty thankful to get lapped (again) by Ryan and not have to take another lap up that damn hill.” [ed. the Elite men and women race concurrently, and both for an hour]

“I just used roadie fitness to pedal away on the first lap. There was a bunch of pedaling and not many recovery sections,” continued Pennington. “I raced with water too, which helped morale on that dusty hill.” When asked about the variation from the wet mud that Oregon cyclocross is known for, she replied, “I like the mud. It’s just cool to mix it up. I’m pretty stoked on the variety we get in Oregon. Mud brings out finesseful bike skills; courses like today bring out the being fit part more, but it’s all hard and gives different people a chance to capitalize.”

Lining up alongside the men’s Crusade series leader Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain Bicycles) was the tall guy from Kona, Ryan Trebon, as well as local favorites Molly Cameron (Portland Bicycle Studio), Aaron Tuckerman (Corsa Concepts) and Trebon’s teammates Erik Tonkin and Sean Babcock.

As the gun went off, the front line surged ahead and quickly established that this would be a strung-out, every-rider-for-himself type of race. Shannon Skerritt (Corsa Concepts) took the hole shot on his mountain bike. He came into the race sitting in second overall in the series, and opted for his hardtail MTB in the hopes that it’d smooth out the bumpy terrain – which it did, nicely – but he quickly realized that the weight of his steed proved too much for the demands of the course. Skerritt would end up in eighth on the day.

A group negotiates the fast off-camber turns © Dave Roth

A group negotiates the fast off-camber turns © Dave Roth

“At the beginning,” said Trebon, “I was trying to ride up the steep uphill and got tangled up with someone, and took out some spokes in my front wheel. It was making all these crazy-ass noises, so I had to stop and twist it around another spoke. I didn’t bring anything spare. It’s not bad, it’s just one spoke, but it’s pretty out of true. It made it flexy too, those turns were really fast and the front wheel was kind of folding – so I was saying, oh God, please stay together.”

Stay together it did, and after a few laps Trebon had taken the lead alongside Sheppard, and the two would progressively increase their command of the race over third place Sean Babcock and fourth place Molly Cameron. “Those guys are just at the real-pro level,” said Molly Cameron.

“It started off pretty fast,” said Babcock, “Just trying to get to the front of the race, and halfway through the first lap, a little gap opened up behind me. I was hoping to create a gap and maybe Ryan would bridge up to me and give me a free ride for a while. Instead Sheppard caught up to me and it was just two of us. We were together for two or three laps, then Ryan caught up to us and rode right through us. On the fourth lap, Sheppard gapped me on the long gravel climb.”

Shannon Skerritt leads the first time up the climb © Dave Roth

Shannon Skerritt leads the first time up the climb © Dave Roth

By lap eight, Trebon began to slowly distance himself from Sheppard, showing why he is one of the best in the country. “That was awesome,” said Sheppard, “No excuses, I felt pretty good. I pre-rode with my cast on and couldn’t get a good grip, so I taped it, and got it so it wouldn’t move [Sheppard recently broke his thumb]. I followed [Trebon’s] lines, led for a little bit here and there. It came down to the climb—I was running it. Wrong gearing, but no excuses, I don’t think I would have ridden it anyways. Running it was fast, but after 10 laps it wasn’t that fast.”

“I feel pretty good, I was just kind of saving it for the last couple of laps,” said Trebon when asked if he was worried with Sheppard sitting on his wheel. “I was riding that steep run-up, and he couldn’t quite get the gear going over the top of it and was running; that’s where I got the gap every lap.”

“I was pretty tired this week, I did 10 races last month and three last weekend, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to come out. But I took three days off this week; this is the only Crusade I’ll be able to make, and it’s nice to at least do one per year. I’d like to do more, but the schedule’s so busy, you gotta pick and choose your battles,” Trebon said.

“Last week we did three races in a row and they were all hard, [Jeremy Powers and I] were just beating up on each other every day. It was close, within two to three seconds every day. We hit Louisville, then the UCI races in Colorado and California, then finish the USGP and do Nationals. It’d be nice to try and win Nationals again this year,” he continued.

When asked about his plans after Nationals, Trebon replied, “I plan to race in Europe for two weeks in December, then come back home, I hope to do the European Christmas holiday block, although it’s not scheduled yet.”

Extra incentive on the long climb © Dave Roth

Extra incentive on the long climb © Dave Roth

Babcock has been learning from super-experienced cyclocross guru, and now teammate, Erik Tonkin, who finished in sixth on the day, just behind Aaron Tuckerman (Corsa Concepts). “We train a lot together, he’s a pretty good friend and mentor to have, he’s got quite a bit of experience,” said Babcock of Tonkin. Babcock’s upcoming target events are similar to Trebon’s: “I’m hoping to get into the top 15 in the Category 1 race in Louisville on Saturday. Top 10 would be really cool, but that would require a pretty solid race with no mistakes and getting into the right group. I’d like to be top 15 in the USGP series, and a top 10 at Nationals, then maybe go over to Europe for some racing,” he said.

By the end of the race, the top five were spread out in 15-45 second intervals, with Trebon taking the win, Sheppard second, followed by Babcock, Cameron, and Tuckerman. The racers came in caked thick with dust plastered by sweat, tired but happy they didn’t have to hose down their bikes or quickly escape the rain. Lingering in the sun, rather, seemed just fine.

Photo Gallery:

Full Elite Results:

Women’s Results

PlNumFirst NameLast NameTeamCityAgeLapsTime
1911AlicePenningtonTeam S+MPortland29801:02:09.00
2903BrigetteBrownRiver City BicyclesPortland35801:03:56.00
3917SerenaBishopSunnyside Sportsbend31801:04:38.00
4908BrennaLopez-OteroBend Memorial Clinic Total Care Racing TeamBend41801:05:32.00
5906AbbyWatsonEmbrocation Cycling JournalPortland278
6920JulieBrowningCyclepath RacingPortland418
7923TinaBrubakerThe Vanilla Workshop/Speedwagen RacingSalem428
8926BeckyBjorkBend Memorial Clinic Total CareBend408
9927LauraWinberryElite EnduranceBend268
11905RachelBagleyMotor DomePortland32701:00:47.00
12932NissyCobbRiver City BicyclesPortland24701:01:10.00
14910ColleenMcclenahanSorella FortePortland45701:02:02.00
15916KarenOppenheimerBend Memorial Clinic Total Care Racing TeamBend427
DNF925HeatherClarkBend Memorial Clinic Total Care Racing TeamBend326
DNF913AnonaWhitleyIronclad Performance WearPortland252

Men’s Results

PlNumFirst NameLast NameTeamCityAgeLapsTime
2124ChrisSheppardRocky Mountain Bicycles P/B ShimanoBend371001:02:21.00
315SeanBabcockKona/Team S&MBeaverton271001:03:55.00
4131MollyCameronPortland Bicycle StudioPortland3410
510AaronTuckermanCorsa ConceptsPortland2710
658ErikTonkinTeam S+MPortland3610
752IanBrownriver city bicycles/tonic fabPortland3110
84ShannonSkerrittCorsa ConceptsPortland39901:00:38.00
929GrahamHowardRocky Mountain Bluesportland25901:01:05.00
1038ScottBradwayTeam S&M/Sellwood Cycle RepairPortland39901:01:10.00
1113BrettLuellingBuy Local CyclingSalem29901:01:47.00
1214DamianSchmittSunnyside SportsBend32901:01:52.00
1342MichaelBennoVeloce RacingPortland42901:02:08.00
1423ChadSwansonTeam S+MThe Dalles33901:02:09.00
1519IanLeitheiserCyclepath RacingPortland39901:02:24.00
178BenjaminKubasTherapeutic Associates Cycling/GENR8Eugene34901:02:35.00
18102MattFoxSunnyside SportsBend32901:02:49.00
19105JeffCurtesEMBROCATION/Speedvagen RacingPortland41901:02:51.00
20108LandonMasterfieldEmbrocation Cycling Journalportland27901:03:18.00
2126MatthewWillsCourage CyclesPortland30901:03:51.00
22139JamesCeccorulliTeam Dirt/Mudslinger EventsPortland23901:04:01.00
24126DougWilmesPortland Bicycle StudioPortland30901:04:11.00
2541JeremyDunnEmbrocation Cycling JournalPortland30901:04:19.00
276DaveMessenheimerTeam Oregon presented by Laurelwood BrewingPortland30901:04:26.00
2836alexwentzTeam Oregon presented by Laurelwood BrewingPortland22901:04:31.00
29117SpencerMoersfelderRiver City BicyclesPortland35901:04:47.00
30118TimJoslinCyclepath RacingPortland34901:04:51.00
3121JonathanMyersTeam S+MPortland43901:05:11.00
3257JoshuaLiberlesCorsa ConceptsPortland37901:05:13.00
33106NatJohnsonGreen Submarine RecordsPortland32901:05:19.00
3532MathewHallIra ryanPortland329
3646PatrickJacksonBuy Local CyclingBend319
3743TonyKicGentle Loversportland329
38138BrentMattisonTeam Lazy TarantulasBend279
39110MikeKathSprout Cyclesportland329
401SethPatlaRiver City BicyclesHillsboro339
41101WilliamWarburtonTherapeutic Associates Cycling/GENR8Bend309
4316AndyReddenNoLimitz/ICEWhite Salmon289
44109AndrewBennettTeam RedlineEugene189
4540joelmadroneCourage CyclesPortland359
5027AndrewWillisIronclad Performance WearVancouver28801:03:31.00
DNF20CaryMillerTeam S+MPortland387
DNF39StevenHunterEmbrocation Cycling JournalPortland307
DNF47ColinRowanCorner CyclePortland286
DNF45NealBiblerTeam S+MMilwaukie324
DNF65EirikSchulzSpecialized River City BicyclesPortland394
DNF123bradwinnPrimal-First Bankportland273
DNF28donaldReebRocky Mountain BluesKeiser362
DNF121PatrickMeansTeam S+MBellingham272
DQ53RyanWeaverRiver City BicyclesPortland33901:04:24.00