Sean Babcock won the first of the Cross Crusade races. © Pat Malach
by Pat Malach
Cross Crusade #1, Alpenrose Dairy
Portland, Oregon – Nearly 1,500 cross-crazed racers, from novices to pros, toed the line Sunday for the opening round of the 2011 Cross Crusade series at Alpenrose Dairy in Southwest Portland. Sean Babcock (Kona) outlasted his rivals for the Elite men’s win while Sue Butler (River City Bicycles/Ridley) cruised to a dominant victory in the Elite women’s race.
A light rain about halfway through the combined women’s, men’s and master’s Elite event turned a previously dry and tacky course into a slip ‘n’ slide that abruptly ended a brewing battle between Ryan Trebon (LTS/Felt) and Canadian national champion Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain Bicycles), leaving a free-for-all that had some of the competitors wondering who was leading the race.
“I came through the pit, and (Erik) Tonkin said, ‘Sean, I think you’re winning,’” Babcock said after the race. “I said, ‘Yeah. I think I am, too.’”
Rain the night before had dampened the course just enough to knock the dust down, and the Elite race started under cloudy-but-comfortable conditions on a dry, fast course that circled through the ball fields, wild west town, velodrome and functioning dairy that make-up the grounds.
Former road pro Aaron Tuckerman (Corsa Concepts) won the hole shot and hovered near the front as Trebon, Sheppard and Babcock came to the fore during the first loop of the circuit. By lap three Trebon and Sheppard had built a slight advantage over the rest and started working together to gain more time, possibly setting up a one-on-one battle in the closing laps. Tuckerman was riding solidly in third, and Babcock was a few seconds further back, chasing hard in fourth as the leaders started hitting lapped traffic from the two fields that started after the Elite men.
That’s when the rain hit and changed everything. Trebon went down hard on a tight pavement curve after exiting a grass section. The multi-time national champion took a few minutes to gather himself before continuing, but he clearly had lost most of the steam from his powerful engine.
Aaron Tuckerman leads Ryan Trebon early in the men's race. ©Pat Malach
Sheppard took the lead but suffered a similar fate with a flat tire. Tuckerman had crashed and suffered a mechanical, ceding second place to Babcock, who passed Sheppard for the lead as the Canadian was pushing his bike back to the pits. Tuckerman was also eventually able to get past Sheppard.
At that point, Babcock’s win came down to staying upright in course conditions that made a comeback by one of the other riders next to impossible.
“Just that little bit of rain made the turns quite a bit slower,” Babcock said. “So it really slowed the race. There was a little bit of traffic, too, so that kind of worked to my advantage.”
Babcock celebrated his win somewhat anonymously, mixed in with lapped traffic. Tuckerman crossed the line next for second. Sheppard eventually got a new ride and held onto third. Donald Reeb (Cyclocrossracing.com) climbed to fourth. Shannon Skerritt (Corsa Concepts) rounded out the top five. Trebon ended up sixth.
Babcock, who will head to Fort Collins, Colo., next weekend for round two of the U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross, said it was fun to get a win in front of the home crowd at a venue with such a rich history.
“There’s a lot of tradition to this course,” he said. “So it’s pretty cool to have a win here.”
ELITE WOMEN – Butler Performs for Home Crowd
Sue Butler took the women's race. © Pat Malach
The women’s race was quite a bit more orderly than the finish for the men, mostly because Butler took control and began picking her way very early in the race through the masters field that started just minutes before.
“I rode smooth and tried not to make any mistakes,” she said of her effort. “I was able to ride up all the technical stuff, so that helped a lot. And I didn’t crash at all. I watched a lot of guys crash in front of me and avoided them all.”
Besides picking her way through traffic and avoiding crashes, Butler had to worry about Team S&M’s Alice Pennington, who was charging up hard in second, and Serena Bishop Gordon (Silverado/Sunnyside Sports), coming off a recent win at the CrossAflixion Cup in Bend.
“There are a lot of fit girls in Oregon,” she said. “So anything can happen. Like last weekend when I had a mechanical in Madison; you can go from fifth to 11th like that. And that can happen here.”
Butler remained free of mistakes and mechanicals all the way to the finish, taking her second-consecutive win at Alpenrose. Pennington crossed the line next for second place. Bishop Gordon was next for third. Bend Memorial Clinic Total Care Racing Team’s Heather Clark got the fourth spot, with her teammate Brenna Lopez-Otero in fifth.
While Butler lamented missing out on possible UCI points by not traveling to Gloucester, Mass., this weekend, she said winning at home more than made up for it.
“It’s so much fun racing here because the scene is huge,” she said. “And all along the course you hear, ‘Go Sue.’ It’s just nice to race here and be at home.”
Like Babcock, Butler will take her talents up against a national field at the USGP race in For Collins next weekend.
The official participation tally for the day came to 1,420 registered racers and about 150 children in the separate A and B Kiddie Cross races. The mark is down just a bit from the all-time record set at Alpenrose last year, when 1,536 registered riders and about 250 kids competed.
The Cross Crusade heads north next weekend to Rainier High School for race #2. The big change to this season’s Crusade schedule is the Halloween weekend move from coastal Astoria to Bend in Central Oregon’s high desert. The rest of the schedule remains similar to previous years. However, the USGP’s move from Portland to Bend will allow the Cross Crusade to use PIR’s traditional Heron Lakes course for race #3 as well as the infield paddock course for the series finale on Nov. 13.
1. Sean Babock (Kona)
2. Aaron Tuckerman (Corsa Concepts)
3. Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain Bicycles)
4. Donald Reeb (Cyclocrossracing.com)
5. Shannon Skerritt (Corsa Concepts)
6. Ryan Trebon (LTS/Felt)
7. Molly Cameron (MetaFilter)
8. Brennan Wodtli (Hutch’s Bend)
9. Eric Sheagley (Veloce Racing)
10. Brett Luelling (Portland Bicycle Studio)
1. Sue Butler (River City Bicycles/Ridley)
2. Alice Pennington (Team S&M)
3. Serena Bishop Gordon (Silverado/Sunnyside Sports)
4. Heather Clark (Bend Memorial Clinic Total Care)
5. Brenna Lopez-Otero (Bend Memorial Clinic Total Care)
6. Megan Chinburg (Corsa Concepts)
7. Brigette Brown (River City Bicycles)
8. Brooke McDermid (bicycleattorney.com)
9. Wendy Williams (River City Bicycles)
10. Tina Brubaker (Vanilla)