Last Sunday, Puget Sound Cyclocrossers visited Fort Steilacoom Park for the second time this season, as the Seattle Cyclocross series returned to Lakewood WA for its fifth installment. Seattle Cyclocross #2 had taken place under grey skies and occasional drizzle, but today’s event began with a chill, as the morning frost had barely melted away beneath a declining autumn sun.
Course designer Dan Norton more or less reversed the course from the previous Steilacoom event, coming down where it had gone up, turning right where it had gone left, swerving here rather than there. But in keeping with Dan’s philosophy of hardening racers as the season progresses towards Nationals, he’d made a few additional tweaks to dial up the pain: instead of a double set of double barriers on the meadows at the base of the hill, the course now had a single barrier on the flats, with the remaining three barriers placed on the hillside runup for the further sufferation of the short of leg; riders now had to fight for the single smooth line up the gravel road before plunging down the winding dirt track all the way to the base of the knob and the hairpin turn at Casebolt Corner (scene of Jason Casebolt’s memorable ankle-breaking wipeout a few years back).
With Alex on chauffeur duty, the Recycled Cycles Sprinter brought the team gear along with passengers David and Andrew to Steilacoom in time to claim a prime course-side spot scouted out by dad-and-son team of Rob and Thomas.
RCR was represented in the 9:15 time slot by Rip (fortunate that he and Andrew share a shoe size) and David in the open Cat 4, with David getting a morning warmup on his single-speed for the afternoon’s single-speed race, while Rob took the start on his geared bike in the second wave featuring the cat 4 35+ Masters. Rob would not only find himself enforcing the laws of natural selection on the squirrel population, a rolled clincher would force him to run for the finish – but he still managed to stay a step or two ahead of DFL.
After they’d managed to catch their breath, the morning racers assumed grill duties, cooking up some links and sliders furnished by Bill the Butcher, our outstanding meat sponsor, purveyor of all-natural products from locally-raised grass-fed beef. As Julie arrived with her boys and Liz brought her dogs, the RCR cx family picnic got rolling…
The women cat 4 field took off in 10:15 slot, with Heather storming to the front to lead the field through the barns and on to the hill. But an inopportune mechanical problem dashed her hopes, when she had to come to a complete halt to fix her brakes. Heather nonetheless soldiered valiantly on despite the aggravation.
In the noontime main event, the open cat 1/2 race, Alex struggled to overcome mechanical contre-temps, clawing his way into the top-ten, a result that’s raised him into 10th place in the series standings.
As usual, the 1:30pm event is the busiest of the day, as successive waves of single-speeders, masters, and women sped down the tarmac from the starting line towards their first encounter with the grass and mud. Following his morning cat 4 race with an afternoon start among the singlespeeders, David proved that success is often just a matter of showing up, as his consistency propelled him to 8th place in the general classification for the series. He was joined at the start line by Rob, who’d decided to investigate this single-speed madness for himself, fortunately avoiding a second untoward encounter with wildlife.
Andrew suffered from the error of underinflation on the extensive tarmac and the hubris of overgearing on the hill, his running legs unable to exercise their slight advantage as the non-runners clogged the lanes on the runup. But he managed to retain a dignity momentarily threatened by a mishandled last turn through Casebolt Corner.
Jamie took her first start as a newly-minted Category 2 to join Beth, Julie and Liz in the Category 1/2 Women’s field. Just emerging from several weeks under the weather, Julie was happy to find her slot and stick with it to finish 7th, just behind Beth whose sixth place keeps her in ninth place in overall standings, despite a missed race. Jamie weathered the shock of the new, as she discovered the higher categories select for both fitness and bike-handling skills; Jamie notes that the Cat 3 women aren’t nearly as aggressive through the corners.
In the day’s final event, the open Category three men, we had Nick A and Jeff showing the blue-and-gold to finish off the proceedings with worthy efforts, as Nick just nosed out former teammate Matt Beers in a hard-fought contest, while Jeff was happy to be back from a hiatus of a couple of seasons to turn the pedals in anger once again.
Then the day was done, and the van was loaded. Next week, we’ll be at it again in Seattle’s Woodland Park for the season-closer of the MFG series. As always, we are grateful to our outstanding team sponsors: As always, we’re grateful to our outstanding sponsors: Recycled Cycles; Raleigh Bicycles; Schwalbe tires, FSA; our grilling was made possible by Bill the Butcher, with additional energy furnished by PowerBar Energy Gels.