Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on October 3rd, 2011 at 10:11 am
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(Photos © J. Maus)
According to official counts, 1,497 people participated in the opening race of the 2011 Cross Crusade series. That number is a bit down from last year's world record, but you wouldn't have known that from the crowds out at Alpenrose Dairy yesterday.
Despite intermittent showers, hundreds of fans and friends of the racers also came out. Add to that a bustling expo area with lots of busy vendors, a team tent village that is as big as I've ever seen, and you get some sense of what cyclocross feels like in Portland.
The largest field of the day was 217 for the Master Men C category (there are 20 categories in all, including Unicycle which had eight competitors); but the category that stole the show for me wasn't tallied by the officials. The Kid Cross event had what looked like hundreds of "competitors" ranging from just years' old kids on balance bikes to 11-year olds who look ready for the Junior category.
The Kid Cross is a sight to behold. Put on by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), the event is a bit chaotic (as you can imagine when you let that many kids go free on a bike race course); but everyone is smiling and laughing. Many of the kids have mom or dad running alongside them playing the roles of photographer, parent, and coach simultaneously.
Susan Kaufman was there with her two boys, David, age 8 and Ben, age 11. Ben, who has a full season of Kiddie Cross under his belt, showed off a new Kona cyclocross bike. "What I like most," he said, "Is how muddy you get." The Kaufman boys are part of an unofficial team from Creative Science School in Southeast Portland. Their classmates, 8-year old Jacob Smith and 4-year old Zach Smith also joined them for the big event.
With its big crowds and festive atmosphere, the Cross Crusade is a great place to try 'cross for the first time. Chris Frick, owner of Friendly Bike Guest House on N Williams Ave, just picked up a bike from Craigslist three days ago. He finished 208th out of 217 in his category and brought his whole family to the event. I chatted with him after his race and he had that endorphin-fueled perma-grin that can only mean one thing: He's hooked. "It was great," he said, "And no one passed me running up the hills!"
And then there's Mike Dishman. Dishman is what you'd call a super-fan. This guy just loves 'cross. It's that simple. It was his pink, "Keep Cyclocross Weird" shirt and long braided ponytails that caught my eye at first; but what I'll remember is his devotion to the sport. Dishman, 29, is a 'cross groupie of sorts. He lives in Missouri at the moment, but for the last four years during 'cross season he's toured the sport's various hotbeds while living in a tent. Oregon, Washington, the East Coast, the Mid-Atlantic. Next year he plans to venture to Hawaii to sample their 'cross scene.
"There's something about this I really love," Dishman said, "It hits home with me... especially here in Portland. There's a fun factor that they don't have on the East Coast."
Speaking of fun. While the little tykes have plenty of it, I've got to hand it to the women. They are an inspiring bunch. Check out how they handle the big run-up and a very tricky and slippery, off-camber downhill section (which came up before they even caught their breath after the run-up)...
What a great way to kick off the Crusades. For more photos — including some blood, fries, free mohawks, a cameo by Bob of Bob's Red Mill, and more — check out the slideshow below...