A Pineapple Express rolled through the Northwest this past weekend bringing with it strong winds and heavy rains. Good cyclocross weather to put it more succinctly.
That was the scene as racers traveled south toward Tacoma for the stop number five in this year’s MFG Cyclocross series; the North 40, held on the grounds of the LeMay Family Collection Foundation. Using portions of the last years Waves for Water Collaboration UCI course racers wound their way through a series of chicanes, and 180 degree turns before having to tackle two run ups and sections of singletrack that weaved through a section of the grounds where retired buses and trucks sat among the foliage.
The rain came in force during the 11 a.m. races, softening the course and creating a thick power-sapping mud in the sections of singletrack. The weather had calmed by the time the Elite races started, but the ruts had been formed and the course was set for two hours of exciting racing.
The Elite Women’s race was the most exciting of the day, featuring a start to finish battle between two of the Seattle area’s strongest women, current series leader Kristen Kelsey (Axiom HVAC/ Cycle U) and Tricia Fleischer (Ten Speed Hero). It didn’t take long for the two women to distance themselves from the rest of the field.
They traded the lead as they deftly maneuvered their way not only through the course, but lapped traffic as well. The two women kept each other close, as they went through the barriers on the last lap. Fleischer used a corner to pass Kelsey, and opened up the final sprint besting Kelsey by a bike length.
“I kept telling myself to attack, but I had nothing left, the mud was thick. I was doing 400 watts and wasn’t going anywhere.” Fleischer said as she tried to catch her breath after her win. Abby Watson of The Athletic, came up from Portland and finished on the final step of the podium.
The Elite Men’s race has also seen an increase in riders who are competitive throughout the race. Once again it was a group of five that dictated the pace.
That group included the usual suspects: Raleigh/FSA CX’s Steve Fisher, Trek CXC’s Russell Stevenson, and Rad Racing Junior National Champ Scott Funston, but the day also saw the return of Toby Swanson and Carson Miller.
With four laps to go that group had been reduced to two riders, with Fisher and Swanson chasing Stevenson, who had gone off the front. The pair tried to catch the raging Stevenson, but it wasn’t to be. Russell would finish with some forty seconds in hand, and Fisher would eventually cross the line second, and Swanson would come across in third, ten seconds behind Fisher.