by LeRoi Smith, Photos by Janet Hill
Lakewood, WA – On a sunny 63-degree day at the end of October, you will be hard-pressed to find anyone complaining about the weather in Seattle. However ‘cross racers are little different. Quite a few were feeling guilty about enjoying the sun and many were looking forward to the cold and wet that is sure to come. Meanwhile everyone enjoyed a brutally fast, dry course at Steilacoom Park. The course did not use the foreboding Knapp-time run-up. Instead it reached the same point via a dirt road climb that dared riders to attack, just before grinding to a leg-crushing run-up, forced by 4 max-height barriers. The combination had many riders remembering the 80-meter straight-up run fondly.
While the racers dug deep into the pain cave, they were able to take solace in knowing this was a race for a cause. Each year this race benefits the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Race organizers donate their proceeds, racers donate additional cash and the ladies of the Omicron, ESA service group serve chili and other goodies for donations to the cause.
The Elite Women’s race was a battle from the start between four powerful riders. Kari Studley (Velo Bela – Kona), Ingrid Spies (Recycled Cycles), Ann Knapp (Kona) and Kristi Berg (Redline Bicycles) pushed and pulled each other around the very fast course for four laps with very little between them. Nearing the end of the race, Studley began to open a slight gap approaching a series of off-camber loose turns with a short staircase in the middle. Studley maintained the gap up the stairs. Immediately after the remount, the course transitioned from flat to an off-camber drop at the apex of a left-hand bend. Studley was unable to negotiate the transition and went for a slide. The other three women got by before she could remount. Meanwhile coming down off the hill onto the flat field section of the course, Berg found a hidden reserve of pain-tolerance and attacked Knapp and Spies. Studley chased back on toward the finish. Berg held off all challengers taking the win, Knapp claimed the 2nd spot and Studley caught Spies for third. Studley then decided to double up on her weekend by riding the Men’s Cat 3 race. Unfortunately her luck was no better this time around as she snapped a chain midway through.
From the start a group of five worked off the front of the men’s field. Nick Weighall (Rad Racing/Hagens-Berman), Russell Stevenson (Benaroya Research Institute), Ryan Iddings (Lapierre), Kevin Bradford-Parish (Redline Bicycles) and Toby Swanson (Benaroya Research Institute) opened a gap up the dirt road climb and on the double track traverse leading to the brutal double-double uphill barrier run. The group stayed together for most of the first lap. However all goods things come to an end – Stevenson and Weighall slipped off the front, Swanson slipped off the back and Steve Fischer (Rad Racing) bridged up to form race-pairs that have been common so far this season. After another lap, Stevenson unhitched Weighall and it looked like our podium was to be decided with a sprint for 3rd. Apparently the same thought occurred to Weighall, and he didn’t like that ending. He began to haul Stevenson back. The spectators looked to be in for a great showdown for the top spot when disaster struck Stevenson. On a bumpy, off-camber section of the course, with Weighall about 15 seconds back, Stevenson rolled his rear tire. He was just about as far from the pits as possible. Although he ran it out and finished the race on his pit bike, Stevenson’s day was done. Weighall seized his opportunity and poured on the power to take the win. Bradford-Parish and Iddings rode most of the race together, but couldn’t reel in Weighall. Iddings came up just short on the finish and Bradford-Parish stepped into the second spot.
The SCC Series continues with race #5 November 1, at Donida Farms near Enumclaw. The early forecast is 40-degrees and rain…another perfect day for ‘cross in the Pacific Northwest. For more information: www.seattlecyclocross.com.