If you were in Portland, Oregon yesterday, there was a good chance you were at the Alpenrose Dairy complex to either cheer, eat waffles or race the Cross Crusade series opener. Nearly 1,400 racers – not including spectators – showed up to ring cowbells while enjoying the best of haute Belgian and French cuisine: pomme frites with mayonnaise, crepes and waffles. There was a giant (fake) furry Clydesdale set up near the barriers and someone was inspired to wear a Boy Scout uniform for their race. Add to that a velodrome, some stairs, a mock Western town, ABBA on the loudspeakers, choppy run-up, and all signs point to the ‘cross season running at full throttle in Oregon.
Though the Crusades offer no UCI points, the seductive moo of the Dairy kept Kona’s Ryan Trebon, Barry Wicks and Eric Tonkin away from the NACT Gran Prix of Gloucester on the East Coast. And while Monavie-Cannondale’s Sue Butler did fly over to race and try to retain her NACT leader’s jersey, local trouble makers Wendy Williams (Hudz-Subaru) and Alice Pennington (Veloforma) stayed to race in front of the hometown crowd.
Over two hundred women (with nearly a hundred beginner women) lined up to the sound of Brad Ross’s voice under sunny skies. With organizers changing the schedule this year, the women’s A group was moved into the men’s A and master men’s A race slot, giving the lead ladies an hour of racing. Williams and Pennington wasted little time in distancing themselves from the field with 2008 OBRA cyclocross champion Rhonda Mazza (Team S&M), Megan Faris (River City) and Emily Van Meter (Hudz-Subaru) putting in a chase. Pennington and Williams traded attacks, and though the Hudz rider crashed coming up of the velodrome, Williams worked back up to Pennington before passing her for the win. Pennington rolled in second, Mazza, third followed by Faris and Van Meter.
If you wore orange and rode a Kona, there was a good chance you were at the front of the men’s A race yesterday. After “warming up” (i.e. winning) the single-speed race earlier in the day, Ryan Trebon moved to the front of the geared race and never looked back. Racing on his single-speed, Trebon took teammate Barry Wicks along for the ride as a chase group of S&M rider Sean Babcock, Erik Tonkin (Kona) Shannon Skerritt (Vanilla) and Molly Cameron (Portland Bicycle Studio) tried to keep base with the twin towers. However, Trebon and Wicks used the transition sections to ride away and the chase group eventually broke up. Tonkin and Babcock reversed their finish at the Battle at Barlow from the previous weekend, with Tonkin beating Babcock for third. Skerritt, who had won at Alpenrose ahead of Tonkin in 2007, managed to throw in some grey Speedvagen amongst the Kona orange for fifth, and Cameron coming off a trip to the USGP in Wisconsin, rode in for sixth. Current OBRA cyclocross champion Kevin Hulick (Vanilla Workshop) took seventh ahead of recent Portland transplant Joshua Berry (Bode). Ian Brown (Tonic Fab) and Mark Blackwelder (Gentle Lovers) rounded out the top ten.
This year’s Crusades see the return of the great Oregon/Washington cyclocross rivalry (or a throw down between unicorns and sasquatch, depending on who you’re talking to) with the Grail de la Grunge up in Ft. Steilacomm Park on Saturday and with the second Crusade race in Rainer, Oregon on Sunday.