Mr. Cyclocross, Joe Martin. © Kenton Berg
October 11, 2009 — Burien, WA Beverly Park Elementary in Burien, WA hosted the second stop on the 2009 SCX series. The day broke chilly but sunny and with the sun, the temp came up nicely for most races – still no traditional ‘cross weather for SCX.
The course was very compact, consisting of an old cintrex running track and associated field on one terrace and then a back section of thicker grass and pavement on an upper section, separated by about 30 vertical feet. The vertical section was put to good use as a run up, a short, plunge decent (with immediate right turn and climb back up) and then a high speed decent onto the track. The loose drop provided great spectating, with many a slip, slide and tumble. Handling skills were at a premium in this area and with the climb back up, those with the skills were able to make noticeable gains over less experienced riders. In other parts of the course, sharp corners, and false flats required reserve power to keep up the pace. As one rider remarked, “There was no where to hide.” If you didn’t have fitness, there was no faking it today.
In the men’s elite race, from the gun, Russell Stevenson (Benaroya Research Institute) was off like he stole the bike, quickly opening a gap on the four man chase of Toby Swanson (Benaroya Research Institute), Ian Mackie (Benaroya Research Institute), Logan Wetzel (Benaroya Research Institute) and Solomon Woras (Vanilla). Things were going all Stevenson’s way until he rolled a tire and ended up running most of a lap. Meanwhile the chasers remained together after finding themselves with no one to chase. Eventually the pressure proved too much for Mackie’s first race of the series and he slid off the back of the group. By this point Stevenson was on his B bike and nearly half a lap off the lead. In his chase he bunny-hopped the single barrier at the base of the run up and then just rode the run (his B bike was fat-tired). After two laps he was back on the A bike and chasing in earnest. However, the threesome up front was not to be caught and Stevenson, after going backwards to last place, would settle for ninth.
Going into the last few laps, Woras was in the uncomfortable position of odd-man out, sandwiched between the two BRI racers. The inevitable attack came from Wetzel, with Swanson gluing himself to Woras’ wheel. Wetzel clawed his way into a decent gap although Woras was chasing. Nearing the finish Woras bobbled and Swanson was able to gain a maintainable gap. At the finish it was Wetzel coming in for a well-earned win, Swanson second and Woras rounding out the podium.
Unlike the men’s single rider going off the front, the women’s elite race saw a group of three shoot out to the early lead. Kristi Berg (Redline Bicycles), Jadine Riley (Team Group Health) and Lea Stralka (Byrne Invent) went out together, building a lead on Lee Smith (Team Group Health) and Hope Chamberlain (Escapados). The threesome quickly set their sights on the first obstacle of the day, the backend of the large Master Cat 3 Men’s field. Working through the large group of slower riders seemed to favor the leader as Berg was able to select slightly better passing lanes and Riley and Stralka were forced to react to keep Berg’s wheel. During the malay, Stralka experienced an ill-timed mechanical. She was unable to regain her position and had to settle for 5th on the day, behind Chamberlain. Meanwhile, in the tricky drop/climb section of the course Berg was able to gain a small gap on Riley as the two knifed through traffic. That sliver of daylight soon began to widen as Riley was unable to regain the wheel. As the traffic thinned, the opportunities for lead changes diminished. Berg and Riley are both strong technical riders and were unlikely candidates for trouble on the drop. Berg finished first on the day, with Riley 2nd. Lee Smith put in a solid ride to round out the podium. With 2 races in the SCX complete, Berg leads the series with 2 bullets.
Next week’s SCX action is another new course, Silver Lake, near Everett, WA. According to course designer Dan “Father Time” Norton, the signature feature of the course will be a tough sand section along the lake front. The weather forecasts are calling for a shift to more traditional late-fall weather for the Northwest (showers and cool). All-in-all, it looks like we might get a touch of Belgium at SCX #3. The Seattle Cyclocross Series is sponsored by New Belgium Brewing, Northwave, Redline Bicycles, Thule and FSA. Full results, standings and venue details can be found at www.seattlecyclocross.com.