A record field of nearly 1,400 racers and their cowbell-clanging families, friends and fans spilled onto the fields of Alpenrose Dairy in southwest Portland Sunday to ring in the start of the 2009 River City Bicycles Cross Crusade series.
Home of the Alpenrose Velodrome, the dairy-turned-corporate-headquarters also features a Wild West town, a go-kart race track and a world-class baseball field that plays host to the Little League Softball World Series every summer. And just about all of it played a part in the race Sunday.
Although rain in the days before the race dampened the course, blue skies and pleasant temperatures on race day kept the course from showing any signs of mud. Besides a starting pavement loop through the Wild West town, the course featured long stretches of fast-but-bumpy grass pastures with some slightly off-camber turns, a steep-but-short run-up, a winding loop in and out of the velodrome onto more grass, and then a treacherous cement staircase with a single switchback.
National champion Ryan Trebon (Kona) skipped the North American Cyclocross Trophy weekend in Gloucester, Massachusetts, to race a little closer to his hometown of Bend. He warmed up for the Men’s A race by taking out the field in the singlespeed event. Then he rode the same singlespeed bike to a win in the Men’s A race in front of Kona teammates Barry Wicks and Erik Tonkin.
“I didn’t want to fly across the country,” Trebon said of his decision to skip Gloucester, which gave the team mechanic a break as well. “This is a great race. It’s hard. I like it better than the USGP races we do at PIR.”
Wicks said the break from travel was a great excuse to get in on the fun in Portland.
“This is one of two weekends between now and nationals that we don’t have to fly,” Wicks said. “The last week and half we did five races in 10 days. So it’s nice to be able to stay home. Plus it’s Cross Crusade. This is a big deal down here.”
The Portland race also provided a chance for the Kona teammates to ride hard and abuse each other, Trebon added. And so they did.
Team S&M’s Sean Babcock, Vanilla Bicycles’ Shannon Skerritt and Portland Bicycle Studio’s Molly Cameron joined the Kona trio at the front of the men’s field in the early running. But when Wicks and Trebon decided to drop the hammer in the closing laps of the 60-minute race, the pair quickly built a 15-20 second gap over the rest. Babcock and Tonkin, who rode away from the local field together at the previous week’s Battle at Barlow, formed a chase behind.
Skerritt, a masters national champ in 2005, said he tried to hang with Kona’s dynamic duo early but lost touch when Trebon put the hammer down after the steep cement staircase.
“Trebon, man,” said an exhausted post-race Skerritt. “After the staircase, suddenly he just went whoop. I backed off trying to recover, and. …”
The battle for third was left to Tonkin and Babcock, who rides for a club sponsored by Tonkin’s Sellwood Bicycle Repair shop. In the finale, the pair exited the last set of barriers together and turned a 180 onto the velodrome apron for the sprint to the finish about half a lap away. Babcock got stuck behind traffic and was forced to go onto the track’s banking while Tonkin took the shorter route on the apron. The popular Portland ‘cross world cup veteran held off the charging young rider and got third. Babcock settled for fourth. Skerritt was fifth. Cameron experienced technical difficulties but hung on for sixth.
Williams and Pennington slug it out
Masters 40-44 champion Wendy Williams (Hudz-Subaru) and Veloforma’s Alice Pennington made it a two-rider battle at the front of the 60-minute Women’s A race, which ran on the course at the same time as the Masters Men A and Senior Men A because of an abundance of riders in the earlier women’s categories.
Distancing themselves from the rest of the field early in the race, the pair punched and counter-punched throughout the race as each tried to gain a significant advantage. Nothing stuck, but the constant back and forth drove the pace that gave the pair a sizable lead over the rest of the field.
“It was a lot of back and forth,” Williams said. “Things went well until I crashed.”
Williams took a tumble exiting the velodrome as the bulk of the men’s field was entering through the same gate. Caution tape and cones separated the riders going opposite directions.
“I was just going out hot and wide,” Williams said. “And the guys were coming in hot as well. I freaked out and grabbed brakes.”
But the Hudz-Subaru rider managed to fight her way back to Pennington, who came into the Cross Crusade opener having won three races in a row.
With time winding down, Williams poured on extra coal in the closing laps and opened a gap on her Veloforma rival, finishing comfortably ahead of Pennington for the win and the early series lead. Team S&M’s Rhonda Mazza won the battle for third ahead of Megan Faris (River City Bicycles) and Emily Van Meter (Hudz-Subaru).
Oregon Bicycle Racing Association Director Kenji Sugahara said 1,393 riders competed at Alpenrose, although that number doesn’t include the 100 or so cutthroat competitors in the kiddie race. Sugahara said the event set a new OBRA cyclocross attendance record. Just eight years ago the record number of competitors at an OBRA cyclocross race was 321.
- 1. Ryan Trebon (Kona)
- 2. Barry Wicks (Kona)
- 3. Erik Tonkin (Kona)
- 4. Sean Babcock (Team S&M)
- 5. Shannon Skerritt (Vanilla Workshop)
- Molly Cameron (Portland Bicycle Studio)
- 7. Kevin Hulick (Vanilla Workshop)
- 8. Joshua Berry (BODE)
- 9. Ian Brown (Tonic Fab)
- 10. Mark Blackwelder (Gentle Lovers)
- 1. Wendy Williams (Hudz-Subaru)
- 2. Alice Pennington (Veloforma)
- 3. Rhonda Mazza (Team S&M)
- 4. Megan Faris (River City Bicycles)
- 5. Emily Van Meter (Hudz-Subaru)
- 6. Alalia Berry (Gentle Lovers)
- 7. Erin Playman (Gentle Lovers)
- 8. Serena Bishop (Sunnyside Sports)
- 9. Abby Jenkins (Super Relax)
- 10. Julie Browning (Cyclepath)