Stop number five in the Seattle Cyclocross Series brought riders back to Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, WA for the second time this season. With cold temps and frost giving way to sunny skies, the outlook for the day was bright and generally the traction was good. The course ran in reverse of the course from a month ago and featured a long run up littered with three barriers followed by two sections of fast downhill. While these features favored the climbers and runners, there were some technical turns tossed in to go with some fast, long straights to suit the roadie-type riders. All day long groups formed, used drafting tactics, and sprinted for the finish in what would prove to be foreshadowing of events to come in the Elite races.
The Elite Men’s race proved to be a barn-burner, and it quickly separated on the first lap. Three riders formed a lead group with Logan Owen (Redline), Steve Fisher (Revel Consulting/Rad Racing) and Morgan Schmitt (Cyclocrossracing.com) taking the initiative on lap one. They were pursued all race long by 15-year-old and recently upgraded Nolan Brady (Old Town Bicycle) and John Christian Flack (Olympia Orthopedic Associates). Owen and Fisher dogged each other throughout the race, and on the final lap they shed Schmitt and set up for a showdown sprint. Fisher came out of the final barricade, located just before the finish straight, with a 5 meter gap but Owen closed it down. Owen ended up taking the photo finish sprint by hundredths of a second, which had to be verified by the Finish Lynx camera, as Fisher seemingly threw his bike just a tad early, allowing Owen to squeak by. Schmitt rolled in for third and Brady won a tight sprint for fourth over Flack.
The Elite Women’s race played out in a similar fashion to the men’s race and featured tight racing as it has all season long. Courtney McFadden (Cycling NW), Mel Lewis (CycleU/PopCap), Jessica Cutler (Cucina Fresca) and Kristi Berg (CycleU/PopCap) were the four protagonists for the duration of the race and left the rest of the field behind on lap one. McFadden moved the front and by lap two had created a small gap on the other three girls. By the time the lead four started working their way up through the men’s masters and single speed fields, the gaps were getting smaller and things looked to be coming back together. While they did for a brief bit, McFadden and Lewis proved to be too strong for Berg and Cutler and found themselves together on the final lap to decide the winner. With a solid kick after the pre-finish straight barrier, Lewis surged and took McFadden towards the line. McFadden was be unable to come around her and, in what looked very much like a dead heat to the crowd, the finish again had to be verified by the finish camera. Lewis was declared the winner by less than 6 inches with McFadden second, and Cutler rolled in to round out the top three. Going into the final two races of the season McFadden will have her work cut out to hold off Lewis and take the series win.
Also worth noting, the race proceeds from today benefitted the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This year marked the 11th year of the partnership and the SCX crew and racers did a stellar job in continuing to support this great facility. The SCX series takes a week off and comes back to Sprinker Park on November 20th for race number six. For full results visit www.seattlecyclocross.com
Gallery by Janet Hill: