Sheppard and McGrath were neck and neck almost the entire race © Dave Roth

Sheppard and McGrath were neck and neck almost the entire race © Dave Roth

by Josh Liberles

Although the race location is actually pronounced “Ray-neer,” anything in Oregon with a name that can be read as a derivative of “rainy” is ominous, particularly on the heels of yesterday’s muddy slog through Heiser Farms. Last year’s Rainier race was a dry, fast edition with the course’s vertical gain the decisive feature – so anything was possible.

Sure enough, it was a wet start to the day, but the skies cleared, the course began to dry, and the sun even came out to warm things up for the afternoon starts. Wendy Williams was able to repeat last year’s win on this same course and, as Elite men’s race winner Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain Bicycles) said after his race, “This is what cyclocross is all about – mud and a suntan!”

Wendy Williams takes the outside line © Dave Roth

Wendy Williams takes the outside line © Dave Roth

Williams Wends Her Way to the Win

The total attendance for the day was over 1,000 strong, but one notable absence was local favorite Sue Butler (Hudz-Subaru), who was busy battling for podium positions in the UCI3 races in Cincinnati, Ohio. The region’s other strongwomen were quick to pick up the slack and take to the front, with Alice Pennington (Team S&M) and former Masters national champion Wendy Williams (River City) the primary animators.

Pennington leapt out to an early lead up the course’s initial long, paved climb, but Williams would take over the front soon thereafter and never relinquished it over the one-hour race. Pennington held on for second, with Serena Bishop (Sunnyside Sports) rounding out the podium.

With Butler missing this Crusade and planning on hitting some World Cups in November, Williams and Pennington look to be the odds-on favorites to once again battle for the overall Cross Crusade series.

Shannon Skerritt all alone in third © Dave Roth

Shannon Skerritt had the early lead © Dave Roth

Sheppard Fends Off McGrath’s Charge

Shannon Skerritt (Corsa Concepts) stormed off the line to grab the holeshot but, as he later reported, he didn’t have the punch to match the ensuing acceleration from Sheppard and Cyclocross Magazine columnist Adam McGrath (Feedback-Van Dessel). “I didn’t warm up enough – I got the holeshot, made it to the dirt first at the top of the course, chose a crappy line, and a whole train of guys went by,” said Skerritt. “I kept it close until the first really muddy climb, and Sheppard and McGrath obviously had warmed up properly and went flying past.”

McGrath pulls out all the stops © Dave Roth

McGrath pulls out all the stops © Dave Roth

Sheppard and McGrath then drilled the muddy terrain through the woods of the course’s back section to shed the rest of the field and make it a two-man race. Although horsepower undoubtedly was a factor, it was handling skills that gave the duo their buffer. “For the first two laps, we hit every line on all the climbs and descents, we were hitting everything so that gave us a pretty good gap,” said Sheppard. “The course really became thick – it went from Adam’s [local Northwest natural] peanut butter to Skippy, the stuff with hydrogenated oil. It was good, and you were able to berm out some of the corners, you could start sliding. Maybe that’s the gift of Dugast – this is my first time on Rhinos, and they’re an amazing tire. That’s not even a sponsor plug, I paid full retail for them.”

The two riders would stay locked together until the final lap, where Sheppard would get a 10-second advantage that he’d hold and slightly extend on his way to the line. “Technical courses like this are good for me,” said McGrath, “I can’t just throw down 8,000 watts on flat stretches.”

Molly Cameron grits her teeth © Dave Roth

Molly Cameron grits her teeth © Dave Roth

Skerritt rode his own pace in no-man’s land to claim third, a minute ahead of Molly Cameron (Portland Bicycle Studio). Michael Gallagher (, the winner of the Heiser Farms race on Saturday, felt that previous effort in his legs and started slowly, picking riders off every lap, to eventually claim fifth.

Sheppard’s broken thumb didn’t seem to slow him down on the challenging course as he was able to back up last week’s Alpenrose Crusade win. “I just have to hold my hoods, and I’ll have a custom cast next week. Crashing is not an option right now. Whatever happens, I’m gonna crash on the right side of my body.”

Look for Sheppard, a Canadian who calls Bend home, to continue targeting Cross Crusade events, with a break in early November for Canadian Nationals, where he hopes to give Geoff Kabush a run for the money. “The Cross Crusades are the life and blood – the pulse of cross – on the whole West Coast. It’s great to come out here; it’s a little bit of a circus, you’ve got kids, dogs running around – it’s hard not to come over here and enjoy an hour of pain. For Rocky Mountain Bicycles, the team establishes a presence. Shimano’s a big team supporter too, and they’re also supporting the series.”

Next week the Cross Crusade series moves to the notoriously bumpy Sherwood Equestrian Park. The day prior, microbrewery Ninkasi throws its name behind the Ninkrossi event.

Photo Gallery by Dave Roth:

Full Results:

Elite Women

PlNumFirst NameLast NameTeamCityAgeLapsTime
1928WendyWilliamsRiver City BicyclesPortland41559:18.00
2911AlicePenningtonTeam S+MPortland29501:01:06.00
3917SerenaBishopSunnyside Sportsbend31501:02:23.00
4903BrigetteBrownRiver City BicyclesPortland35501:03:39.00
5906AbbyWatsonEmbrocation Cycling JournalPortland27501:05:49.00
6923TinaBrubakerThe Vanilla workshopSalem42501:06:26.00
7934AnnaYewTeam Whistler501:06:35.00
9932NissyCobbRiver City Bicycles501:07:48.00
10925HeatherClarkBend Memorial Clinic Total Care Racing TeamBend32501:08:27.00
11927LauraWinberryElite EnduranceBend26501:09:23.00
12910ColleenMcclenahanSorella FortePortland45456:22.00
13929JenniferSchweitzerUpper Echelon FitnessPortland35456:31.00
14920JulieBrowningCyclepath RacingPortland41457:21.00
15915LindsayJonesTeam Dirt/Mudslinger EventsEugene30457:26.00
16933SarahTingeyBridgetown Velo457:43.00
17916KarenOppenheimerBend Memorial Clinic Total Care Racing TeamBend42458:21.00
18914KimRueterSorella Forte458:34.00
19924AnnaVaughnHammer Veloportland34458:51.00
20930ChristyLoveTeam S+MPortland36401:00:20.00
21912SarahTisdaleSorella FortePortland40401:02:21.00
DNF905RachelBagleyMotor DomePortland322

Elite Men

PlNumFirst NameLast NameTeamCityAgeLapsTime
1124ChrisSheppardRocky Mountain Bicycles P/B ShimanoBend37656:14.00
34ShannonSkerrittCorsa ConceptsPortland39659:15.00
4131MollyCameronPortland Bicycle StudioPortland34601:00:05.00 p/t BluePortland37601:00:48.00
665EirikSchulzSpecialized River City BicyclesPortland39601:00:52.00
77BenThompsonRocky Mtn BicyclesBend34601:00:57.00
811EricSheagleyVeloce RacingPortland38601:01:04.00
952IanBrownriver city bicycles/tonic fabPortland31601:01:13.00
1013BrettLuellingBuy Local CyclingSalem29601:01:33.00
1139StevenHunterEmbrocation Cycling JournalPortland30601:01:55.00
1238ScottBradwayTeam S&M/Sellwood Cycle RepairPortland39601:02:04.00
1342MichaelBennoVeloce RacingPortland42601:02:44.00
1414DamianSchmittSunnyside SportsBend32601:03:18.00
15121PatrickMeansTeam S+MBellingham601:03:28.00
1610AaronTuckermanCorsa ConceptsPortland27601:03:57.00
17116BenChaddockRubicon-ORBEA Benefiting the Lance Armstrong FoundationVancouver25601:03:59.00
18123bradwinnPrimal-First Bankportland601:04:31.00
19109AndrewBennettTeam RedlineEugene18601:04:33.00
20111RossBrodyBuy Local CyclingSalem31601:04:55.00
2121JonathanMyersTeam S+MPortland43601:05:10.00
221SethPatlaRiver City BicyclesHillsboro33601:05:16.00
23102MattFoxSunnyside SportsBend32601:05:17.00
2426MatthewWillsCourage CyclesPortland306
2553RyanWeaverRiver City BicyclesPortland33601:05:55.00
2643TonyKicGentle Loversportland32601:06:05.00
2720CaryMillerTeam S+MPortland38601:06:20.00
286DaveMessenheimerTeam Oregon presented by Laurelwood BrewingPortland30601:06:30.00
3032MathewHallIra ryanPortland32601:07:11.00
31117SpencerMoersfelderRiver City BicyclesPortland35601:07:12.00
32138BrentMattisonTeam Lazy Tarantulas601:07:30.00
33114PaulLaCavaGiant BicyclesPortland32601:07:33.00
3446PatrickJacksonBuy Local CyclingBend31601:10:42.00
3557JoshuaLiberlesCorsa ConceptsPortland37556:21.00
362KolbenPrebleClif Bar Development Cyclocross TeamForest Grove17556:24.00
3755BrendonGallantGuinness Cycling TeamSalem35556:51.00
38139JamesCeccorulliTeam Dire5
39106NatJohnsonGreen Submarine RecordsPortland32557:59.00
40135KellyRyanPortland Bicycle Studio559:10.00
4219IanLeitheiserCyclepath RacingPortland39501:00:02.00
4459JonathanSmithTeam S+MPortland36301:01:38.00
DNF136NickGibsonYakima Bike Vigilantes2
DNF63TrevorO’NealGentle LoversPortland301