Paxson and Gaertner solo to wins at Magnuson Park CX: MFG Cyclocross Series

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Riders ascend the portable stairs © Kenton Berg

Riders ascend the portable stairs © Kenton Berg

by Kenton Berg

Lakeside tent city © Janet Hill

Lakeside tent city © Janet Hill

Magnuson Park, on the shores of Lake Washington, was the host of the fourth race in the MFG Cyclocross Series on Sunday. The previous days rain, cold and overall inclement weather had most of the local ’crossers inspired for some “true” ’cross conditions to be put forth…unfortunately the weather didn’t hear us or just isn’t listening these days. The morning’s dark clouds would soon give way to mostly sunny skies with the cool temperatures only rising a bit. The only mud found on the course was easily negotiated and didn’t factor into the fast-paced racing that would ensue. The course was a series of long straights joined by swooping turns and the use of the cement feature known as “Randy’s Crack.” Once racers were thru the finish line a left/right combination sent riders careening into the crack which had two lines into and demanded use of the brakes and holding your line. From there the turns on the infield grass, with a hop over some barriers, lead riders past the team tents and out onto a long sidewalk straight. A few semi-muddy corners got racers around the tennis courts and up and over the modular stairs that were placed on a small hill. A long gravel section lead to a short uphill with a commanding view of the lake at the top. Racers had no time to look though as it was over the top and straight down hill to the high-speed right hand turn and back onto the start/finish straight.

Jenni Gaertner and Kari Studley emerge from "Randy's Crack" © Janet Hill

Jenni Gaertner and Kari Studley emerge from “Randy’s Crack” © Janet Hill

The Elite Women took to the track after several categories raced and had a chance to beat down the grass and create some lines on the course. With the long straight away start the hammer came down early and hard with Jenni Gaertner (Motofish) leading the pack into the early turns and down into “Randy’s Crack.” She would be closely tailed by Kari Studley (Redline), Kristin Kelsey (CycleU/PopCap), Mel Lewis (CycleU/PopCap), Emily Eggers (Blue Rooster) and Lea Stralka (Ragnarok). By the start of lap two, Gaertner would be pulling away from Studley with the chase group trailing another 20 seconds back. Studley’s efforts were further hampered when she had to use her extensive bike handling skills to negotiate a wayward spectator trying to cross the course just beyond the finish line and stay upright. Gaertner would go on to increase her gap throughout the race to take the win with Studley managing her pace to hold on to second. The battle for third was continuous for a good portion of the back end of the race between Eggers and Stralka. Eggers would eventually prevail to take the third step on the podium.

The front of the single speed race begins splintering on lap one © Kenton Berg

The front of the single speed race begins splintering on lap one © Kenton Berg

Given the pace of the previous races the Men’s Elite race was sure to be fast as well as tactical as drafting was playing a role on the long straight aways as the wind had been picking up all day. From the gun it was full tilt with the winner of MFG race # 1, Spencer Paxson (Kona), taking the hole shot and leading the group through the turns and into “Randy’s Crack.” By the time the racers hit the turn onto the long sidewalk straight there were four racers off the front and hitting the gas. Paxson still lead the group with Logan Wetzel (Second Ascent), Carson Miller (HSP), and Benji Perrin (Second Ascent) in tow as they were beginning to ride away with the race. Behind the lead four a chase group of four had formed and was working together to try and pull the leaders back. Nolan Brady (Revel Consulting/Rad Racing), Ben Storrar (Old Town Bicycles), Jason Cemanski (Apex) and David O’Brien (Revel Consulting/Rad Racing) would trade pulls and do everything they could to close the gap but the pace up front was too high for contact to be made. Midway through the race Perrin would begin to yo-yo off the back and would be the first to crack. Not too long afterwards Miller would be detached and Paxson and Wetzel would continue the high pace with Paxson working hard to get the stubborn Wetzel off his wheel. Midway through lap 7 Wetzel would come undone and Paxson would ride away for the solo win. Wetzel held his pace to solo in for second and Miller would get the best of Perrin to take the third spot on the day.

The fifth race in the MFG Cyclocross Series will take place this coming Saturday with the SCCA/Starbucks Gran Prix descending upon the Marymoor Velodrome. The unique aspect to this race is the partnership between MFG and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) based in Seattle. As part of National Breast Cancer Awareness month MFG will donate proceeds from the event towards treatment and care of breast cancer patients of SCCA.

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