While many series across the country are just reaching their midway point, the world’s biggest ‘cross series, The Cross Crusade in Portland, Oregon, held its season finale last weekend. The women’s race boasted a field of 200 women. Here’s one racer and fan’s perspective:
by Stephanie Chase, Photos by Carrie Goodbrake
“Check it out,” my teammate pointed out to me, “the Vanilla guys are using road tactics to block for Hulick.” Kevin Hulick, the lucky rider, was in the process of building his lead during the Oregon cyclocross championship men’s A race. The Vanilla riders were dominating the front of the race, edging out Sean Babock (Team S&M) and Jason Sager (SagerSports.com). Set against the fading sunset on a fall afternoon, the white Speedvagens and their blue and aqua riders almost innocently blended into the autumn backdrop – except for when you moved out of the Norman Rockwell setting and closer to reality you could see they were wrecking havoc on the rest of the race with their fast and clean tempo. Riders had their heads down, faces sucked in and chests heaving. Due to averaging nine minute laps on the 2.3 mile course, the carnage was strewn all over the circuit. I’m not fantastic at math but those numbers alone make my heart rate leap and my legs burn. Hulick went on to win the race (his first win in the Cross Crusade series) with his teammate Molly Cameron in third place. Babcock was the lone non-Vanilla rider in the top five.
It was a fast and flat course meaning that this was going to be a balls-out, breath-when-you’re done race. The organizers had incorporated the fairground’s rodeo pen, which was an oval track of mud that may or may not have included some biological leftovers from the animals themselves. There are quite a few obstacles to contend with – having worms and feces jam up your brakes definitely gives the Cross Crusade organizers points for creativity.
But bigger and better things are to come for next year. Drum corps, windmills, Velodromes and costumes are so 2008. Standing and looking over the two hundred women who had come out for the final race, organizer and promoter Brad Ross commented on the fact that the women’s field alone dwarfs the total participation in other cyclocross series around the country. And then the big news: “I’m heading to Europe for the World Championships,” Ross told the crowd, “and I’m bringing back the World Champion to Oregon to race against you in 2009.” The crowd roared in approval. Some of us have yet to master bunny hopping let alone to race across someone like Hanka Kupfernagel, who probably eats eggs and toast with a side scrambling of a rider like me for breakfast. But once again Oregon racing has upped the ante. And I’m comfortable putting my money on the local favorites, like Rhonda Mazza (Team S&M), who won the women’s A race, and the River City ladies, who show again and again each week that Oregon produces some of the best racers in the country. Think the Euros have ever had to deal with a cake prime during a race? That’s not in their training program.
In fine form the Cross Crusade winners will be feted and applauded with the greatest of class at the Cross Crusade Prom, held after the Sunday USGP races December 6th and 7th in Portland.
For full results, see www.obra.org