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Robert Grunau

Woodland Park GP Race Report

By | 2015, Cyclocross

The day dawned bright, clear and cold as Seattle settled in for a lull between storms. Sunny and clear isn’t the stereotypical weather for the MFG finale at Woodland Park. Years past the race has been rainy, or, at the very least, wet. Held later in the season to make room for a weekend of UCI racing, this year’s Woodland Park GP was surprisingly dry. The revamped course featured tricky corners, and a deceptive leg searing barrier forced run up. Sections of course remained slick throughout the day, but by the time the elite women took to the course, large portions had dried out. Spectators clustered in groups at both run ups to cheer for their local favorites, and a group dressed as escaped zoo animals (Woodland Park is also home to a zoo) offered encouragement and mini muffin hand ups.

The women’s race started off fast, with only a few of the usual suspects making a group of four that forced a quick separation. That group included series leader Kristen Kelsey (AXIOM HVAC/Cycle U), her teammate Melanie Lewis, and Monica Lloyd (Olympia Orthopedic Associates) the Athletic’s Abby Watson and Richard Sachs’ rider Elizabeth White. Within two laps however Monica Lloyd was off the front of the group and gaining time on her competitors. She would cruise to what seemed like an easy victory with a flawless, smooth ride, finishing the day with nearly fifty seconds in hand. Behind her Watson, Kelsey and Lewis weaved through lapped traffic and battled for position. In the end Lewis would best Watson in a sprint to the line, and Kelsey would roll in for fourth, and synching the series overall in the process.

Temps had warmed significantly by the start of the men’s field. The men took advantage of a dryer course, cruising through several sections with a ton of speed. The opening laps saw Russell Stevenson (Trek CXC), Raleigh/FSA CX’s Steve Fisher, and Zach McDonald (Source Endurance) and Rad Racing’s Scott Funston take control. The junior couldn’t hold on however, and soon it was Fisher, McDonald, and Stevenson animating the race. With four to go Fisher had fallen off while McDonald kept Stevenson behind him. “My goal today was to just ride the front and not let anyone else take a turn.” McDonald said afterwards. The rider tried several times to dispatch Stevenson, but the elder rider held on to McDonald’s wheel over the courses rolling climbs and sharp corners, but in the end it was McDonald who would still take the victory from the former Master’s World champ Stevenson. Fisher would eventually finish third.

The series ends this year with Kristen Kelsey taking the women’s overall, followed by Hedi Wood (333FabCX) and Monica Lloyd finishing third for the year. On the men’s side of things Steve Fisher, had his win locked down by the fourth race of the season, Stevenson—who missed two races this year, while competing elsewhere—finishes the series off in second, and Dyna Racing’s Mitchell Thonton finishes third, in a two way tie with Scott Funston with 96 points.

The series is over, but the party is not. On Monday, November 30th, series sponsor Brower’s Café will host the post season awards party from 6:00 pm till 9:00 pm. Brower’s Café is located at 400 N. 35th St. in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.

Subaru Cyclo Cup Race Report – Day 2

By | 2015, Cyclocross, Subaru Cyclo Cup

Early weather reports called for a second day of rain, but it came and went early, allowing for a bit of sun, though not a whole lot of warmth; a different type of cross weather. There was no run up today, but the racers were routed to long climb paved climb that later transitioned to gravel; a longer version of yesterday’s climb. The day’s sun turned sections of the course that were slick yesterday into tacky mud and grass, which made for higher speeds, to the amazement of spectators.

Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) again went bell to bell with what seemed like an effortless ride. And once again, it was Raleigh Clement’s Caroline Mani who took up a solo chase, Elle Anderson (SRAM/Strava) also left to chase the leaders ahead of her with no help, she would eventually finish third. Behind her Washington native Courtenay McFadden (Rock Lobster/American Classics) and Canadian national champ Mical Dyck battled for fourth place, which seemed to be the most contested places for the day. At the front of the race Nash crossed the line 24 seconds ahead of Mani.

In the men’s race Logan Owen (California giant/Specialized) once again set the pace. Yesterday’s winner went out hard and soon reduced the men’s field to a group of three, which included Jonathan Page (Page/Fuji Racing) and Zach McDonald (Streamline Insurance). The trio took turns at the front, and seemed to take turns attacking each other, but no one was able to make a true separation. Half way through the hour and six minutes of racing McDonald suffered a mechanical taking him out of the group. A lap latter Owen had dispatched Page, and rode to the line alone. Page ran out of gas on the last lap, which allowed Jamey Driscoll to overtake the former national champ, making day two’s podium a traced image of day before.

In local news, Russell Stevenson (Trek CXC) took the win both days in the Men’s Open race, followed by Aaron Bradford who took second on Saturday and Sunday. Rad Racing found itself on the third step both days, with Calder Wood taking the third spot on Saturday, and Scott Funston with the honors on Sunday. These juniors have stepped up, this year and will soon be giving the big local names a run for their money.

Most of fast local women, opted for the Elite races this weekend leaving the Open field open for out-of-towners. On Saturday the podium was comprised of Ann Kennedy, Stephanie Uetrecht (Twin Six) and Julie Baird took first, second and third respectively. On day two it was Stephanie Uetrecht who landed on the tallest step, with Ann Kennedy taking second and Oregon’s Laura Trace (Team Oregon p/b Laurelwood Brewing Co) finishing third.

Next week we go back to good old MFG Cyclocross action when the series finale comes to its traditional home, Woodland Park. The lower bouts of the men’s overall podium are still up for grabs, with less than ten points separating fourth through second place. In the women’s race 333Fab CX’s Heidi Wood will be looking to upset Kristen Kelsey (Axiom HVAC/Cycle U), and Hagens Berman/Society Consulting’s Kenda Super will be hope to hang on to the final podium spot.

Subaru Cyclo Cup Race Report – Day 1

By | 2015, Cyclocross, Subaru Cyclo Cup

UCI level racing returned the Pacific Northwest on Saturday with day one of the Subaru Cyclo Cup, held at Ft. Steilacoom Park in Lakewood Washington. The venue has hosted many races over the years, including day two of last year’s Waves for Water Collaboration weekend. This year’s course differed in two key ways. The first was a steep muddy run up, instead of last year’s leg busting paved and gravel climb. The second was the inclusion of a sand pit located in the venue’s infield, which was brought in specifically for the event.

Throughout the day racers were deluged with rain, making some sections of the course slick and coating others in a thick mud, ideal cyclocross conditions to put it more bluntly. The conditions made for ideal spectating, especially at the run up, where the crowd’s cheers could be heard from a distance, and where dollars bills, and a few unopened cans of beer could be found for hand ups.

Logan Owen (California Giant/ Specialized) took control of the men’s race from the drop of the flag, hoping to do better than last year, when he came up empty handed on both days. This year the youngster quickly distanced himself from the pack of elite racers and worked himself comfortable lead. Raleigh Clement’s Jamey Driscoll mounted a chase, and for a majority of the race he was able to keep Owen within his sights. Jonathan Page (Page/Fuji) followed after Driscoll, but the elder statesman of American cyclocross was unable to catch Owen’s pursuer. After an hour and two minutes of racing, it was Owen who took the win, with Driscoll twenty-seven seconds in arrears. Page finished off the podium, coming in less than thirty seconds behind Driscoll.

“It was nice to get my first two UCI wins in a year, with my Tour of Utah win earlier this year, and then today in front of a home crowd, it’s exciting.” The twenty year old said.

In the women’s field it was Luna Pro Team’s Katarina Nash who took control of the women’s race. The field had come into the first run up bunched together, but from there the gaps the just went out, spreading the field along the course. Nash rode a clean race and that kept Caroline Mani (Raleigh/Clement) who, despite a lingering sickness, had set a solo chase. Behind her was the Canadian national champion Mical Dyck (Naked Factory Racing). However, Nash’s lead, was a dominant one, she would cross the line first with thirty seconds in hand. Mani found her way onto the second step, while Mical Dyck followed a minute behind in third.

Day two of Subaru Cyclo Cup again takes place at Ft. Steilacoom, with the women starting at 2:00 pm PST, and the men following at 3:00 pm PST. The course will feature some minor tweaks to keep things interesting. The forecast calls for morning rain, which should pass in time for the Elite races.

North 40 CX Race Report

By | 2015, Cyclocross

A Pineapple Express rolled through the Northwest this past weekend bringing with it strong winds and heavy rains. Good cyclocross weather to put it more succinctly. That was the scene as racers traveled to South toward Tacoma for the stop number five in this year’s MFG Cyclocross series; the North 40, held on the grounds of the LeMay Family Collection Foundation. Using portions of the last years Waves for Water Collaboration UCI course racers wound their way through a series of chicanes, and 180 degree turns before having to tackle two run ups and sections of singletrack that weaved through a section of the grounds where retired busses and trucks sat among the foliage.

The rain came in force during the 11:00 am racers, softening the course and creating a thick power sapping mud in the sections of singletrack. The weather had calmed by the time the elite races started, but the ruts had been formed and the course was set for two hours of exciting racing.

The women’s race was the most exciting of the day, featuring a start to finish battle between two of the Seattle area’s strongest women, current series leader Kristen Kelsey (Axiom HVAC/ Cycle U) and Tricia Fleischer (Ten Speed Hero). It didn’t take long for the two women to distance themselves from the rest of the field. They traded the lead as they deftly maneuvered their way not only through the course, but lapped traffic as well. The two women kept each other close, as they went through the barriers on the last lap. Fleischer used a corner to pass Kelsey, and opened up the final sprint besting Kelsey by a bike length. “I kept telling myself to attack, but I had nothing left, the mud was thick. I was doing 400 watts and wasn’t going anywhere.” Fleischer said as she tried to catch her breath after her win. Abby Watson of The Athletic, came up from Portland and finished on the final step of the podium.

The men’s race has also seen an increase in riders who are competitive throughout the race. Once again it was a group of five that dictated the pace. That group included the usual suspects: Raleigh/FSA CX’s Steve Fisher, Trek CXC’s Russell Stevenson, and Rad Racing junior National champ Scott Funston, but the day also saw the return of Toby Swanson, and Carson Miller. With four laps to go that group had been reduced to two riders, with Fisher and Swanson chasing Stevenson, who had gone off the front. The pair tried to catch the raging Stevenson, but it wasn’t to be. Russell would finish with some forty seconds in hand, and Fisher would eventually cross the line second, and Swanson would come across in third, ten seconds behind Fisher.

Magnuson Park Cross Race Report

By | 2015, Cyclocross

Sunday, more than a thousand racers took to the course at Warren G Magnunson Park for the fourth stop in the MFG Cyclocross series. The course at the former Naval base saw some major changes from years past, which made for a fast, fun—and at times slick course that spent the day beset by the a near constant drizzle, with the occasional passing rain shower. Not a single racer finished the day with a clean kit.

The spectator friendly course had was lined with team tents and offered plenty of spots for good spectating, but the favorite spot was at the far west end of the park, where racers climbed up a small hill featuring two slightly off camber descents that tested the skills of the lower categories.

The women’s race sorted its self out quickly, with five women, led by Nemesis Racing’s Andi Zolton, quickly gaping the other women in the field. The group of women, included Axiom HVAC/Cycle U’s series leader Kristen Kelsey, Heidi Wood (333Fab Factory CX Team), and Maggie Coles-Lyster (Local Ride Racing) who was down from Canada. The traditionally fast and dry course, was slick in sections, but drafting and large groups still played a role in the race. The biggest challenge for the women was navigating the other categories on the course, as the fast group cleared portions of the course with more speed than the lower categories. A problem with the lap timer caused some confusion, and when Coles-Lyster and Zolton went, others thought there was still a lap to go. Coles-Lyster topped Zolton in the sprint, and Heidi Wood crossed the line in third.

Like last year, Zach McDonald made a local appearance at the race. McDonald, who is without a bike sponsor this year, rode his personal 26 inch hardtail mountain bike, which didn’t stop him from leading for a majority of the hour plus race. As in the women’s race, it was a group of five that animated the race. The group with Steve Fisher (Raleigh/FSA CX) and Rad Racing’s Junior National Champion Scott Funston were content to let McDonald set the pace. Fisher was patient, and with two laps to go launched a strong attack, leaving the group to chase. The under geared McDonald tried to chase, but was left in no-man’s land, as Fisher rode to victory. Recycled Cycles Racing Rory Jack put on a strong performance and finished third.

In two weeks the MFG Cyclocross Series moves to the LeMay Family Collection Foundation, the grounds of vintage auto museum, for the penultimate race of the series. Kristen Kelsey (Axiom HVAC/Cycle U) has a four point lead over 333Fab’s Heidi Wood, with Nemesis’ Andi Zolton nine points down on Kelsey.

Fisher (Raleigh/FSA CX) further solidified his lead on the series and now has 37 point lead on Mitchell Thornton (Dyna Racing) who moved into second place, while Cascadia Racing’s Kelly Nowles fell to third, seven points down on Thornton.

Race Report: Brian Tracy Experience

By | 2015, Cyclocross

Round three of 2015 MFG Series, along with 730 racers, arrived at, Everett’s Thornton A. Sullivan park, for a technically demanding course on the shores of Silver Lake, that this year, went by the name The Brian Tracy Experience in honor of—you guessed it—Brian Tracy, a racer and friend of MFG Cyclocross, who is currently battling cancer. Mr. Tracy was among the spectators, set up at the end of the second sand pits, where the course was marked in a green tape bearing his visage with the words “Be Positive”, which is how Brian has approached his diagnosis from day one.

This year the Brian Tracy Experience was two trips across the beach, climbs thick with grass and several descents that were, loose, dusty and, at times steep. To succeed on this course one needed legs that can survive being repeatedly abused by the punchy climbs and the ability to keep their handling skills sharp as they attempted to get their heart rates back down below the red. And that was before the sand. Those that had a hard time managing those skills were spurred on by small cheering squads peppered throughout the spectator friendly course.

In woman’s race it was Kristen Kelsey (Axiom HVAC/Cycle U North) who managed those skills better than the rest, after coming to the front midway through the race. At the start of the race it was Nemesis Racing’s Andi Zolton who took control early, working through the tricky course free of any traffic, while Ten Speed Hero’s Tricia Fleischer and Kelsey chased. Soon Zolton began to fade, and was passed by the two chasing women. Kelsey was hard to match on a course that she has dominated in years past. Fleischer followed in second, with Zolton—who suffered a crash—followed some twenty-five seconds behind.

The men’s race saw the return of Russell Stevenson (Trek CX Collective), who brought a fight to Raleigh/FSA CX’s Steve Fisher. The pair kept each other close throughout the technical course, with Fisher leading for the majority of the race. Fisher and Stevenson may have been battling it out at the front, but it was Aaron Bradford, who animated the crowd. Bradford, who was racing on single speed, chased, caught, and then blew by the pair, late in the race. He was able to hold that gap for half a lap, until Stevenson attacked Fisher, who suffered an untimely flat just after passing the pit. Stevenson was able to bridge, and then pass Bradford, as he navigated the course tricky descents, while Fisher pitted for a new bike. At the end of the day it was Stevenson who was victorious, coming across the line with enough time to sit up celebrate. Bradford came in eight seconds down, and Fisher finished a comfortable third.

MFG takes another bye week this coming weekend, and then comes back within Seattle city limits for Magnuson Park CX, a fast course on the shores of Lake Washington. Fisher is comfortably first in the series standings with 86 points, his closest competitor, Cascadia Bicycling Team’s Kelly Nowles, is twenty two points down on Fisher. In the women’s race it is Kelsey with the points lead, but 333Fab CX team rider Heidi Woods is only six points down, with Andi Zolton another seven points back on Woods. Halfway through the series and the women’s race is still up for grabs.

derekblagg_MFG_BTexperience-26 “It’s weird seeing my face everywhere, but the support is incredible,” Brian Tracy (photo by Derek Blagg)

derekblagg_MFG_BTexperience-50 Kristen Kelsey (Axiom HVAC/Cycle U) leads Fleicher (Ten Speed Hero) out of the first sand pit. (photo by Derek Blagg)

derekblagg_MFG_BTexperience-64 Aaron Bradford animated the race on his Single Speed. (photo by Derek Blagg)

derekblagg_MFG_BTexperience-63Russell Stevenson leads Fisher through one of the course’s technical descent (photo by Derek Blagg)

South Sound Super Prestige – Race Report

By | 2015, Cyclocross
On Sunday, the MFG Cyclocross series returned to the site of last December’s Waves for Waters UCI event for the second installment of the 2015 series, Lakewood Washington’s Fort. Stilacoom Park, otherwise known as The South Sound Super Prestige. The rains that fell earlier in the week, weren’t enough to smooth out the bumpy backfield, nor was it enough to tamp down the dust that would coat bikes, and the faces of the racers in every field. Read More