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Portland cyclocross is the pits

Posted by on November 12th, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-13
Racing bikes is far from the only thing that makes our local cyclocross scene special.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)


A funny thing happens every Sunday during the Cross Crusade races: The team pit area turns into a big group campsite where a love of cyclocross is the only thing you need for a reservation.

Our cyclocross coverage is made
possible by Sellwood Cycle Repair.

Team tents are common at bike races. They’re usually used as a place for competitors to warm up, stash their gear, park their bikes, and display sponsor logos and products. But at the Cross Crusade — a beloved local tradition now in its 20th year — these team tent areas feel more like the Oregon Country Fair. At Sunday’s race out at Portland International Raceway, the tent areas teemed with activity. They were a mix of raucous spectators (a.k.a. hecklers), beer, families, kids, food, fire, dogs, and more. The atmosphere was festive and communal, with people walking between tents and having no fear of crossing private boundaries. Everyone is a cyclocross fan or racer, so everyone is welcome.

I’ve been going to these races for years now and I can’t help but notice how these tent areas have evolved and gotten more sophisticated over the years.

Take bike parking for instance. On Sunday you could see all types of custom structures; from a cool custom fabricated metal design by The Spokesman team, to more rudimentary versions like this wooden A-frame by Filth and Fury or this wooden cross-bar between two bike stands at the Tireless Velo tent…

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-28
Custom rebar flower design with cup holder in the center.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-29

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-54

Food is another staple in the tents. From boxes of donuts to fried bacon and sausages, the smells seduce racers each time they ride by. On Sunday I saw everything from your basic camping stove, to a full-fledged BBQ unit, and even a deep fryer that was cooking up whole turkeys!

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-21
“Have a sausage!” someone said as I walked by.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-61
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-56
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-48
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-55
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-47

Fire pits are another place where teams have stepped it up a notch. There’s the traditional, big-hole-in-the-ground bonfire of course, but also classier versions like the metal, self-contained fire pit many folks have in their backyards, and the custom-fab, laser-cut design from The Spokesman…

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-53
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-2
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-4
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-43

Changing tents have also become standard equipment. I liked this double-wide model the folks at Team S & M/Sellwood Cycle were kind enough to let me use…

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-64

The layout of Sunday’s venue (a wooded and grassy area in the infield of the PIR racetrack) allowed for two separate tent camps to evolve: One of them — near a section of the course where racers had to navigate three challenging small climbs, hairpin turns and descents all just inches away from the tents — was dominated by more adult-oriented antics like (illegal) beer hand-ups and profanity-laced heckling. It was jam-packed with spectators and local team Trusty Switchblade hosted a “Heckle Me Corner” which ratcheted things up a notch…

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-33
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-62
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-1
Trusty Switchblade brand founder Jason Miranda ready for a day of heckling.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-7
Dan Cheever was dressed for fun.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-8
Jose Sandoval doing his part.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-10
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-12
Hey! Be careful where you point that thing.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-14
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-17
I think this man was just telling his friend he’s in first place.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-22
Will race for a dollar.

The other side of the infield was a much tamer tent camp where kids and families were the norm. At times an open grassy area looked like recess at an elementary school playground where instead of balls and play structures, the kids had bikes…

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-58
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-57
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-46
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-49

Everywhere I turned there were these wonderful scenes of people just enjoying each other’s company and soaking in the atmosphere.

And of course there was plenty of serious racing going on too…

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-15
Shannon Skerritt showing the focus and style that makes him
a perennial top finisher in the Mens A category.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-3
Unicycling is gaining in popularity with the young crowd.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-18
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-16
The course was fast and relatively dry, but still tricky in the corners.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-27
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-42
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-34
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-37
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-26

It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly creates this type of magical mix of racing, community, and camaraderie; but I have some ideas. The race promoters and the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) put a priority on fun for everyone, not just elite athletes. In other words, the goal of these events is to simply have a great time — whether it happens on the race course and/or off of it. Another reason is Portlanders just love bikes and they’ve adopted cyclocross in a way that hasn’t happened in any other American city. We’re simply crazy for it.

Whatever the reason, this is a part of the cycling world that you’ve got to experience. We’ve still got another month or so left in the ‘cross season, so check out the schedule and try to make it out to an upcoming race.

See you out there!

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Comments
  • Brendan Quinlan November 12, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Nailed it. It’s why I love the sport, it’s not one thing, it’s all the things summed up in this article. Kudo’s

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Kenji November 12, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    And a BIG Congrats to Jonathan for taking 2nd in the Master B race- beating 91 of his competitors!

    Recommended Thumb up 8

  • Bobcycle November 12, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Jonathan, YOU ROCK! I race CX and know how hard you have to work to just finish. To take second in B cat is a great accomplishment. Not only can you write, but you can obviously ride with the best of them. Careful though, with your successes they’ll be cat’n you up to “A’s” soon. Congratulations!

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Alan 1.0 November 12, 2013 at 8:19 pm

      WOW! Way to go, Jonathan! Nice report, too.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Mark C November 12, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    The fact that cross is in the fall makes the change of seasons a whole lot easier to take. I’d say the conditions at PIR on Sunday were just about perfect – enough mud where you still had to watch it on the corners, but not over-the-top ridiculous like last year.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • spare_wheel November 13, 2013 at 7:46 am

    wow, 2nd on a retro steel bike!

    just imagine what jonathan could have done on a stiff but compliant crabon fibre bike with full hydraulics and a beefy bottom bracket?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • srbeards November 13, 2013 at 8:19 am

      Jonathan was showing me his new fancy carbon bike that he got from teh guys at Sellwood Cycles. No retro steel. And apparently his goal, with a lot of training this next summer, is to start racing with the Master As in 2014.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 13, 2013 at 9:10 am

      spare_wheel,

      yep. srbeards is right. This season I’m riding a carbon fiber bike from Foundry. The “Auger” model to be exact. Sellwood Cycles provided the bike to me as part of our promotional partnership. I must say, the bike is pretty dang speedy and responsive. I’ve only ridden it five times since October — four of which have been races… and all the races have gone really well.

      Recommended Thumb up 7

  • Linda November 13, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Nice report Jonathan, but a noticeable lack of WOMEN in your pictures and report. We have some of, if not THEE best women racers in our backyard, yet all the pictures are of the men. Show a little love, Jonathan. Show a little love.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 13, 2013 at 9:49 am

      Hi Linda,

      I knew someone would leave a comment like this. Thanks for the feedback. I have shown, and will continue to show, much much love for women racing bikes on this site. The fact that this particular story doesn’t include any of them is simply a function of using the best photos I had from the day. It just so happens that I didn’t shoot many photos of women on Sunday… Partly because I was racing, partly because I was talking with people, and so on. I appreciate your concern but I can assure you I am acutely aware that we have great women racers and an awesome women’s scene here in Portland.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

    • matt November 13, 2013 at 10:01 am

      With the exception of the A women, all the other women categories race at the same time later in the afternoon. Not everyone can catch that one race.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

    • spencer November 13, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      The report was about the PITs and not men’s racing. The photos I saw from Sunday would embarrass the women who were in them, and I’m glad they’re not published on this family site :). The racer/(all) women kick ass, and its rad to see them duke it out on the course.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • denvercx November 17, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Great write-up Jonathan. You’ve got all my Colorado ‘cross buddies hot and bothered to come try an Oregon ‘cross race. Watch out, altitude dopers on the way!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

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