A Changing of the Guard at the Beach in Sammamish, Washington
Seattle area cyclocrossers descended upon the southern shores of Lake Sammamish today for MFG series race #3, the Starbucks GP. Racers were met with chilly morning weather and blue skies which slowly turned into a gorgeous Indian summer day. This let the morning dew that made some corners tricky in the morning dry out and gave way to some fast racing action on a near pancake-flat course. The MFG crew used a mix of wide-open sections combined with some treed areas to throw out a fast and fun course with some technical turns worked in. Half way through the course, and hurting riders in every category, was the feature of the day, a 250 foot-long beach section on the lake’s shore front. After some speed sections and twisting through the trees the course worked its way to the Sunset Beach section where riders were challenged with soft sand a two different routes, one somewhat rideable, one not. To add to the excitement of the day there was also hydroplane boat racing just off the shore so spectators could watch the riders suffer and boats kick up rooster tails at the same time.
In the women’s elite race, the action started fast and furious with Kristi Berg (Redline) taking a first lap lead and trying to pull away from Kari Studley (Velo Bella), Ann Knapp (Kona) and Jenni Gaertner (Riverstone Women’s Racing). 3 laps into the race things had changed a bit with Studley leading and getting a small gap on Berg with Knapp and Gaertner chasing. Studley was able to successfully navigate the men’s field and the beach to stretch the lead out to 15 seconds and hold on for the win. Berg charged hard on the last lap to no avail and local legend Ann Knapp held on to 3rd just over a minute behind.
On the men’s side, the first lap saw Steve Fisher (Rad Racing NW) go off the front quickly and come into the first beach run with 7 seconds on the field. He was followed by Ryan Iddings (LaPierre), Zach McDonald (Stevens/Classic Cycle), Toby Swanson (BRI) and Eric Emsky (Rad Racing NW). That group would ultimately move away from the field and trade blows for the greater portion of the race. As those five took the final lap bell down the pavement stretch, they were all together and their once-hyper pace slowed so they could assess each other and hope for someone to go the front and pull.
As they emerged from the woods section Zach McDonald had put in his attack and had created a five-second gap over Ryan Iddings and Steve Fisher. The attack had shed Swanson and Emsky and left McDonald to ride away to victory. While McDonald was able to sit up for the victory salute the action was unfolding behind him as Iddings lead out Fisher on the straightaway and the two wound up for a match sprint to the finish. Fisher was able to come out of Idding’s slipstream to just get him on the line to take 2nd.
The action moves to the Fort Steilacoom venue next Saturday for the inaugural MFG Cross Clash (www.mfgcyclocross.com) pitting Oregon against Washington with the winner taking home the coveted “grail de la grunge.” On Sunday the Seattle Cyclocross series (www.seattlecyclocross.com) resumes with race #2 at Beverly Park. Look for pictures and a report after another great race weekend in the Pacific Northwest.