Logan Owen running the tough sidehill section ahead of Steve Fisher. © Dennis Crane

Logan Owen running the tough sidehill section ahead of Steve Fisher. © Dennis Crane

by Kenton Berg

Courtenay McFadden leads the Women's Elite field towards the run up on lap 1. © Janet Hill

Courtenay McFadden leads the Women’s Elite field towards the run up on lap 1. © Janet Hill

The Seattle Cyclocross Series took to the King County Fairgrounds in Enumclaw, WA on Sunday for the fifth installment of the series. Continuous precipitation all week long had the ground saturated and ripe for creating some slippery cross conditions on a classic, Belgian-style course. A short 50 meter starting straight lead into a right hand turn which created problems all day long as racers hit it with some speed and the greasy conditions lead to numerous crashes. From there races wound through a series of 180 degree turns before being shot out towards a steep, nasty run up.

The run up was steep and slick. © Janet Hill

The run up was steep and slick. © Janet Hill

The run up was not only slick, but was strewn with rocks making traction difficult which only added to the challenge of this lung-searing component. Once clear of the run up racers headed out through single track before hitting a short, rocky downhill which lead them to a heavy, muddy section on the backside of the ballfields. After getting through that is was up another short climb before plunging back down another single track section and onto a brief pavement respite. An long, slick sidehill section lead racers to another pavement section which then funneled racers into a series of tight, greasy turns. The final piece of these turns was a set on a side hill section and the 180 degree up and downs on the sidehill in greasy conditions created havoc for many a rider. Getting through this then sent the riders into the four pack of barriers and onto a long journey out and around the barns before coming back into the infield via a slight off-camber left hander and through the finish area in order to do it all over again.

The Elite Men set off as the temperatures were cresting 60 degrees and it was feeling like a balmy, spring day. The increasing warmth had the greasy conditions starting to resemble peanut butter as bikes were gaining pounds by the lap and pit bikes were a welcome sight. Logan Owen (Redline) took the hole shot as the field successfully navigated the first right hander and made their way through the infield turns. Steve Fisher (Hagens Berman p/b Raleigh) sat tight on Owens wheel and the two quickly established themselves as the leading group. By the time the field hit the run up Owen and Fisher were setting themselves apart from the pack. As the two leaders came back into the infield on the back end of lap 1 they had established a 15 second gap over the chase group of Newt McGrath (Hagens Bermn p/b Raleigh), Logan Wetzel (Second Ascent), Benji Perrin (Second Ascent), Ben Storrar (OTB), Toby Swanson (Eatonville Outdoor) and Morgan Schmitt (CyclocrossRacing.com).
Courtenay McFadden's game face. © Janet Hill

Courtenay McFadden’s game face. © Janet Hill

Owen and Fisher would take turns on the front making small digs throughout the race as they continued to watch each other as well as increase their gap on each lap. The chase group would fracture by lap 3 with smaller groups forming and the gaps increasing. McGrath, Wetzel, Perrin, Swanson, and Storrar would keep each other in sight for a while before McGrath would get loose and find himself sitting in no-man’s land alone in third. By the time the bell lap came around it the picture was clear: Owen and Fisher would fight it out for the win on the last lap, McGrath would have to have a major issue to lose third place, and the rest of the field would be chasing for series points.

The lead duo went into the run up together and all eyes were on the infield section waiting to see if one rider would appear solo or if we might have a late lap sprint for the final left turn into the short finish straight. Owen would make a surge on the backside section that would see him emerge first with Fisher appearing about 8 seconds back. Owen would stay upright as he ran through the tough technical turns and only had to negotiate the barriers before pushing the winning gap up to 28 seconds as Fisher took it easy en route to second while McGrath would come home safely for the final podium spot.
The Elite Women’s small group would go off after the men finished and the field would fracture quickly on the first lap. Courtenay McFadden (Voler/Bicycle Center) would lead the group up the run up with Kristin Kelsey (CycleU/PopCap), Kari Studley (Redline), and Jessica Cutler (CyclocrossRacing.com) following close behind. McFadden would emerge from the backside section with a small gap and would begin to stretch it out over the next few laps. Studley, coming off her win in the morning’s Single Speed race, would keep McFadden close as she worked to reel her in. Cutler would continue to make up ground after a slow starting lap but would not see the leading duo again until the finish. McFadden would ride a solid last few laps as she worked through lapped traffic and would keep Studley at bay as the gap hovered at 30 seconds. McFadden would hold on to that gap for the win with Studley taking second and Cutler rounding out the podium in third.
The Seattle Cyclocross Series takes a week off before resuming again on November 18th for another round of action at iconic Fort Steilacoom Park. For full results and series standings see www.seattlecx.com/results/2012-2/