Pennington racing to the win at the final Cross Crusade

Pennington racing to the win at the final Cross Crusade.

PORTLAND, OREGON – Donald Reeb ( and Alice Pennington (Kona) repeated their performances from the previous week, taking the Elite men’s and women’s wins at the finale race of the 2012 River City Cross Crusade Sunday in Portland, but it was Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain Bicycles) and Serena Bishop Gordon (Silverado Gallery-Sunnyside) who came away with the overall series wins.

A week of steady rain prepared the Pro Paddock course at Portland International Raceway well for the final round of the eight-race series, turning the former national championship and USGP course into a technically challenging slip ‘n’ slide as the battles for the overall Crusade crown played out. Promoters mercifully left the bare motocross section of PIR infield’s out of the course this year, keeping riders mostly on pavement and highly trodden grass.

Pennington Doubles Up, Bishop Gordon Hangs Onto Overall

Pennington rode to her second consecutive win much like she did the week before in Hillsboro: grabbing an early lead and avoiding problems on her way to the line. But she was chased closely this week by Serena Bishop Gordon (Silverado Gallery-Sunnyside), who needed a good finish to keep her overall lead and repeat her 2011 series win.

“Today I just knew I had to have a good race, and I also knew Alice would be there because she’s so good in the mud,” Bishop Gordon said.

Pennington’s skills in the mud allowed her to get away early and never really look back, but Bishop Gordon quickly picked up the chase and trailed Pennington by about 15 seconds after three laps. Bishop Gordon pressed the issue but wasn’t able to close in on Pennington, who was working on damage control at the front of the race.

“It was just a matter of knowing when to run and when to try and ride,” Pennington said of her strategy for keeping the lead. “I only had one bike, too, so I was trying to keep this one going the whole time and not get it too packed up. It’s pretty heavy right now.”

Pennington added to her lead by the finish, grabbing her second win of the series by 31 seconds over Bishop Gordon. Brooke Snyder ( crossed the line third, followed by Megan Chinberg (Corsa Concepts) and Brigette Brown (River City Bicycles).

Bishop Gordon’s second place was enough to hang onto the overall title, while Pennington moved into second.

Reeb, Skerritt Duel for Win, Sheppard Takes Overall

Reeb picked up his third consecutive Crusade win after an all-day battle with Shannon Skerritt (Trek Cyclocross Collective). Sheppard, whose five previous Crusade wins were enough to seal the 2012 series win, was absent for the finale after having raced at the Canadian national championships in British Columbia the day before.

Sheppard’s absence left Reeb free to set the pace at the front, and the rider didn’t waste anytime taking over the race. Reeb had a nice gap by the end of the first lap and looked to be in control of his own destiny. But Skerritt battled back over the greasy course and caught Reeb with just over three laps remaining.

“I think he just started going through the course different ways and I didn’t go through it once very good,” Reeb said of Skerritt’s chase down.

Whatever the reason, Skerrit shot back to the front and was soon leading Reeb through the twisting, wooded infield of the automobile race track next to the Columbia River. The mud was at turns thin and greasy but could turn to think peanut butter in some of the more well-worn sections. The lead duo’s advantage continued to grow as both riders remained steady while navigating lapped traffic, and  neither suffered any significant bobbles or mechanicals.

“You basically have to make sure your bake doesn’t take a hit,” Reeb said. “That’s what it is. Guys were breaking stuff. So if you can just smooth it out. We had a pretty good gap, so we really didn’t have to worry about anybody catching us.”

The leaders poured it on as the field behind them strung out into single riders fighting the conditions. Skerritt led Reeb through final paved straightaway as they took the bell together and set up for the final circuit. Reeb stuck to Skerritt’s wheel through the middle part of the course and then gained an advantage just before the finish, coming in about 15 seconds ahead of Skerritt.

“He did that middle part way better than me, so I just kind of tried to wait it out,” Reeb said. “Once I got it, then it was just don’t look back, try not to run into anyone and don’t let anyone run into me.”

JT Fountain (Neon Jet Bikes) crossed the line for third place, 1:25 behind Reeb. Seth Patla (Gates- Rapha-River City Bicycles) grabbed the fourth spot, followed by Kolben Preble (Clif Bar) to round out the top five.

Sheppard’s five wins were enough to lift him to the overall lead in the series, which is based on the best six results from the eight races. Reeb’s three wins earned hims the second spot, while Molly Cameron, who missed the final Crusade while racing in Japan, finished third.

Donald Reeb takes the checkered flag.

Donald Reeb takes the checkered flag.

Junior Winners Dominate Series

The winners of the Cross Crusade Junior categories put on impressive displays of dominance over the eight-race series. Women’s winner Susannah Hart (Hapi-Go!) won all eight races of the 2012 series and also competed in the Elite women’s race this week. She also took second place in the Crusade’s Unicycle category, winning the last two consecutive weekends.

Bend’s Lance Haidet (Bend Memorial Clinic) won seven of eight junior races to easily take the series overall. The only junior race he didn’t win came on week one at Alpenrose, when he competed with the category B men instead and won that race.

Elite Men
1. Donald Reeb ( 58:22
2. Shannon Skerritt (Trek Cyclocross Collective) 58:39
3. JT Fountain 59:47
4. Seth Patla (Gates Rapha River City Bicycles) 1:00:06
5. Kolben Preble (Clif Bar) 1:00:57

Elite Women
1. Alice Pennington (Kona) 1:04:00
2. Serena Bishop Gordon (Silverado Gallery-Sunnyside) 1:04:31
3. Brooke Synder ( 1:05:10
4. Megan Chinberg (Corsa Concepts) 1:06:48
5. Brigette Brown (River City Bicycles) 1:07:06

Complete OBRA results: