by Kenton Berg
In the classic spirit of great OR vs WA football games of past the NW border state clash was renewed today when Oregon (unicorns) and Washington (sasquatches) crossers unleashed their fury today in Steilacoom, WA. The first annual MFG Cross Clash was in full swing and at stake was the coveted ‘Grail de la Grunge’ and bragging rights for the next year. It was winner-take-all as 10 categories jockied for the top 10 placing and points to determine the winner. The dry weather of late made for a very fast course with eating dust the meal of the day. A long pavement section gave way to some bumpy and turny sections before the course made its way up a very loose two-stage climb that left everyone’s legs hurting. The bomber downhill went from dirt to pavement with a return to the start/finish area for each lap.
The action really heated up as the Elite women took the line with last week’s winner Kari Studley (Velo Bella) looking to repeat and both Kristi Berg (Redline) and Jenni Gaertner (Riverstone Women’s Team) trying to unseat her. Also in the line up today was hometown favorite Ann Knapp (Kona) who is looking to regain her winning form. The first lap saw a split in the group with Studley, Berg, and Gaertner going away from the field and not looking back. Studley used the downhill section and following pavement flats to her advantage and left Berg and Gaertner behind for good on lap 2 to go and win convincingly. Gaertner ended up shaking loose her chasing companion for second with Berg coming home for third.
On the men’s side the field had a strong showing from the Oregon crew and it looked to be a great battle as the first lap showed three of the top five riders being Oregonians. By lap two Russell Stevenson (BRI) had stamped his authority on the field and was riding away with a sizable gap. The tag team of Spencer Paxson (Team S&M) and Sean Babcock (Team S&M) from Oregon would give chase for the rest of the day but to no avail. Paxson finished second and Babcock third.
While the men’s and women’s action was strong the highlight of the day was the last race, the Singlespeeders, featuring Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and a bunch of flying monkeys. A Unicorn pinata was hung out and Jason Williams (Cucina Fresca) took the hole shot and shattered the pinata on the first punch…symbolic in that the Unicorns were shattered throughout the day’s racing. While Williams, the eventual winner, and Craig Etheridge (Counterbalance) battled all race long for the win, the rest of the SS crew tried not to spend too much time on the Cowardly Lion’s wheel (see pictures to understand why) nor crash while ogling over Dorothy’s hooters. It was a fitting end to a great day of racing as the beers and Nuun flowed post race and the grit was picked out of the teeth amongst banter and race rehashing.