European Stars Shine at Star Crossed

European Stars Shine at Star Crossed. © Joe Sales

by Jacob Sisson and Andrew Yee

For the second year in a row, rains greeted fans and racers at the Full Speed Ahead Star Crossed race in Seattle. And once again, the wet conditions made for a packed beer tent, soggy, muddy grass, and exciting, crash-filled racing.

Early races enjoyed a relatively dry course (see our exclusive course preview here), considering overnight and early morning rains. But when the skies opened up during the women’s race, the course disintegrated and crashes started.

A Brit Conquers America

Helen Wyman (Kona) made a good impression for her new Washington-based Kona employer by attacking early and time trialing to win the 2009 edition of Star Crossed in Redmond, Washington. The British National Champion took off early and stretched her lead throughout the race, winning with a 30 second cushion and leaving the North American racers to battle for second place.

And battle to the very end they did. The trio of defending champion Sue Butler (Monaviecannondale.com), the newly un-retired Alison Dunlap (Luna Chix) and Canadian Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain-Maxxis) took turns trying to bring back the Brit, to no avail. The lion’s share of the chasing work fell to Dunlap, who was in her first UCI race since retiring four years ago at the top of U.S. cyclocross. Butler dangled off the back of the group but constantly fought back to regain contact.

With half a lap to go, Dunlap and Sydor both picked the same instant to attack, using one of the numerous straight aways to launch their bid for the silver medal. Sydor and Dunlap were successful in dropping Butler and came into the velodrome for the final time with a decent gap over the fading Butler. While everyone in the stands was preparing for a drag race between Dunlap and Sydor, the velodrome itself had other ideas.

Deteriorating weather conditions and aggressive riding by Sydor in the dangerously slick conditions spelled disaster as the Canadian entered the velodrome, and she hit the turf, bringing down Dunlap who was riding close behind. With Dunlap and Sydor scrambling to remount, Butler squeaked by to finish in second place, the top American. Dunlap was the faster of the two to get back on her bike and finished up third, but was visibly upset. Sydor was equally disappointed, banging her bars and shaking her head as she crossed the line in fourth. Kari Studley (Velo Bella) rounded out the top five.

Slippery, Suspenseful Men’s Star Crossed

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It was wet and slippery resulting in lots of lead changes and crashes. © Joe Sales

A steady rain and drenched course awaited the men’s race and created slippery conditions that would send nearly every rider to the grass, mud, pavement or for some, all three. Riders had made their tire selections earlier in the day or before making the trip, and by the time the late rains arrived, many were wishing for more aggressive treads to keep things upright in the wet corners.

For most of the field, it was their first chance to race against high-level competition, and many of the top men were eager to test their legs and test their competitors. Last year’s winner, Jeremy Powers (CyclocrossWorld.com / Cannondale), took an early holeshot and extended that to a gap of five seconds, while early favorites Ryan Trebon (Kona) had a slow start and Tim Johnson took a bad first lap spill, suffering a possibly separate shoulder. Barry Wicks (Kona) looked fresh after six weeks away from racing, and gave chase as Powers applied the early pressure. Nick Weighall (Cal Giant / Specialized) showed his new team’s colors, and after Powers was caught, the first-year Elite took to the front and drove the pace. Meanwhile, Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissel Pro Cycling), fresh off a full road season for Bissell, sat comfortably in the top five, saying ,”I was super comfortable, just sitting in the top five and was looking around surprised how it didn’t hurt.”

But things started to get serious, and Jonathan Page) Planet Bike and Ryan Trebon (Kona) moved up to the front, ready to get the real racing started. Page, riding Open Grifo clinchers on Edge carbon wheels, looked at ease, but went to the front on lap two and put in a viscous acceleration, showing that he’s back to form after a disastrous late season last year (see Issue 7 for an in-depth story). After nearly a full-lap flyer, he was brought back but would continue to surge in the tricky chicane just before the barriers on ensuing laps to ensure he hit the barriers first.

An hour of racing presents a lot of opportunities for lead changes, and while Trebon, Page, Jacques-Maynes and Powers all were eying each other and threw down accelerations to seize control at the front, the 2007 Star Crossed winner, Switzerland’s Christian Heule (Rendemthypo) seemed content to let the Americans spend their energy on fruitless attacks.

Even Troy Wells (Clif Bar) would catch the leaders and take a turn on the front. Wells’ move to the front surprised both spectators and racers, and happened just as early player Weighall started to move backwards through the field after an early fast start. Wells’ time at the front was also short lived, however.

With three to go, the leading group of Trebon, Page, Powers, Heule, and Jacques-Maynes were down to business and thinking about victory, and were jockeying for position and trying in vain to rid themselves of the others. Trebon and Page took spills, with Page saying he “hit the ground hard and spent a lot of energy chasing back on” but the group remained together. It wasn’t until the last lap when Powers passed Jacques-Maynes just before a turn that the group would split. The Bissel pro was forced to brake hard to avoid a collision, and couldn’t put in one last acceleration and would ride in for fifth. Powers thanked Jacques-Maynes after the race for “letting me in” but Jacques-Maynes said it was a good, clean move – one that caused him to pop. And so there were four riders left to fight for victory.

With less than a lap to go, Heule took to the front, putting in a late, last lap attack,  giving him a small gap entering the velodrome for the final time. Powers dug deep to respond, while Trebon and then Page filed into the infield just behind. Page dove into a corner hot, squeaking by Trebon with three corners to go, and sprinted furiously to catch Powers and Heule, but it was too late. Heule hit the finishing straight with a four meter gap, and Powers and a accelerating Page would not get any closer. Check out our finish video here from partner CyclingDirt:

In a race where position was key, Heule had timed his attack to perfection, as only three tight corners – best taken from the front of the pack – stood between him and victory.

Troy Wells rolled in for sixth behind Jacques-Maynes, while a steady Jesse Anthony (Jamis) never saw the lead but rode consistently to finish seventh. Russell Stevenson (Banaroya Research Institute) rode a strong race, at one point riding with the leaders, but eventually faded to finish eigth with surprises Aaron Schooler (Team H&R Block – Kona) and Trace Tyler  (Trek Red Truck) rounding out the top ten.

With their wins, Europeans Wyman and Heule take the NACT leader’s jersey and will begin their European campaigns with a nice check and a pile of UCI points in the bag.

Brief Results:

Elite Women:

1. Helen Wyman (Kona)
2. Sue Butler (Monavie/Cannondale)
3. Alison Dunlap (Luna Chix)
4. Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain – Maxxis)
5. Kari Studley (Velo Bella)
6. Emily Van Meter (Hudz/Subaru)
7. Wendy Williams (Hudz/Subaru)
8. Sarah Stewart (Total Restoration Cycling Team)
9. Jenni Gaertner (Vertical Earth)
10. Kristi Berg (Redline)

Elite Men

1. Christian Heule (Rendemenhypo Cycling)
2. Jeremy Powers (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld)
3. Jonathan Page (Planet Bike)
4. Ryan Trebon (Kona)
5. Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissel Pro Cycling)
6. Troy Wells (Clif Bar)
7. Jesse Anthony (Jamis)
8. Russell Stevenson (Banaroya Research Institute)
9. Aaron Schooler (Team H&R Block – Kona)
10. Trace Tyler  (Trek Red Truck)

Photo Gallery by Joe Sales:

Photo Gallery by Janet Hill

Video Highlights, courtesy of CyclingDirt:
Men’s Podium:

Helen Wyman Interview:

Jeremy Powers Interview: