Overall, our first Cross Crusade campaign was pretty successful. India wrapped up the series win for the Beginner women and scored a much-coveted Crusader's Cross to wear about her neck as well as a bountiful prize pack that included a race bag with waterbottle carrier and all, some S-Works road tires for the training miles, some water bottles, Hammer bars, and a cool little multi-tool. I finally got myself into the points with a 17th place finish at the last race of the season and wound up 35th on the Mens B leaderboard. Not too shabby for a poor mechanic on a beat-up old singlespeed. A little sidenote: the season opener at Alpenrose dairy saw 1,483 racers, making it the biggest single cyclocross race in the WORLD, EVER. Wow.
But, with the end of our little regional series comes the beginning of the big national races. The USGP of Cyclocross had its final stop in Portland last weekend. We missed Saturday's racing, but made it up to the Portland International Raceway to watch the best cyclocrossers in America race in the unseasonably dry and chilly conditions. The women's race was inspiring, with Katerina Nash coming back from an early crash to solo in for the win ahead of Meredith Miller and Amy Dombroski. Portland local and regular 'Cross Crusader Sue Butler took a respectable seventh.
The men's race played out like a dogfight, with Todd Wells going off like a rocket from the gun. The only two riders who could get on his wheel were the duo of Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers of the Cannondale team. Hometown hero and Cross Crusade sandbagger Ryan Trebon was gapped from the start and gave a good chase, but the speeds at the front were too high for the lanky speedster to gain much ground. Wells pushed the pace the hardest, despite the repeated attacks of the Cannondale teammates. In the final two laps, punches were flying from all sides in a melee of attacks, but the three stayed together until the last few tight, hardpacked corners before the paved finishing straight, when Powers swooped to the inside line to edge Wells from the lead. He surged, gained a small lead and took the win over a hard-charging Wells and teammate Johnson. Mountain bike strongman and Bend, OR native Adam Craig fought his way from the back of the field to a fourth-place finish ahead of Trebon and fellow fat-tire pro Geoff Kabush in sixth. Trebon managed to snatch enough points to cement his USGP championship.
All in all, this race was an exciting prelude to 'cross nationals next weekend in Bend. With the exception of Jonathan Page who was racing in Europe, all of the big names of American cyclocross were accounted for in Portland. Trebon, Powers, Wells, Page and Johnson will all be gunning for the coveted Stars and Stripes jersey, along with dark horses like Adam Craig to keep things interesting. Always one to root for the underdog, I'm hoping for a good finish by Bend local and mountain bike shredder, Craig. He's got a laid-back attitude but some serious fitness and bike handling skills that should serve him well on what will probably be a snowy and slushy course at the Deschutes Brewery in Bend. Does he shave his legs? Maybe. But we can't hold that against him, can we? Can he hold off the Cannondale power trio of Powers, Johnson and Driscoll? Can he stay outside the spidery reach of his long-legged fellow Oregonian, Trebon? Will Jonathan Page return from Europe with all the fire and tenacity of a thousand Belgian cyclocross fans? All these questions and more will be answered this Sunday in Bend at the Cyclocross National Championships. See you there.