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Microsoft Emerald City Cyclocross Series #1

North Sea-Tac Park, Seattle, WA, September 21, 2003

By Craig Undem

The 2003 Microsoft Emerald City Cyclocross Series kicked off under crisp, clear skies on Sunday, signaling the end of summer and the beginning of what will undoubtedly be an epic cyclocross season. Over 340 racers turned out in record numbers for round one of the eight race series, eager to test their mettle on an extremely fast, dry course that would prove challenging for even the most skilled riders.

Shannon Skerritt (Trek) made the trip from Portland to challenge NW favorites Dale Knapp (Kona) and Johnny Sundt (K2), providing a preview of the 2003 Grail de la Grunge Cup competition. Pat Benson of RAD Racing designed a new course for 2003 in true festival fashion.

The day provided spectator friendly entertainment, including food, a free Kids age 9 - 11 race at noon, and a raffle with prizes, including a cyclocross frame and complete bike provided by our race day sponsor: Raleigh Bikes. Thanks to series sponsor, Microsoft, points will be awarded to all racers finishing in all categories. This will make it easy for individual riders to track their position in the series, and will undoubtedly create fierce competition in the overall points standings.

Cyclocross racing continues to grow in popularity in the North West, as was indicated by notably larger field sizes in the beginning men and women categories. Clear skies and mild temperatures provided a gentle, if not deceptive, initiation for those new to the sport. 52 beginning men came to the line, as if unaware of the severe beating they were about to endure from the rough and technical course. Chris Dobrick of Seattle was the first off the line and onto the course, demonstrating his superior off-road skills through the first set of technical challenges. The difficult and punishing terrain quickly separated the riders, allowing new-comer Eric Reckert to finish alone in first place over second place Cameron Charles, and David Schmidt in third.

The beginning women category grew in numbers again this year, with 17 new riders. Kristen Wanatobe will be the one to watch this season, as she defends her first place position over Lisa Given (second) and Holly Walker (third).

31 juniors in 4 categories raced to establish early season dominance. Collin Carbaush said "I'm the one to beat", as he danced his way through the single track to victory over Devin Anderson and Severin Skolrud in the Junior A category. Gina Dalle and Joey Rogerson battled for first place as they alone comprised the Junior B group. In the end it would be Gina in first place. Establishing an early season lead at the top of the Junior C leader board was Grady Weilel. Grady has the target on his back as Lugiano Worl and Evan Schmidt work hard to chase him down.

Alex Andel of Broadmark cleaned up in the single speed category, demonstrating that gears are overrated. Finishing second was Jesse Carbaugh while Adam Van Dyke clinched third.

The killer B field saw the introduction of new faces at the top of the standings as well. Last years Jr. A star, Dan Neyens of EA Cross took an early lead to finish first over Troy White and Michael Henry of Saturn. The Women B field saw another EA Cross team member on the podium as Maribeth Evezich crossed the line unchallenged in front of second place Denielle Crandall, and third place Jadine Riley.

The Masters Bs turned out in record numbers with a total of 54 riders! Bernie Miller established an early season lead by positioning himself at the top of the leader board, just above second place Bradley Margundt and Joe Sales in third.

The competition in the Women's A field will undoubtedly be intensely fierce again this year, and defending national champion, Anne (formerly known as Grande) Knapp of Kona proved once again that big things come in small packages by proving her dominance over challengers Josie Bergg and Kristi Berg. Anne didn't hesitate to launch her attack early, causing the rest of the field to string out into a train that could hope for nothing more than to hold on for dear life.

The air was buzzing with tension and excitement during the staging of the 2:00 big show, with more than 70 riders on the line for the start of the combined Men A and Master A categories. Johnny Sundt of K2 launched out of the starting blocks like a thoroughbred race horse, and never looked back. Johnny led for the entire race, increasing his gap over Russell Stevenson of (?) and Kona's Dale Knapp with each lap. Johnny increased his lead to bout 20 seconds and walked away with the win. Dale crossed the line in second after closing the gap for second, and pulling ahead of Russell, who was able to hold onto third place. Shannon Skerritt of Trek would have to remain satisfied with 4th.

The Master As started a scant 30 seconds behind the elite group, and would be challenged by the inevitability of getting caught by the big boys within the hour. It was Troy Coleman and Doug Graver of the EA Cross Team leading the charge up the short paved climb to the single track. Doug suffered mechanical problems early in the race, and impressively ran an entire lap before receiving a new wheel. In the end it would be Kenny Williams of Saturn who would demonstrate his superior speed and power, allowing him to easily walk away with an uncontested win. Many seconds later, it would be Chad Berg across the line in second and Phil Oppenheimer close behind in third.

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