Molly Cameron, pre-dust © Josh Liberles

Molly Cameron, pre-dust © Josh Liberles

by Josh Liberles

This year’s Kruger’s Kermesse Farm Crit, held on Sauvie Island in Portland, Oregon, was not quite a cyclocross race, since there were no barriers or running sections, but it was closer to ’cross than anything else. And while the first full-on cyclocross race may still be two weeks out – at the two day, three event Cross-Over Stage Race in Eugene – today’s event was the perfect segue between high speed road competitions and riding hard on dirt, or from fat tire forays to skinny-rubber slides through corners. The 1.5-mile laps flew by in well under five minutes per round.

Aaron Olson provides the firepower to split the field By Dave Roth

Aaron Olson provides the firepower to split the field © Dave Roth

The Elite men and women were on the course at the same time, with staggered starts (with the Singlespeeders and Men 35+ A racers racing concurrently as well).

Elite Men: Dust in the Wind

Although he’s only ever competed in two cyclocross races, hadn’t pre-ridden the course and didn’t know the specifics of the terrain, former Euro road pro Aaron Olson (Foundation Roots) made his race plan evident from the gun in the men’s race: Go hard as hell, leave everyone else in the dust – literally.

The trail obscured by dust was an all-too-familiar site © Oregon Cycling Action

The trail obscured by dust was an all-too-familiar site © Oregon Cycling Action

Olson countered an early move off the front by Davy Yeater (River City Bicycles), and only Molly Cameron (Portland Bicycle Studio) was able to follow. Behind was a dust storm that rivaled the worst Paris-Roubaix edition, with huge clouds completely obscuring the course and riders forced to guess at terrain and ride on feel – and faith.

Cameron and Olson quickly built up a lead on the chasers, but by the third lap Olson was forced out of the race with a mechanical. Cameron committed to the task at hand and put her recent “monster training block” to good use, stomping on the uphills and flat sections into the wind, recovering on the long descent and staying smooth throughout. She stayed away to claim the win.

Cameron seals the deal © Oregon Cycling Action

Cameron seals the deal © Oregon Cycling Action

“I’m kind of surprised I won; when I was warming up, I told my teammates, ‘I feel horrible, I don’t even know if I want to start,’” continued Cameron. “I’ve been training really hard, and this caps off a big block of intensity.”

Behind, 2009 Cross Crusade series winner Sean Babcock (Team S&M) and Ian Brown (River City Bicycles) were laying down the power, both to try to bring Cameron back and to test one another. It wasn’t until the last lap that Babcock was able to exert enough pressure and dislodge Brown. They finished second and third, respectively.

“I could pedal every single corner, and I think that was key. I had two guys chasing me the whole race, and their gap was always at 15-20 seconds,” said Cameron. “I know that both Babcock and Ian are real motors, and they were working together to catch me. I was making a point of hitting the 50′ of elevation in every lap as hard as I could at that point, and I’d catch my breath for a couple of seconds.”

Skerritt leads an early chase group © Ryan Smith

Skerritt leads an early chase group © Ryan Smith

Further back, the next chase group eventually whittled itself down to Shannon Skerritt (Trek 29er), Benjamin Kubas (Therapeutic Associates Cycling/GENR8), your humble author (Josh Liberles, Corsa Concepts), and John Leonard (Rapha). After waging a dirty, dusty battle, we finished in that order.

“After working all weekend at a sale at the Bike Gallery, where I’m a manager, and being on antibiotics all month from a sinus infection and ruptured ear drum, I did about as well as I could’ve hoped to do,” said Skerritt.

“’Cross will be my focus again this year, as it has been for the last 10. The shop gets slow, and I can fake it for an hour without doing too much training. We just had our first baby six months ago, so I’ll do the USGPs here in Portland and the NACT StarCrossed / Rad Racing weekend in the 35+ races, and I’ll race Elites locally,” said Skerritt. “I’m really looking ahead to Nationals, where I’ll be in the 40-44 group, and further down the road to Masters Worlds in Louisville.”

[NOTE: See our feature on Molly Cameron in Issue 8 of the print magazine.]

Elite Women: Brubaker Draws First Blood

Tina Brubaker pushes the pace on the front © Ryan Smith

Tina Brubaker pushes the pace in front of Amy Campbell © Ryan Smith

Although the Masters women fields had decent numbers, the Elite women’s race had a surprisingly low turnout for the state that has set the bar for huge women’s participation. But the trio of riders who did take the start rode fast and furious, and proved to be evenly matched. Tina Brubaker (Vanilla) traded jabs with teammates Amy Campbell and Brigette Brown (River City Bicycles) before attrition would gradually trim the lead group down to one.

“I knew that Amy’s been riding really well and killing it in recent crits, and Brigette Brown has been training specifically for ’cross this year, so I knew it’d be a good power train we’d have going,” said Brubaker. “We all stayed together, and were just railing the downhill section through the grass – and they’re super-skilled riders.”

Brubaker churning up the fine, dry dirt By Dave Roth

Brubaker churning up the fine, dry dirt © Dave Roth

Lapped traffic initially dislodged Brown from the others and she was unable to close the gap. Racers from other fields played a factor later in the race, too. As an Elite male racer passed the duo, Campbell jumped aboard and almost shed Brubaker before she was finally able to recover and make the junction. “Especially when there’s only three of us, that’s part of the game,” said Brubaker. “We’ll take nice pulls when we can get them.”

Brubaker and Campbell continued to test one another and to pour on the speed, until a mechanical on the course’s  deep-dust ride-up section on the backside forced Campbell off the bike for a repair. “I snapped my front derailleur, which was fine since I was in the big ring,” Brubaker said nonchalantly about turning over her 48 front chain ring. “When Amy mechanicaled, I soft-pedaled until I saw her get off her bike, then knew I couldn’t wait and punched it. I held it for the final three laps, and won the war of attrition.” Campbell was able to hold onto second, with Brown in third.

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