By Pat Malach
Popular Portland ‘crosser Molly Cameron (Portland Bicycle Studio) took the win during the Cross Crusade Sunday in Sherwood when series leader Sean Babcock (Team S&M) flatted in the closing laps of the Men’s A race.
Despite taking a tumble on the last lap, masters national champion Wendy Williams (Hudz-Subaru) continued her dominance over the Women’s A field when she won her third straight in another tight back-and-forth battle with Veloforma’s Alice Pennington.
Some 1,300 racers showed up at the Sherwood Equestrian Park south of Portland for the third installment of the eight-race series. The incessantly bumpy and often-vertical course started on some upper pasture slopes before swooping into the woods for some extended singletrack followed by a grinding climb with a heartbreaker kicking pitch back to the finish. The course offered a little bit of everything, but the clearing skies failed to provide the key ingredient for mud.
Williams and Pennington wasted little time renewing their duel in the 60-minute Women’s A race. The Hudz-Subaru rider struck first, opening a small gap with Serena Bishop (Sunnyside Sports).
Pennington dropped her chain on the second lap, then launched a furious chase. With two laps to go, she caught Bishop, who had been unable to match Williams’ pace, then reeled in the leader on the next go-round.
“And then I just didn’t have it,” Pennington said. “She just stomped it on the last climbs and I didn’t have it anymore.”
There was a final bit of drama on the last lap, as Williams took a tumble.
“Alice just passed right on through,” she said. “Luckily I was able to catch back on and we went through the barriers together. I got onto the road first and just put the hammer down. I didn’t want it to go to a sprint finish.”
In the men’s race, the powerful duo of Erik Tonkin (Kona) and Babcock set off on a blitzkrieg pace reminiscent of their field-detonating effort the week before at Rainier.
“We were hoping to try and break down that lead group a little smaller and then see if we couldn’t getaway,” Babcock said. “So that worked out really well.”
But Cameron, who had just returned from several North American Cyclocross Trophy races back east, including a sixth-place finish at UCI Cincinnati, wasn’t content to sit back and watch that happen. The Portland pro chased hard after a slow start and soon caught Tonkin, who had slipped off the Team S&M rider’s lead pace.
“Babcock’s definitely the strongest rider in Oregon right now,” Cameron said. “And I knew this course really suited Tonkin and Babcock because it’s so mountain-bikey and lots of singletrack, but I got up to the front pretty well.”
The cyclocross World Cup veteran quickly hit a snag and pitted on the first lap for a mechanical. By the time Cameron got back to the front, Babcock had ridden away from Tonkin, who was chasing in second.
“I motored up to Erik and I attacked every time up the climb,” Cameron said. “We were reeling Babcock in, but I tried to drop Erik for three laps, and when Babcock finally stuck it, me and Erik were both wasted and backed off for a lap.”
That’s when Babcock built a lead of about a minute and seemed to be cruising to his second series win. But the plan and its flawless execution unraveled when his tire started to lose air.
“I was hoping I could get to the pit before I got caught, but Molly and Erik were going pretty fast,” he said.
With Cameron and Tonkin riding away to the finish, Babcock seemed relegated to chasing for leftovers. But Tonkin — who previously joked that he’s training Babcock to take his spot when Kona fires him — played the perfect-teammate card and eased up, allowing the young rider past to collect the second-place series points.
“Erik and Sean were playing good teammates,” Cameron said. “I just opened a good gap, and he couldn’t close it down. It was a really good course. I have to admit, of all the places I could win, I’m just completely shocked I could win here. There’s a lot of singletrack. I think I just got a lucky break.”
And how did Babcock feel about his misfortune?
“Oh, well,” he said. “There are a lot of races left in the season.”
Cross Crusade No. 3
- 1. Molly Cameron (Portland Bicycle Studio)
- 2. Sean Babcock (Team S&M)
- 3. Erik Tonkin (Kona)
- 4. Kevin Hulick (Vanilla Workshop)
- 5. David Roth (Signal Cycles)
- 6. Brett Nichols (BODE)
- 7. TommyTuite (Hufnagel)
- 8. Shannon Skerritt (Vanilla Workshop)
- 9. Scott Bradway (Team S&M)
- 10. Mike Benno (Veloce/Felt)
- 1. Wendy Williams (Hudz-Subaru)
- 2. Alice Pennington (Veloforma)
- 3. Serena Bishop (Sunnyside Sports)
- 4. Rhonda Mazza (Team S&M)
- 5. Erin Playman (Gentle Lovers)
- 6. Julie Browning (Cyclepath)
- 7. Alalia Berry (Gentle Lovers)
- 8. Brigett Stoick (River City Bicycles)
- 9. Veronica Vega (Sunnyside Sports)
- 10. Jen Akeroyd (Team Group Health)