by LeRoi Smith
Stop number three of the Seattle Cyclocross Series brought out the masses to celebrate some of the last sun (and relative warmth) of the year. The complete change in weather from last week had many racers acting like they were headed to a Luau. If you didn’t get your roasted pineapple early, however, you may have lost the desire. While the weather held all day long, the course proved nearly as brutal, in its own way, as last week’s mud bath.
From the start, racers plunged into a long section of beach sand along the lake. With only a few rideable lines, real estate was at a premium on the first lap. Mercifully through the beach, riders then headed to the park’s fence line for a stair-step climb. To ensure some suffering, a single barrier was erected here, forcing the vast majority of riders to run the first incline.
The next section was a series of rhythm curves eventually leading into a double track descent with a sharp, off-camber right-hander back up the hill. After another similar drop/climb, riders plunged back to the beach for another go at the sand. This stretch, past the food and coffee tents, ended with a long climb to the high point of the course, amongst the tall firs. The relief of rounding the top was short-lived as the descent ended partway down the hill with an off -camber right-hander and a climb with a steep, loose ledge partway up. This time the descent did go all the way to the bottom of the course, around a high-speed sweeper and smack into a set of double barriers set on a short steep hill. A couple twists and turns on trail dumped the riders out onto a road for yet another trip up the hill. A long set of rhythm turns led the racers down and around back to the start/finish for another go at the beach.
The Elite Men’s field was the strongest of the year so far. Early in the race, Ryan Iddings (Redline Bicycles) led the way, the mountain biker having little difficulty with the technical course. Unfortunately two flats and subsequent runs to the pit foiled his attempt at the podium. As Iddings’ troubles unfolded, Nick Weighall (Cal Giant Berry Farms) surged.
Weighall would spend the rest of the race rolling up lapped traffic. No doubt bunny-hopping the single barrier helped on his way to a 2:15 gap over the second place finisher Spencer Paxson (Team S&M). Doug Reid (Second Ascent) rode a solid race to round out the podium, 1:15 behind Paxson. Three races into the series, Loren Hanson leads the Elite Men, with Carl Hulit (Recycled Cycles) and Aaron Mickels (Cycling Northwest) following.
In the Elite Women’s field, two-time winner Kristi Berg (Cycle U) saw the return of a familiar challenger in Ann Knapp (Kona). Despite this being her first race of the year, Knapp showed the muscle memory of a champion as she nimbly navigated the sand on the start loop. After the long climb, it was not surprising to see Knapp leading the way through the first time, but Berg was determined to not relinquish the crown to her old nemesis. Battles between these two often come down to the course, Berg’s strength being the technical courses and Knapp prevailing with climbing prowess and running speed. Today, Berg was able to pass Knapp and begin to prise out a gap that eventually extended to just under a minute.
Meanwhile Knapp was locked in battle with newcomer and Cyclocross Magazine intern Jo Markham (Olympia Orthopedic Associates). By the last laps, Knapp established a small gap which she held to finish for second with Markham rounding out the podium. With a perfect record, Berg leads the series with Markham second and Jodi Connolly (Blue Rooster/Sports Medicine Clinic) third.
Today was the final race-pace tune up for the Singlespeeders before next weekend’s SSCXWC event. The early race was dominated by a pack of five off the front of the 41-rider field. Last week’s winner Ian Mackie made the selection as did perennial SS favorite Craig Etheridge (333 FAB). As the lap board counted down, the group began to break up under the pressure. Mackie sprang out to the lead, much as he did last week. Etheridge also bubbled off the front and brought home a second place finish. Brian Meyers (Hodala) was a bit back from Etheridge for third place on the day. At this point in the series the standings are in the same order as today’s race.
Women’s SSCXWC reigning champ Kari Studley (Redline) also made an appearance in the men’s SS race and the Cat 3 race today as she gets tuned up for next week. Studley commented that she would be sporting a custom kit for next week and that we’d have to show up to see what she and Redline had in store for the occasion.
Next week SCX takes another break. Halloween marks the only stop for Seattle area racers this year at the long-time favorite venue in Steilacoom. The question on everyone’s mind is: Will the course include the infamous, UCI-max 80-meter Knapp-time run up? If it does, is that a trick or a treat? 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.
SCX #3 Race Video by Kenton Berg: