Hawaiian with Bad Hair © Janet Hill

Hawaiian with Bad Hair © Janet Hill

by LeRoi Smith

Jenni Gaertner (Riverstone) and Ryan Iddings (Redline Bicycles) rode two very different races en route to the same result, first place in the Elite categories at Seattle Cyclocross race #4 at Fort Steilacoom park in Lakewood, WA. Gaertner won by just under a minute after series leader Kristi Berg (Cycle U) pulled out, ill. Iddings battled shoulder to shoulder with Russell Stevenson (Cycling Northwest) through the last half of the final lap.

Race organizers found a new way to inflict pain and suffering this week. Very uncharacteristically for Steilacoom, which can feature the lung- and leg-busting Knapp Time run up, today’s course had no hills to run. Instead, racers were greeted by a long, two-stage riding climb which proved to be an effective differentiator.

Five riders got a big gap early in the Elite men's race © Janet Hill

Five riders got a big gap early in the Elite men's race © Kenton Berg

From the top of the climb, the course zig-zagged through a field before dumping out onto a loose gravel road with a sharp left hand turn. The road dropped straight, racers got to choose between pushing hard or recovering. A loose, right-hand bend at the bottom took the racers into a short twisty section around some trees and then back onto double track, climbing back up the hill they had just descended. A short, steep, bumpy plunge led to another windy, lumpy high speed track. This emptied onto a paved trail which completed the descent back to the start/finish elevation. A series of high speed sweeping turns led to a 180-degree bend around a barn and into a single barrier. Two more sweepers put riders at a set of double barriers. A quick remount, around a left bend put racers into the finish straight, for those lucky enough to be finishing. Otherwise, the straight continued to a left onto a grass field. Racers worked through a series of sharp and sweeping bends back toward the finish area. A 180 going by the pits led to a dip and onto a long flat stretch of trail. The flat stretch ended with a sharp left and back onto the long climb.

The Elite men work their way around the "snake" section © Janet Hill

The Elite men work their way around the "snake" section © Kenton Berg

Early in the Elite men’s race, a group of five formed. The course was very well suited to pack riding. As the laps wore on, the lead sorted into a group of three, Stevenson, Iddings and Logan Owen (Redline Bicycles) with Doug Reid (Second Ascent) dangling. Eventually Reid’s elastic snapped and going into the last lap Owen was not quite close enough to battle for the victory.

Dropping into the sweepers leading into the barrier section, Iddings and Stevenson were shoulder to shoulder, passing and passing back. It all came down to the last set of barriers. Iddings was a touch smoother and faster, and that gave him just enough of a gap to ensure the victory. Stevenson was less than a second back, while Owen rounded out the podium five seconds adrift. The prior day’s MFG series race saw Redline teammates Owen and Iddings come to the line together.

Iddings now leads the SCX series with Loren Hanson (unattached) and Carl Hulit (Recycled Cycles) just a few points down.

Leading Lady © Janet Hill

Leading Lady © Janet Hill

The Elite women’s race looked to be a battle between Berg and Gaertner. Unfortunately Berg was not herself today and retired early. This left Gaertner off the front, weaving through the Cat 3 45+ Master men and singlespeeders. She cruised to the win, putting a minute into second place rider Melanie Lewis (Blue Rooster/Sports Medicine Clinic). Lewis had a tight battle with team mate Jodi Connolly, edging her by four seconds.

Just over mid-way through the series, Berg still holds a commanding lead; Jo Markham (Olympia Orthopedic Associates and Cyclocross Magazine intern) holds second; Jodi Connolly holds down the final podium spot at this point.

Next week the series heads to Maris Farm for the second year. The course is likely to feature pumpkin course markers, a corn maze and some tricky climbs. SCX is sponsored by New Belgium Brewing, FSA, Redline Bicycles, Thule, Northwave and Bob’s Red Mill.

Janet Hill’s Photo Gallery:

SCX#4 Photo Gallery by Kenton Berg: