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by LeRoi Smith
Snow is not unheard of in Seattle in November; but neither is it commonplace. So, there was some excitement in the air for Seattle Cyclocross #6 at Sprinker Park in Spanaway, WA as forecasts called for temps in the 30’s and some moisture. The early day races ran under overcast skies; but alas no snow. The Elite Men’s race at midday started to see some flurries; but no affect on the course. The Elite Women raced under snowy skies and increasingly wet ground. The cold and snow did not dampen the spirits of the Bob’s Red Mill crew as they were on hand providing a welcome bowl of warm oatmeal, sparking the temporary updated motto, ” Train (and spectate) with grain”.
The Sprinker course is a mostly flat affair although the designers made the most out of a single knob and depression to add some spice. The race started in the parking lot but soon jumped into the trees for a few off camber twists and turns. Early in the day, racers dug up rocks in the curves, making for some navigation challenges. Later in the day, light snow added some moisture to the mix. Once through the sharp twists a set of double barriers marked the entrance into a section of longer legs, working slightly up and down the hill.
This section led into the first of four trips through the depression and up the course’s lone hill. The first two are across, turn back across. The third was a drop to the bottom and immediate U-turn on slippery rocks and back up into the final dip which ended with an off camber ascent into a two-part sand pit. Part one ended with a tight right-hander into a sandy berm which was rideable as long as your approach was well planned.
The course then went over a shoulder of the hill, dropped off the other side and into another U-turn. This turn went into railroad tie which encouraged riders to dismount for the short hill. Many chose to hop the barrier and ride the hill, but there was little benefit to riding the hill… beyond cheers from the crowd gathered around the mound. The top of the run dropped off the hill and then around, back up and over the other shoulder. The lap was rounded out by a long stretch of flat grass, interrupted by a very tricky off camber right hand turn around a tennis court. The grass section ran around a baseball field, emptying onto a paved section running to the finish line with one 90-degree turn to liven things up about 50 yards shy of the finish line.
The Elite Men’s race was a three man affair as Zach McDonald (Rapha Focus), Logan Wetzel (Redline Bicycles) and Steve Fisher (Rad Racing NW) worked their way off the front of the pack early on, chased by Toby Swanson (Bro Tour) and Logan Owen (Redline). A noticeable temperature drop and the beginning of snow did not phase the trio as they worked to a sizable lead on Swanson and Owen. Just before the start of the final lap, McDonald went to the front of the group and pushed the pace. The line strung out, elastic stretching as the threesome began the bell lap. The tight turns and accelerations at the front part of the lap were too much for Fisher and Wetzel. The elastic snapped and McDonald was on his way to a solo victory. Fisher pulled away from Wetzel near the end, coming in for second place. Wetzel rounded out the podium for the day.
The Elite Womens’ race began with steady snowfall but without accumulation. The uncommon weather mirrored an uncommon rider’s list. With series leader Kristi Berg (Cycle U) out with a broken hand and Kari Studley (Redline Bicycles) opting to race with the Cat 3 men, the field was wide open. Early on it looked to be a two woman race with Kristen Kelsey (Buy Local Racing) and Courteney McFadden (Cycling Northwest) racing together; Melanie Lewis (Blue Rooster/Sports Medicine Clinic) trailed the duo by about 30 seconds. As the laps counted down, so did the gap back to Lewis even as McFadden and Kelsey seemed to be taking turns on the front, working together. Beginning the final lap Lewis was within sight of her competition, which was bad news for them. Having battled back she was not to be denied, catching and riding through the pair that had shared the lead all race long. Kelsey outlasted McFadden for second place.
Next week is the SCX Finals at Evergreen Fairgrounds in Monroe. SCX is sponsored by New Belgium Brewing, FSA, Redline Bicycles, Thule, Northwave and Bob’s Red Mill. Full results and detailed information can be found at www.seattlecyclocross.com.
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