Seattle Cyclocross Race #3, Silver Lake, Everett

Crashes were common in the sand. © Kenton Berg

by LeRoi Smith and Kenton Berg

October 18, 2009 – Everett, WA – Seattle Cyclocross Series (SCX) moved to a new location on the shores of Silver Lake in Everett, WA. After two days of torrential rains, the clouds parted, providing nearly ideal conditions for this bow-tie shaped course. Each end of the tie was up and down a hillside. Connecting the two halves was a brutal 150-meter stretch of sand along the lake.

With a solid mix of technical turny sections in the woods, short grinding uphills, and plenty of sand, the SCX course setters drew both praise and scorn from the riders as the course proved to be very tough. Cyclocross Magazine subscribers put their Issue 7 to good use, choosing fast equipment and good lines over looking “PRO” to maximize their advantage while riding the lengthy sand sections.

Nick Wieghall (California Giant Berry Farms) ensured no repeat men’s winners yet, while Kristi Berg (Redline Bicycles) made it three for three wins at a sand-heavy course at the third stop on the Seattle Cyclocross Series in Everett, Washington. To provide reserve power for today’s riders, Bob’s Red Mill was on hand providing bowls of hot oatmeal for breakfast. Many riders commented that it was their second Red Mill breakfast of the day for them. The extra energy was welcome.

The place to watch today was just after the short pavement start/finish section which quickly gave way to a double barrel setup of sand as the riders hit the “holeshot pit” followed by the long beach section (video of Elite Men here). Carnage was seen on nearly every lap as riders had a tough time getting through the thick sand and endos or collisions seemed to be the norm.

Seattle Cyclocross Race #3 - Silver Lake

Faster lines were near or in the water. © Janet Hill

From the start, riders plunged down a slight hill, past the team tents and timing truck, the double sided pit and then into the first deep sand section along the lake. Indeed many racers elected to ride a few feet out into the water searching for firmer ground. Many of the riders that did not get caught up in traffic were able to ride through this first pass, although all but a few hardy souls had to dismount the short section leading back away from the water. Afterward the course wound up into the trees on a collection of single and double track. The first obstacle was a short steep, loose pitch along the park’s fence line. The lead riders were able to stay mounted and gain ground as the crowd created a choke point and forced the section into a run up.

The course then went into a series of loops up and down the wooded hillside, gaining and loosing 10 feet each time, with an off-camber turn at the bottom. The section ended with a surprise log obstacle that was just a bit too big to tempt many bunny hoppers. Over the log and around one more short climb the riders were spit back onto the sand, this time tight up against the edge away from the water. Then a series of descents, turns, climbs (some technical) and then a long descent brought the racers back down to the main spectator area and a sweeping turn into a set of double, uphill barriers. One more climb up the hill, partially paved but slick from mud, and a set of sweeping curves brought the riders back down to lake level and completed the lap. Riders remarked that it was a course that demanded full attention to every detail on every lap.

Seattle Cyclocross Race #3 - Silver Lake

Weighall all alone off the front. © Cyclocross Magazine

Weighall, skipping the UCI races in Toronto and Pennsylvania, obviously brought his focus today. After getting off the front of the men’s field with Zack McDonald (Classic Cycle) in the first lap, he was able to gap McDonald on the second and maintain the space for the remaining seven laps as he worked his way around and well up into the Master 1/2 Men’s field, mercifully shortening their suffering. Meanwhile, McDonald had a bit wider gap back to third as he worked his way through lapped traffic as well. A late last-lap flat for last week’s winner Logan Wetzel (Benaroya Research Institute) relegated a strong ride to fourth place as the hard-charging Spencer Paxson (Team S&M) came by to snatch the final spot on the podium.

With three races and three separate winners, the Men’s Elite field is tightly bunched for the series with Wetzel leading team mates Toby Swanson and Russell Stevenson. With the series allowing one dropped race out of eight scheduled, proven top-spot racers Ryan Iddings (Lappiere), McDonald and Weighall are poised to make leaps up the standings in the coming weeks.

In contrast to the men, the Elite Women’s field is being dominated this year by Kristi Berg. With her combination of power and strong technical skills, she was not to be denied on this rough and tumble course, extending from the gun and working her way up into the top ten of the large Master Cat 3 35+ Men’s field that started 30 seconds ahead of her. While Berg worked her way off the front of her field, an unfortunate start-time mistake meant Ann Knapp (Kona) was working her way through as well, but two fields back. Knapp started late and in so doing, immediately had to negotiate the Master 1/2/3 Women, then the Cat 3 Women, then the back of the Cat 3 Master Men and into her field of Elite Women. With a gutsy ride she pulled herself up into third place, behind Beth Lyndon-Griffith (Hagens Berman) in second.
Berg leads the SCX series with three bullets. Behind her the field is stacked close with Lee Smith (Team Group Health) and Anne Love (uBrdo) 2nd and 3rd, respectively and another five or so riders within striking distance.

Next week, the series takes a break from new courses and returns to the tried-and-true Ft. Steilacoom in Lakewood, WA. SCX is sponsored by New Belgium Brewing, FSA, Redline Bicycles, Thule, Northwave and Bob’s Red Mill. Full results and detailed information can be found at www.seattlecyclocross.com.

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