Portland USGP Report (Novel) PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Curry   
Friday, 12 December 2008 17:49
The 2009 racing season has offically come to a close for the GAS/Intrinsik team.  For the grand finale, a contingent of Montana racers (including GAS racers Lisa Curry, Brian Frykman, and myself) made the trek to Portland, Oregon for the final round of the U.S. Grand Prix of Cyclocross.  Portland is the epicenter of west-coast American cyclocross and is home to the 'Cross Crusade Series, which is the most attended 'cross series in the world!  Aside from thousands of 'cross racers, Portland is home to nasty weather that often turns races into battles with mother nature.  Rain, snow, mud, wind, and ice are typical, sometimes all during the same race.
Lisa was no doubt the Montana star of this past weekend's races, winning the Women's B races both Saturday and Sunday.  She won out of fields of 50+ women, no doubt surprising many strong Portland locals.  Lisa is probably too humble to report on her wins, so I will give my perspectives from the weekend.

Saturday proved to be a rare sunny calm day.  The frosty start seemed to leave many racers shivering, but the Montana crew wasn't even fazed by the "balmy" December temperatures.  Lisa raced early, at 8:30, and was on the trainer warming up before the sun peeked over the horizon.  But she hates the trainer, so she was soon on her bike getting in some hard efforts on the pavement to open up the legs.  There were layers of fog and mist over the course as the women were called up to the starting grid.  Lisa had a front row position and took advantage, sprinting to decisivley take the hole shot.  Lisa took charge and had a 5 second gap over second place halfway through the first lap.  After one lap,  Lisa had a 5-10 second gap on second with 3rd a few more seconds back.  Behind there was a much larger gap to the next group of chasers.  Lisa looked smooth and confident on the second lap, holding a solid lead and railing the slick muddy corners.  The junior 10-16 group had started just behind the women, and on the last lap a group of fast juniors passed by Lisa.  But on their wheel was the crafty second place woman, who had jumped on the junior's slipstream on the long paved start finish stretch.  Now it was a two-woman battle with less than a lap to go.  The other rider took the lead a few times and opened enough of a gap (maybe 5 meters) to make at least me nervous.  I ran to the finish line just in time to see the other racer come onto the pavement with Lisa on her wheel.  The other racer began sprinting and Lisa started to make her move to the left.  But the racer drifted over, almost putting Lisa in the barriers.  Luckily, Lisa squeaked by and powered away the last 50 m to take the win.  Amy Frkyman and Patricia Dowd of team Delphine also raced well, finishing 10th and 11th.

Bill Cochran raced in the Masters 45+ race and did awesome, getting 5th.  John Fiore was 7th.  Howard Williams raced in the B race and finished mid-pack.  Next up was Brian "Freight Train" Frykman's race, the ultra fast elite Masters 35+.  Brian got a good start and was sitting in 25th after one lap.  Then disaster struck.  First a crash and then a mechanical.  We were all bummed for Brian, especially considering the bad luck he has had this 'cross season with mechanical issues.  He was able to get the bike issue fixed, but by then he was well out of contention.  He seemed bummed afterward but looking forward to redemption on Sunday.

Sunday dawned a bit different.  The sun was gone, replaced by clouds and drizzle.  The promoters had changed the course slightly since yesterday, and overnight rains guaranteed a much muddier course.  Lisa started her race fast, but this time there were a few women who went with her at the start.  One woman, Saturday's 3rd place, took a better line through a long mud pit and got a 5 second lead.  Lisa soon closed the gap and put in some surges that seemed to crack her adversary, who faded back dramatically.  Lisa was in charge again and looking smooth.  On the last lap she was passed by whom she thought was a hard-charging Junior racer, but then realized it was a fellow female.  Lisa was able to get back by the racer and open up a 3 second gap going into the last few slick and muddy turns.  Lisa hit the pavement first and never looked back, completeing her Portland sweep.  After her races, Lisa was stoked, but almost a bit puzzled.  She felt like her performances were maybe "flukes".  Lisa has been following a cyclocross-specific training program since September, the goal of which being the Portland races.  She had been following the program dilligently, but the last few weeks had left her feeling fatigued mentally and physically.  Despite a 2 week taper her legs weren't coming around.  I witnessed the low point just last week.  Snow and dark had forced her inside and onto the dreaded trainer.  She was breaking down, unable to finish the ride.  I tried to encourage her, telling about when I was tapering for the Deer Valley NMBS race this summer my legs had felt like crap until the day before the race.  She finished the ride, but I think she was doubting if the good form would materialize.  Apparently it did.

The other Montana racers did well Sunday.  Amy and Patricia had even better races, finishing 5th and 9th.  Howard finished 40th in the B men's race and Bill Cochran made the podium in the Masters 45+ race with a 3rd place!  John Fiore had another top ten in the same race.

Only one Montana boy left to race:  Freight Train!  As Brian was warming up the clouds opened up and it began to pour.  Standing water was everywhere and while some racers appeared nervous, Brian was stoked!  The racers were off.  Brian had another good start and was in the top 20 the first time through the barriers.  Carnage began, and racers were tumbling left and right on the rutted muddy downhills.  One particular part of the course featured a steep short climb followed by a steep greasy descent followed by a 180 and a short climb.  The crowds gathered here and watched many a racer crash and belly slide down the hill.  Brian kept upright (mostly) and settled into a group of 5 all trying to crack the top 25.  Brian managed to keep his bike in one piece, and worked his way up through the group on the last lap.  The Freight Train barrelled into the finish straight with one other racer.  He dropped the hammer and crossed the line in 25th place.  After the race Brian was ecstatic and completely coated in mud.  Like the prevous day, we finished off the afternoon eating waffles and running around the course cheering on the pros.

What about my races?  I raced the single speed category both days which was a fun and low-key way to end the season.  I had no idea what to expect from myself or the 50 or 60 others in my field.  I had hastily converted my race bike to a single speed a few days before the race.  I went with a 39:16 gear ratio which seemed about right, although I wasn't too sure.  We started 2 minutes after the huge (100+) B Men's field each day.  Day one was chaotic.  Our race was right after Lisa's and I was so busy running around yelling splits and spectating that I barely had time to run back to the car, grab my bike, pin on the number and ride to the staging area.  No warmup.  Oh well... no pressure.  I lined up about 5 rows back, thanks to my late registration.  The gun went off and it must have looked humorous watching 60 guys spinning 120 rpm vying for position on the opening straight.  I spun 130 rpm and was able to maneuver my way somewhere near 15th place by the end of the pavement.  The rest of the first lap I spent paying for that initial effort and no warm-up, but was still able to move up a few places here and there.  Just as I thought I might be in the top 5 we started catching swarms of slower B racers and all guesses of placement were off.  The remaining 30 minutes of the race was one crazy pass after another.  There were so many racers on the course that I never was more than 10 meters ahead of or behind another racer.  I was hurting but having a blast!  Then I crossed the finish line and everyone around me sat up.  That was it.  Guess I should have been paying attention to laps.  Oh well... a fun race!  And I ended up 3rd, making the podium and getting a sweet plywood trophy.
The next day I tried to sneak away during Lisa's race to get a warmup, but it didn't happen.  This time I got to line up in the front row, though, so I didn't have to go nuts at the start.  The start was still fast though, and after one lap, I was with one other rider off the front, Chris Brandt, (yesterday's 2nd place).  We battled back and forth for a lap.  I noticed he was crazy fast on the run-up but a bit slower on the muddy corners.  I took the lead in the technical part of the course and built a small gap.  By now we were fully in the traffic of Bs.  I went down on a slick corner and another dude landed on top of me.  We managed to untangle ourselves but by the time I was moving Chris was back on my wheel.  We were also joined by another single speeder, Tony Pic of Gentle Lovers team (sweet pink kits!).  Going into what I thought was the finish I easily sprinted away from my companions.  But we still had one lap to go.  D'oh!  Embarrassed, I was rejoined by the other two.  I let Chris lead into the final run-up which was a mistake.  He attacked hard and gapped me good.  I struggled along the last lap, staying ahead of Tony, but not able to catch Chris.  I crossed the line in 2nd, content with my race, but mostly happy that the race season was DONE!

See you on the slopes!