Posted by Pat Malach (Contributor) on November 12th, 2010 at 12:35 pm
Story written by race reporter/photographer Pat Malach of Oregon Cycling Action.
The world's most popular participatory cyclocross series winds up its 2010 run Sunday when Cross Crusade #8 invades Barton Park off of Highway 224 east of Clackamas about 20 miles from downtown Portland.
Recently crowned Canadian National Champion Chris Sheppard will be on hand to try and wrest back control of the men's overall series from current leader Shannon Skerritt, who seized the series lead after Sheppard missed three races in a row as he prepared for the Canadian race Nov. 6.
Wendy Williams looks to have a stranglehold on the women's overall win, especially if her main rival Alice Pennington follows through on plans to race the third round of the USGP series this weekend in Colorado.
A record-setting 1,500-plus cyclists converged on Alpenrose Dairy seven weeks ago for the start of the eight-race series, which offers categories from beginner to pro in this niche hybrid discipline of cycling that has seen phenomenal growth nationwide (and especially in Oregon) over the past decade.
The epic battle in 2009 between overall winner Sean Babcock and runner up Molly Cameron didn't get a chance for a rematch this year as both riders focused on the national level. Babcock signed with the Kona team of Ryan Trebon, Barry Wicks and Erik Tonkin, while Cameron, who recently returned from a trip to Japan, continues to ride independently.
In their place stepped veteran riders Sheppard (Rocky Mountain Bicycles), a Canadian national who resides in Bend, and Skerritt (Corsa Concepts), who was a U.S. Masters National Champion in 2005. Sheppard lit up the first four races, winning three and finishing second to Trebon during week three at the Sherwood Equestrian Center.
Meanwhile, Skerritt was quietly racking up his own string of podium finishes and waiting to pounce. He eventually seized the overall lead when Sheppard missed the Halloween weekend doubleheader in Astoria and last weekend's race in Hillsboro. Skerritt won both races in Astoria and finished second to Babcock last week.
in front, the overall will be his.
(Photo: Pat Malach/Oregon Cycling Action)
The second-place finish may have been enough to lock up the series overall, which is based on the best six of eight races. No matter where Skerritt finishes next weekend, his worst possible result will be a third place. Sheppard, on the other hand, has now missed three races and will have at least one goose-egg figured into his final tally.
Nonetheless, Sheppard, who has a three-month old boy at home, says he will make the trip back over the pass from Bend to try and rack up one more Crusade win.
The women's overall battle has been a back and forth between 2009 winner Williams (River City Bicycles) and Hood River rider Pennington (Team S&M). Although Portland pro Sue Butler (Hudz-Subaru) won the series opener at Alpenrose, she immediately left for the European world cups and a string of national races and hasn't contested any other Crusades.
Pennington, third overall in 2009, fired the first shot in the series battle by finishing second at Alpenrose ahead of an ailing Williams in third. Williams won the next weekend at Rainier High School, while Pennington finished second again. Williams chose to skip the bumpy ride the following weekend at Sherwood, where Pennington scored her first win of the series. Williams was back the next week at Portland International Raceway, but Pennington held her off this time and took the win and the series lead. Unfortunately, she missed the Halloween weekend doubleheader and Williams scored two more victories and took the series lead. Then Pennington led last week's race in Hillsboro early, but she slipped on a difficult part of the course and Williams took another win.
With Williams wrapping up the women's series win, the most exciting battle Sunday may be for second overall between Williams' River City teammate Brigette Brown and Serena Bishop from Sunnyside Sports in Bend. Racing begins at 8:50 a.m. with beginners and concludes with the hour-long elite men's and women's races at 3 p.m.
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