to wear down to mud.
One of the country’s biggest amateur bike races drew an estimated 1400 participants to the former dairyfields of Southwest Portland Sunday as the Cross Crusade season kicked open.
“If you ride ‘cross, the one you have to go to every year is Crusade,” said Dan Evan, 27, a process engineer from Southeast Portland leaning, shirtless, over the finish line at the Alpenrose Velodrome. “It’s like the big reunion. Every year, everybody comes to Alpenrose.”
Evan said he’d been inspired to start racing cyclocross in 2009 after seeing “some rad videos on the Internet” and competed in 12 or 13 events last year.
Jobe Franck of Portland, 48, said she’d come to the event with her young sons because the 10-year-old female classmate of one of them was competing in the youth cross event, as was the girl’s father.
“We moved here from Wisconsin, so we are learning about all things Portland,” Franck said. “And apparently this is very Portland.”
With no rain in sight and a high of 67, Sunday’s weather drew praise from spectators and racers alike. David Hart, working the registration desk midafternoon, said more than 1,000 had registered so far and guessed it’d reach 1,400 would by the day’s end.
“People say that they like riding in the rain,” Cross Crusade promoter Brad Ross joked Sunday. “Maybe once they’re out here they do.”
Jen Pereau, 34, of Portland, said she’d been racing all month and definitely preferred Sunday’s weather. “Last week I rolled right to the car,” she said with a guilty laugh.
Pereau’s teammate Jason Mirada, 39, said he likes racing in the largest category, Masters C. “Even if you’re way back, you can pass 50 people,” Mirada said, grinning. “I came in 86th out of 188 guys!”
Brian Curry of Portland, 48, marveled at the crowds.
“When I saw my first ‘cross race back in ’99 or so, there was probably like a couple hundred people total,” said Curry, a Washington County lab analyst.
Like many early adopters of cyclocross, Curry said, he started riding to stay in shape for road races, then realized that racing in close quarters on multiple surfaces with technical challenges and a closed course was its own kind of fun.
“You get all sorts of people,” he said. “Guys who work at bike shops, doctors, moms and dads, blue-collarish type of people, white collar. A few lawyers. I know one guy who’s military reserve. … In a road race, you’re out in the middle of nowhere. You’re all alone.”
Kate Walker, 37, was one of several women in Sweatpea Bicycles jerseys who lined up for the general women’s afternoon race. She was one of about 200, waiting to be sent off in six heats.
“Look at this women’s field,” said Walker, a Portland administrator, glancing around with a smile. “Badass!”
Ross, the event organizer, opened the afternoon race with a minute of silence for Amy Dombroski, the 26-year-old cyclocross pro killed after a collision with a truck in Belgium on Thursday. Dombroski had raced in Bend and elsewhere nearby, Ross said, and was known to many in the community.
As the crowd fell silent, Ross handed off his microphone and walked to the front of the start line quietly. Then he raised his head and bellowed.
“But I’m pretty sure Amy Dombroski would want all of you gals to kick ass!” he shouted.
The participants cheered, and the race was on.
— 2013 cyclocross season coverage on BikePortland is sponsored by Sellwood Cycle Repair (7953 SE 13th Ave). Drop by the shop for their great selection of Kona bikes and trusted cyclocross service.