This was one of five run-ups at the Edgefield race. © Dan Saunders

by Dan Saunders

For those not familiar with McMenamin’s Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon, just a short drive east of Portland, it helps to know that this immense hotel and brewery not only has a very large campus with multiple building/bars/restaurants and that it is also surrounded by acres of open fields and golf courses. In other words, lots of space, lots of terrain, and some very challenging elevation.

I’ve been going to Edgefield ever since I moved up to Portland eight years ago. Finding out that there was a ’cross race scheduled out there for the first time ever, I had no choice but to participate. There was a competing race the same day in the Grand Prix Molly Cameron series and on Sunday as well with the Cross Crusade, but how could anyone say “no” to a short drive, beautiful setting, and the promise of great beer and food at the end of the race!

The previous night’s rain and drizzly 42 degree morning set the course up to be muddy, but not a complete put-on-your-waders-it’s-gonna-be-nasty type of day. As luck would have it, I managed a pre-registration call up. This, and for about ten seconds after the start, would be the only time I saw the front of the race. After being told by the course marshall that this was the most technical race course he had seen all year, I wondered what I was in for since I didn’t get in a pre-ride, but then, we we set off.

As with all cyclocross races, the intensity started immediately, and being routed uphill into a tight 180, which, at the peak, strung us out quick since there was really only room for one rider to make the turn at at time. After another tight 180 degree turn, and a few elbow bumps, we were routed again uphill.  I was probably about middle of the pack at this point and seeing everyone start hopping off up the hill, it became evident even at the start that the course designer was going to use the elevation changes to their fullest.

As luck would have it, there was a bit of a flat spot at the top of the climb that gave me a chance to hold my position in the pack before being routed down a fast sweeping turn and into a steep slippery run-up.  I managed to pass one or two people here, but once we hit the top and the course offered a break in the form of a flat gravel service road, I lost a couple of spots to people that clearly had more in the tank than I did.

By now, the front of the pack was out of sight, and we weren’t even half way into the 1.9 mile course. I settled in for what I thought was going to be another back-of-the-pack day as we hit the fast, bumpy downhills that saw some people going over their bars where it was really soft. You just have to know that when there’s a berm in the middle of a soft sharp downhill, you can’t use your front brake!

As we headed back towards the main area, the course routed us in and out of the arms of a former prison before sending us to what some would just consider a climbing wall — 10 to 12 feet of near vertical mud. The only thing that helped us up were foot holds that must have been created earlier. I was lucky enough to catch someone riding a full suspension mountain bike in the arms of the prison and passed once we dismounted and climbed the wall. Being sent immediately downhill once again certainly helped.

After a long off-camber and slightly downhill field screamer that made you feel like you were going in to the lovely patch of blackberries below at any moment, I was caught by a Clydesdale momentarily on either my second or third lap only to see him endo on the sharp downhill that followed (yes, I asked if he was OK). The ensuing open field drag race was a blast as the squirelly mud made a couple people back off and allow me to catch up a bit … still not seeing the front of the pack though.

The course held a little more elevation for the end, but after that, it was time to repeat. The course really didn’t change much as the race wore on since the early morning drizzle disappeared and left us with a pleasantly gray fall morning for the rest of the race. In my 45 minute Cat C race (which is combined with Clydesdales), I managed to not lose too many more positions after the first lap and seemed to gain a little ground occasionally on the runups and through the tight turns. Four laps were put in, and I managed to not crash — a possible secret to my “success” — as I saw many a person crash the soft muddy downhills.  I managed 15th place (out of 24 competitors and 22 finishers) once I dealt with a scoring error.

While this was a first time event for Edgefield, it was pulled of beautifully. Maybe it was the small fields of competitors. Maybe it was the post race beer.  All I know is that if this race comes back for 2012, I’ll be on-line the night it gets posted, hoping for another pre-registration call up.

A little bit about the author/racer:

I’m a 33-year-old bike commuter and am racing my third season of cyclocross, just moved up from Beginners into Cat C this season and have been dealing with the realization that I probably moved up too soon. But, being with a stronger group is both humbling and educational and even with the low finishes, I’m still hooked and just wish the race season was longer … and that I had someone to pay my race fees.

Saunder’s report is an entry into the Cyclocross Magazine Community Contributor Contest, sponsored by KHS Bicycles. You can win a $1800 payday for showcasing your local race while helping Cyclocross Magazine highlight cyclocross racing across the country. Submit your own video or race report for your chance to win a CX300 KHS cyclocross bike!  Read the official rules here.