Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Portland US Gran Prix of cyclocross mudfest

The Portland scene
Portland is a pretty funky town. I really like it, although everytime I go to Portland its absolutely pissing down rain. But that doesn't seem to stop the locals. People still commute by bike in their tight little hipster jeans, with their recycled plastic courier bags on their old skool ten speeds. We stayed in the Ace Hotel right downtown so we got to do some solid post-race people watching. With a Stumptown coffee in the front lounge, a little library on floor 1.5, arsty minimalist rooms and styley people scattered everywhere it was a nice change from the carbon copy hotels where we normally stay (replace coffee lounge with smoking room, library with casino, artsy room with stuffy room, and styley people with fat people and thats pretty much the contrast). But as Norm and I were sitting in the lobby having a snack (we are so unhip we don't drink coffee), wearing gore-tex (soooo ten years ago), and sporting toques (instead of fedoras) he whispered to me "I don't think we are cool enough to stay at this hotel...." Hell, they probably don't even say cool anymore.

photo by Joe Sales

The Portland fans
Of course the best part about Portland for a cyclocross racer is the rabid fans. Even with severe storm warnings, 50mph winds, torrential downpours, snow, hail, floods and lots and lots of mud, the cross fans were out in full force. Now, I know you are probably picturing a bunch of people standing around cheering "nice work, way to go" and ringing their cow bells but its much more than that. They bring out a FULL ON 10+ piece marching band to their races (although the conditions were so bad they had to "march" under a big tent. Then the tent almost blew away so they had to disband). Imagine how fired up you get racing when you hear the drums and trumpets start wailing away. They also have the "Gentle Lovers" team that sets up a wood fire hot tub to the side of the course. They sit in teeny, weeny pink bikinis and speedos until one of their racers comes by, then their little bums run as fast as they can to yell and scream at their buddy, then they run back to the hot tub to warm up. They are the North American uberfans.

the gentle lovers uberfans

The Kona crew
Another great thing about Portland races is that its close enough to Kona headquarters in Bellingham that we have a bigger crew at the races. Our manager Mark Peterson and our mechanic Mark Matson played in the mud both mornings, then helped us all afternoon. Dale Plant (previously known as "slow Dale" but we have renamed him "cracker jack Dale" because he keeps us laughing) raced Masters and even Tonkin raced less than a week after his first newborn popped out. That, with the normal race crew, the west coast Kona fans, family and friends - the Kona-yourkey.com tent was hoppin'

Mark Peterson away from his desk. Please leave a message

Mark Matson at home in the Portland mud

Playing in the mud
I like to think of myself as a bit of a mudder so I was really hoping to have a podium performance and finish the USGP season strong. Saturday and Sunday were both wet and muddy but completely different races. Saturday it was cold and snowy and the mud was like peanut butter. Thick with lots of ruts so it was hard to ride. Sunday it was windy and wetter so there were lots of puddles and the mud was soupy, but you could ride through most of it......i am such a cross geek! Either way I was happy to have some crazy conditions to race in, it just makes the races more interesting. Unfortunately my favoured conditions didn't pan out into a podium which is what I was ultimately hoping for. Sat I had a great start and then crashed on some rutted out whoops the first lap so I lost the chase group and ended up 6th. Not horrible but not a podium. Sunday I had a great start but my legs were so cold from the rain and wind that I just couldn't punch it. I had one steady speed but couldn't respond when someone passed me so I slipped from 3rd place in the early laps to a 5th place finish. Again not horrible but not a podium for my team. So, teammate Ryan Trebon had to pick up my slack and take the win and the series for the elite men.

The after shock
At the after party in Portland (it was a prom night theme - waiting on photos of Norm and I dressed up), the USGP race organizer asked me "what happened to you this year Wendy, I thought you were going to be huge". I felt like I had been slapped in the face (and on my prom night too!). All those 4th place finishes noone remembers coming back to haunt me. I guess when you win a National Championship title they expect you to be winning all the time after that? But there is still a lot of cyclocross racing left for me in europe as I get ready for World Championships in Italy at the end of January. The racing will be fast, the courses tough and the chocolate tasty - keep you posted.


erikv said...

You raced well this weekend, especially Sunday! I was thinking you'd get 3rd, but you did slip back a little in the end. Seemed like the cold was affecting some folks more than others. Still, good racing in some hard core conditions!

Wendy Simms said...

Thanks Erik! It always seems like you are the only one suffereing out there...You guys put on a great show! W.

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