Jump for joy! Cyclocross season is here. © Karen Johanson

Jump for joy! The (MFG) cyclocross season is here. © Karen Johanson

by Kenton Berg

The MFG Cyclocross series got off to a high-flying start on Sunday with the CycleU-sponsored Kick Off Cross at Big Finn Hill park in Kirkland, WA. Cool temps and some intermittent showers met the morning racers, but that didn’t deter large early fields from assembling to get their suffering in. The excitement, the crowds, the racing action and the weather all heated up as the day wore on, delivering a stellar day to all who came out.

The 2.8 kilometer course produced some fast action with a mix of sinuous turns in the upper field, followed by some technical singletrack creating plenty of challenges for the riders to handle. Rains from last week had turned some low-lying areas into soft mud, and with several false flats to contend with, the course delivered a great mix of terrain and pain.

The women’s Elite race saw a repeat performance of last week, featuring Kari Studley (Redline) showing her good early-season form by taking the win over Kristi Berg (CycleU) and Jenni Gaertner (Riverstone Cycling). The small field of six started out in a tight group, but by the end of lap one it was Studley ahead by nearly 15 seconds with Berg chasing hard. The rest of the field had spread out and would eventually mix in with the other fields racing at that time. By the finish, Studley managed to work her gap out to nearly a minute over Berg. Look for the battle between Studley and Berg to really heat up over the next few weeks as racing fitness improves and series points start to accumulate for the overall titles.

The furious pace of lap one in the men's Elite race. © Kenton Berg

The furious pace of lap one in the men's Elite race. © Kenton Berg

The men’s Elite race proved to be a show right from the start. Spencer Paxson (Team S&M) took the hole shot  and was closely followed by Nick Weighall (Cal Giant), Ryan Iddings (Redline), Molly Cameron (Portland Bicycle Studio) and Steve Fisher (Rad Racing). These five would go on to distance themselves from the rest of the pack, and while several smaller chase groups would form behind, the rest of the field was left strung out and in tatters. By lap five, the lead group had whittled down to Iddings, Weighall and Paxson, and it looked like things might stay that way until the end. All three looked strong and were content to mark each other. This would change by lap seven, as Iddings had come unhitched and trailed the two leaders by 12 seconds – a gap which would eventually land him on the last step of the podium. With just over a half-lap left, Weighall made his decisive move and attacked on the grassy false flat leading towards the pits. He managed to gain a 4- 5 second gap, which he was able to hold. Paxson put in an all-out effort to bridge up, but it was not to be for the rider from Portland as Weighall held his slim lead to take the win.

The season reaches a frenzied pitch next weekend as StarCrossed and the RAD Racing GP races take to the grass, dirt and sand. Look for all these same riders to be involved in a great weekend of racing here in the Northwest, alongside Jonathan Page, Ryan Trebon and some prominent European riders. The Deschutes Brewery’s “Big Woody” will be at both events to serve up the adult cold beverages.

For more information on this coming weekend’s races, see our previous exclusive features on StarCrossed and Rad Racing.

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