Operation Oregon: Part I

26 12 2009

Two back-to-back weekends of cyclocross. Four days of racing in the most varied conditions of the year. One team. Join the Blue n’ Gold and we take the fight to the south.

United States Grand Prix of Cyclocross: Stanley Portland Cup
December 5-6, Portland International Raceway

The team piled into The Van and braved rush hour traffic bound for The Center of The Hipster Universe for the USGP’s Portland stop. Robert, Nick, Randy, and Alex would meet up with Friends of Recycled Cycles Racing Troy Heithecker and Jonny Sundt for the weekend. The drive was anguishing. Between the stop and go traffic and Portland’s asinine street layout, it’s a wonder we made it to the hotel.

Dog friendly couches!

We’re glad we made it. The hotel, graciously secured by team hotelier Carl Anton, was plush. Full kitchenette, a living room, an awesome breakfast, and dog friendly to boot! Marriott has a good thing going with this one. RCR travels and stays in style!

Saturday morning dawned cold and slippery. The ice on the freeway overpasses on the way to PIR was warning enough that the day would feature slick-as-snot racing. With temperatures hovering right at freezing, the surface of the grass and dirt course had thawed while leaving the ground frozen. Mud and wet grass on ice. Awesome.

Gypsy camp firepit - thawing the hands at the USGP.

The parking lot looked lot like a gypsy camp – vehicles backed up to the course with tents and camp fires sprouting from the rear doors. Coffee brewed on camp stoves and propane heaters hissing while riders quietly slaved away on trainers, trying to prepare for the cold race ahead.

Gypsy camp coffee.

Gypsy camp food.

The racing was a fascinating combination of trying to stay warm, trying to stay upright, and trying to avoid the demolition derby. This was a different crowd than we typically race with in Seattle – everyone wanted to be in the same place at the same time yet nobody was looking where they were going. Somebody slowed down in front of you? Just run into the back of them. Seriously?

The big teams were all there, and nobody has a more commanding parking lot presence than Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld. The RCR van is stylish and roomy, but Cannondale roles up in a lime green, Liquigas-decaled semi. Their squad of mechanics tweaks bikes under an 800 square foot tent with heaters and techno pumping from big speakers. They keep 50 Dugast-shod Zipp wheels on a rack off to the side. This is what the big time looks like.

One Porche's worth of wheels, tires, and cassettes

You can only put up with racing so much though, so once Troy and Jonny were done it was back to the hotel to clean up and get ready for a night on the town.

Alex Wilson takes it public.

Sunday was warmer, but fending off the cold was still top priority. Looking for whatever patches of sun we could find, we watched Katerina Nash put on a clinic in the women’s race. It wasn’t long before the tomfoolery started however, and Raleigh’s Brian Fornes was at the center of it all. Figuring those riders out of the prize money needed something to live for, Sally started offering up $5 bills stuffed into the top of half-full beer bottles. Some riders took the money, some took the money and the beer. Good times.

Beer and money; reasons to keep racing.

The best handup ever.

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