European Stars Shine at Star Crossed

European Stars will once again battle at StarCrossed © Joe Sales

by Josh Liberles

What began in 2002 as an exploratory “What if?” conversation between Terry Buchanan, who ran the Broadmark (now Hagens-Berman) road team, and Jonny Sundt, one of his riders at the time, has turned into one of the West Coast’s top cyclocross attractions. September 18th will mark the third year that StarCrossed will be the kickoff race for the North American Cyclocross Trophy Series (NACT).

The nighttime ’cross race got rolling in the fall of ’02 and has grown steadily since then to become a highlight of the early season. Several European-based pros have made the trip to Seattle for StarCrossed over the years, and every men’s US national cyclocross champ since 2000 has participated in the event. Buchanan says the fact that neither Tim Johnson ( nor Ryan Trebon (Kona-FSA) have ever won the race points to the quality and depth of the fields.

For 2010 StarCrossed will continue its international trend, and will boast four national champion jerseys among the racers: Francis Mourey (France, Française Des Jeux), Katie Compton (USA, Planet Bike), Geoff Kabush (Canada, Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) and Katerina Nash (Czech Republic, Luna).

The men’s side will also feature defending StarCrossed champ and five-time Swiss national champion Christian Heule, Jonathan Page (Planet Bike, second 2007 Cyclocross World Championships), Trebon (2009 US Gran Pix of Cyclocross winner and two-time US Cyclocross Champion) and Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant, two-time US MTB Olympian).

The women’s race will have additional firepower provided by Sue Bulter (Hudz-Subaru, 2008 StarCrossed winner), Natasha Elliott (Garneau Club-Chaussure Ogilvy, defending NACT Champion) and Wendy Simms (Kona, former Canadian cyclocross champion and StarCrossed winner), who is just back to racing after time off to have a baby.

We tracked down StarCrossed promoter Terry Buchanan to get the inside scoop on the upcoming event.

CXM: Why the decision to have the race at the Marymoor Velodrome? How has the race grown over the years?

Buchanan: Marymoor is the perfect facility. Since it’s a big, 400m track, there are enough lights such that it spills over the venue and outside the velodrome, allowing us to incorporate more terrain. Physically, because of the velodrome setup, within the fenced portion spectators can see 65 percent of the race from one spot, or 50 percent from within the beer garden.

In terms of growth, that first year we only had six weeks of planning. There wasn’t an NRC (National Road Calendar) criterium or a big stage race in the immediate area – we had Mt Hood and Cascade in Oregon, and Gas Town GP in British Columbia, but nothing here. The Rad Racing GP got started down in Tacoma around the same time, and interest in the event would ebb and flow depending on whether or not the race was in the USGP series any given year.

We put on a good show that first time, had podium girls and other things that most races weren’t doing at the time. We went UCI the second year, and have been UCI for the past four years, and we started working with Rad Racing to put together a weekend that has continued to grow.

CXM: How are you able to charge money and get spectators to come? Tell me more about the course and any interesting or unique features.

Buchanan: For one thing, people are used to coming to the velodrome and paying to watch; here, they’re getting really good value. For $5, they’re going to get a much better show than the latest Tom Cruise movie, which will run you $10-15. With that revenue, we can put out start money to the racers, which means we can attract top international talent.

In terms of the course, the velodrome isn’t dug-in – the earth is bermed to the corners. That makes for lots of off-camber, funky stuff where you give folks enough rope to hang themselves, and it’s great for run-ups!

We have a big, paved pad for the starts, great off-cambers, a staircase run-up, and a double plank right at the beer garden.

CXM: Are you making any changes to barriers based on new UCI rules?

Buchanan: We’re keeping the heights traditional at 40cm, because that’s what we have, but we’re spacing them a little further apart to encourage the hopping. They’ll be spaced at 5m instead of 4m – guys who can hop, will.

CXM: Any local Seattle or Washington standouts we should be watching for this year?

Buchanan: Stephen Fisher (Rad Racing) might be ready for a breakthrough – he’s super-tenacious. (National Junior 15-16 champ) Logan Owen (Redline) is a super talent, but because he’s 16 and a Cat2, he technically can’t race at StarCrossed since we’re UCI. We’re starting up the “Free Logan” campaign.

Nick Weighall (Cal Giant Berries) is another one to watch as he transitions into the Elite category.

CXM: Think it’ll be like many of last year’s big events, with another / Kona showdown?

Buchanan: No! For one thing, US Pro Road Nationals are that weekend so, for contractual reasons, I don’t think any of the Cannondale guys will be able to race. But we also have a really good European and MTB contingent slated to be here, and they’ll all be battling at the front. Geoff Kabush has raced here three or four times, for example – he’s never won it and really wants to. Ryan Trebon and Adam Craig will be here, and several other MTB’ers have expressed interest.

CXM: So the Rad Racing GP, #2 in the NACT series and on Sept. 19th, the day after StarCrossed, is right down the street now? Tell me about the “Four Days of ‘Cross.”

Buchanan: I worked with the Starbucks Race team to put together a charity fundraising event at that venue on Lake Sammamish in Issaquah, Washington, last year. It’s a great course, spectator-friendly, and just seven miles down the road from StarCrossed. [Rad Racing GP promoter] Jim Brown moved there for this year – so we’ll have completely fresh venues each day, and they’re both great and totally different. Rad Racing GP will be on the beach, lakeside, and on a clear day, you can see all the way to Mt Baker.

The two races make up the second half of the “Four Days.” Thursday night we’re going to have the Seattle premier of Brian Vernor’s The Cyclocross Meeting movie, and Friday we’ll have a free cyclocross skills clinic with Jonathan Page on the StarCrossed course at Marymoor velodrome.

CXM: Thanks Terry, look forward to being there!

See also: Our exclusive content on the Rad Racing GP and interview with promoter Jim Brown.

More, Straight from StarCrossed:
Beyond the Shimano Elite Women’s and Men’s races at 7PM and 8PM respectively StarCrossed festivities will include amateur races starting at 2PM; Stanley’s Built for Life™ Road Tour; generous spectator door prizes supported by Raleigh; the Raleigh Single Speed race (automatic qualifier for Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships) and the Deschutes Beer Garden. The beer garden will begin serving at 3PM from Woody, Deschutes Brewery’s mobile bar on wheels. Race fans will also be treated to the Nuun Hydration double-barrier course feature and the TRP Brake Zone Run-up.

StarCrossed sponsors include Stanley, Raleigh, Shimano, Nuun Hydration, TRP Brakes, Cascade Bicycle Studio, Clif Bar, De La Paz Coffee, NOS Energy Drinks and The Sports Med Clinic. For more information, visit the StarCrossed and NACT websites.