by Jon Muyskens
EUGENE, OREGON — Despite reports predicting a grim suffer-fest of rain, wind and certain misery, almost 350 dedicated competitors descended on Camp Harlow in Eugene last Saturday to vie for Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) State Championship honors.
The mountain biker-friendly Camp Harlow course featured a number of technical challenges. The start was a 200-foot straightaway that led into a sweeping right-hander through a depression littered with river rocks. Failure to choose the right line coming into this section left many competitors scrambling for traction and at the back of the pack. An even more critical feature of the course, however, was a roughly 300 yard-long stretch of greasy singletrack that was decisive as passing in it was next to impossible and any mistake meant entanglement in a thicket of blackberry prickers.
As the Men’s Cat B winner, Taylor Bushnell, said of his success in the race, “… it was all about the hole shot to the single track. I knew if I got to the single track first, the race would be mine, that’s the value of being a mountain biker.”
Although early racers experienced the anticipated wind, cold and rain, the sun came out in the afternoon for the elite racers, lighting up the beautiful fall colors and depriving spectators of the epic suffering they came to witness. Even so, an exciting battle unfolded in the disappointingly pleasant conditions. Cross Crusades winner Aaron Tuckerman (Corsa Concepts) and Kona pro Sean Babcock seized control of the front of the race two laps into it, while a chase group comprising Donald Reeb (cyclocrossracing.com), Damian Schmitt (Silverado Gallery/Sunnyside), and Ross Brody (Buy Local Cycling) formed about a minute behind the leaders.
On the front, Tuckerman and Babcock traded the front position until lap five. At lap six, Tuckerman took a lead that appeared insurmountable, but remarkably, Babcock managed to bridge the large gap and made contact with Tuckerman at the beginning of lap seven. At the beginning of the eighth and final lap, the hard bridging effort showed on Babcock’s face as Tuckerman sat calmly on the Kona pro’s wheel. Money was on Tuckerman at this point, and, as predicted, Tuckerman pulled away in the final lap for the victory and Babcock rolled in for second. Reeb bested Brody in a sprint finish for third place, while Schmitt fell off the pace in the last half lap and took fifth.
The Women’s elite race saw pro mountain biker and former cyclocross World’s competitor, Sue Butler ride away early and cruise to victory in front of Bend rider, Heather Clark (Bend Memorial Clinic Total Care Racing Team) and Portland rider, Megan Chinburg (Corsa Concepts). Sue’s husband, Tim Butler (Specialized/ West End) rode to first place in the Masters A race in front of Lake Oswego rider Tim Sullivan and Bend rider, John Rollert (Webcyclery).
In the Singlespeed race, Portland rider Samuel Nicoletti (Gentle Lovers) and Eugene local Luke DeMoe (Slocum) pulled away early and established a wide gap to their nearest challenger. The two duked it out on the front the entire race until a broken cog forced Demoe to run and soft-pedal the final lap to maintain his second place finish.
Full race results are available at http://obra.org/events/19707/results