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Emerald City Cyclocross
Seattle, USA, December 4, 2005
Schmitt takes win at Seattle cyclocross finale
Seattle riders were treated to rare Nordic conditions as Sunday's Emerald City Cyclocross finale looked more like a cross country skiing race than typical Pacific Northwest cyclocross. Snow and frozen rain that came down Friday and Saturday blanketed Kelly Creek's grass criterium like courses with three inches of snow. Early riders plowed encountered an initial layer of crunchy ice and plowed the course with a smooth lane of hard packed snow. This led to racing conditions that favored riders with power to stomp through the snow but with good technical skills that enabled them to take the right lines. Taking the wrong line would send a rider off the hard pack into an embankment of speed sapping snow. Consequently, taking the right lines and maintaining one's speed was critical.
Course co-designer Fan Norton (who also won the masters race) said, "Before the race, I made a little prayer to the woman upstairs that the Washington riders get to race in epic conditions. I'm glad that the East Coast riders aren't the only ones that get to have fun." In addressing the snowy conditions that drastically changed the nature of the course, course co-designer Wick said, "Our philosophy was to, first, make it safe. That required redesigning the downhill at an angle so it wasn't so steep. We knew it was gonna be a pure slugfest."
In the Women's Race, Kristi Berg (Bicycle Centres) was in the lead of the Emerald City Cyclocross Series by 23 points over Nicola Mann (Avanti /TiCycles). With double points on the line at the series finale, and each rider's worst race thrown out in the final equation, races weren't over until they were over. In preparation for US Nationals in Providence, Rhode Island, Ann Knapp (Kona) and Rhonda Mazza (Team S&M) raced in the women's field. After pre-riding the course, Mazza said, "[It's] definitely gonna be slower than if it were bone dry, [but it] doesn't feel too sketchy." Knapp commented that she was there "just for fun! It's fun to do something different. [I] haven't been out here since we used to ride mountain bikes. I think everybody's excited to be riding in the snow."
Once the whistle was blown, the women's field of 23 was strung out throughout the course. Ann Knapp (Kona) got an early gap with Kristi Berg (Bicycle Centres) right on her wheel, with Rhonda Mazza (Team S & M) seconds back. Berg was marking Ann Knapp, according to her plan, with Mazza trailing close by, when problems occurred in the second half of lap one.
"I shifted and I thought [my chain] went inside [the chainring], but there was nothing there" recalled Berg. As luck would have it, this mishap occurred on the other side of the course. "I ran half the course. I was hurting by the time I hit the run-up, and that's when Rhonda [Mazza] passed me and Nicola [Mann] caught me..Luckily, I got to the pits there and I had the other bike." With the series potentially on the line, Berg admitted to being "a little nervous" but surged after getting on the bike and got a gap on Mann.
After passing Berg during her mishap, Rhonda Mazza moved into second place and chased Ann Knapp. Knapp continued to dominate the race and started to catch riders in the men's B field that started a minute before the women. With the race in hand, Knapp rode in for the win with Rhonda Mazza taking second, followed by Kristi Berg in third, Nicola Mann in 4th and Jadine Riley (Grouphealth) in 5th.
Elite men's race
With snow on the ground, the elite men's field looked toward the series finale with a sense of apprehension and anticipation. "It's a great course, a little different than the last time. The snow adds something we don't normally get here" said Rich McClung (Broadmark Capital), entering the race second overall in the series, trailing Josh Squier by only three points. Asked what brought him to today's race when he said he predicted he would be snowboarding last week, Russell Stevenson responded, "Snow! It's the only snow race we get here in the northwest…ya gotta do it and savour one last race for the year. You don't see some of these people for a while!"
By the start of the Elite men's race, a "clean" track had been worn through the snow down to the mud. Consequently, there was one fast line through the course but plenty of space to pass people if they wanted to venture through the speed sapping snow.
Once the men got started a small pack of leaders reached the run-up en masse with all the contenders there led by John Christian flack (the Valley), Russell Stevenson (Benaroya Research Institute "BRI") and Josh Squier (Recycled Cycles). By the second lap Russell Stevenson established a small gap but was being chased hard by Dale Knapp (Kona), Morgan Schmitt (Redline) and Rich McClung (Broadmark Capital). With Knapp leading the chase, Schmitt and McClung followed. Schmitt attacked his chase group on the back section after the run-up, and got the gap going into the finishing straight. Schmitt recalled, " I was focused on getting up to Russell and ride with him the rest of the race and wait for him to jump me. I just got a gap [on him] and opened it up a bit more."
Describing his solo attack, Schmitt recalled, "I felt good and just had to power it, ride conservatively and not make any mistakes.there are some sharp rocks out there." On riding the snowy conditions, Schmitt said, "Ya know, it thawed out a bit so the mud was similar to Donida Farms.so it was conducive to me. I ran the tire pressure real real low and I was able to control my slide."
Maintaining his gap and extending it through the remainder of the race, Schmitt rode in solo for the win, holding his bike up as he walked it across the finish line. Schmitt also won the Emerald City cyclocross Series with this win as well. Stevenson rolled in for second place.
In the fight for third, Rich McClung let dale Knapp set the pace for most of the chase until Knapp powered away. Knapp finished third, with McClung coming in 4th but leapfrogging Josh Squier for second place in the series competition.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Hyun Lee
Elite men 1 Morgan Schmitt (Redline) 2 Russell Stevenson (BRI) 3 Dale Knapp (Kona) 5 Rich McClung (Broadmark Capital) 6 Josh Squier (Recycled Cycles) 7 Ronnie Schmeer (Art by Opsal) 8 Mark Hansen (BRI) 9 John Christian Flack (The Valley) 10 Mathew Hill (Redline) Elite Women 1 Ann Knapp (Kona) 2 Rhonda Mazza (Team S&M) 3 Kristi Berg (Bicycle Centers) 4 Nicola Mann (Avanti Ticycles) 5 Jadine Riley (Grouphealth)
Local results 2004