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Washington Cyclocross Championships
Spokane, Washington, USA, Nov. 3, 2002
Images by Joe Zauner
Ann Grande and Dale Knapp - two names identifiable by anyone even remotely aware of Northwest cyclocross - were the winners Sunday at the Washington Cyclocross Championships in Spokane.
Both Grande and Knapp won with comfortable margins in races that were stock with talent, though somewhat lacking in numbers. It wasn't the first state title for either Kona/Kenwood rider.
Knapp was the favorite of most armchair cyclocross racers watching Sunday's race, of which there were many. But Knapp had his hands full on the first lap with several hard-charging athletes.
Jamul Hahn (Northern Rockies) was the early antagonist. He cleared the barriers five-bike lengths ahead of the chasing field on the top of the course, which by most accounts favored mountain bikers with its abundance of single track and technical gravel sections. Directly behind Hahn was Knapp, Steve Crosier (Redline) and Ryan Iddings (Rad Racing).
Iddings, 18, wouldn't stay on the pace long - he lost contact with the leaders half way into the second lap and began a backwards drift through the field that wouldn't stop until he reached 15th place. He was the top U-23 rider, however.
Hahn crashed early in the first lap when he threw his chain near the bottom of the course, essentially removing him from the race for first. Meanwhile, up the road, Crosier was hanging on to Knapp's rear tire like a Pitbull hanging on to a T-bone steak, but Knapp was pulling hard. The course seemed suited to Knapp, who is a noted bike handler.
"He was taking lines I couldn't take on my mountain bike," Crosier said. "He takes the right line on the first lap and does it every time. It takes me five laps to figure out the line. He's just a great bike handler."
"I knew I could carry more speed through the rough sections and accelerate out of them, so (Crosier) was always chasing hard," Knapp said. "I knew I broke his spirit here and there, and he knew it was going to be a long day of chasing to get back on me."
With four of seven laps completed, Crosier cracked and began the process of racing for second. Knapp pulled 17 seconds out of Crosier on that lap. A lap latter the margin would double.
With Knapp well ahead of Crosier and Crosier - for the time being - well ahead of the field, the real race was for third. Hahn, Mark Legg (Bianchi/Hammer Gel), Michael Gaertner (I.D. Cycle) and Eric Atwood (Ritchey Roots), with Iddings about five seconds behind, were sorting out the race for bronze.
Legg, a New Zealand national team member and a participant in the 2002 world cyclocross championships in Zolder, Belguim, crashed immediately after making contact with the lead group of Knapp and Co. on the first lap. He was licking his wounds and eyeing third when his rear tire began to split.
Atwood, out of safety concerns, alerted Legg of the tire problems, of which Legg thanked him for after the race - "No point in crashing over a silly thing," Legg said later. Legg stopped for a wheel change and not soon after Atwood was on the throttle pulling the chase group apart.
It was about this time that Hahn's spate of misfortune continued - this time a puncture sidelined the Montana rider for good. Iddings lost contact in the race for third while turning what appeared to be seven shades of green in the final laps of the race.
Gaertner, who won on this course two weeks prior, was slowly losing contact with Atwood. With a lap to race, Atwood, a mountain bike racer of note on in the Northwest circuit, was well clear of Gaertner and was suddenly, and realistically, entertaining ideas of catching Crosier.
Crosier, who seemed to have second sewn up a lap prior, punctured with just under a lap to go and was aptly riding a rear flat. With 400 meters to race, Atwood was about seven seconds behind Crosier, but Crosier did cross the line second, flopping rear tire and all.
Gaertner hung on for fourth and Legg was fifth.
Knapp was disappointed in the low turn out, but he suggested that all the main players with one notable exception - Jonny Sundt of K2 - were at race. There were 21 category A riders.
"I was thinking about it the whole race," said Knapp. "Sure, I've won this (state championship) a few times, but it's still a big honor. I do wish some more key people would have come out. There's only pride at stake here and the honor of being the state cyclocross champion, but isn't that enough?"
Knapp, 38, seemed almost longing for someone to challenge his near dominant reign over Northwest cyclocross talent. He acknowledged that his days on top are numbered as new talent makes it's way up the food chain, but he added that he would likely remain at or near the top for the remainder of this year.
"I wishing that some young rider would step up today and challenge me," Knapp said. "Someone like Ryan Iddings. He was up there on the first lap and you know, I wouldn't let him have it, but I like seeing him up there rallying for it."
In the women's race, Grande continued what appears to be a successful comeback to the sport. She was fifth at the 2002 world cyclocross championships. Sunday's win was her second in a row, albeit against regional competition, after returning to action early last month. She has been sidelined with chronic back pain.
But Grande's win wasn't easy. Josie Beggs (Bolla/Bianchi) and Kristi Berg, along with Grande, formed the early lead group. After about a lap, Berg was vying for third alone while up the road Beggs and Grande began sharing the workload in the race for first.
On a steep run-up after three laps of racing, Grande opened a small gap that Beggs didn't have the legs to close. Grande began to stretch that gap over the next three laps. To her credit, Beggs never threw in the towel. The gap slowly expanded - 17 seconds with one lap to race - but never exploded.
Grande crossed the line first followed by Beggs about 22 seconds back. Berg held on for third.
After a long recovery period from her back injury, Grande was happy with the performance - "Every race is a gift," she said. But she was realistic about her chances of returning to the top of the international cyclocross heap this season.
"My back is feeling better," she said. "I hate to talk about it because I might jinx myself, but right now I just need to train. I will race nationals, but I have no idea how I'll do. The top women are going pretty hard right now and I don't know if I'll get to that level of fitness. (Making the) worlds team is a long shot. Right now I'm just happy to be riding my bike."
In the masters race, Matt Hill (Ti-cycles) cruised to a win in the 30- 39 division. Hill, a regular top-five finisher against Northwest talent in the A division, locked on to the lead early and never had reason to look back.
Dale Plant (Kona/Kenwood) hung on for second, finishing about a minute off Hill's pace.
"Last year (Matt Hill) and me would have been slugging it out," said Plant, "but he's got a big motor this year. He's been racing on the roads and it shows. I thought it would be a better course for me because it's (better suited for a mountain biker), but he had the bigger motor today."
Jason McCarter (Elephant) was third while Doug Graver (Ragnarok) was fourth.
In the juniors race, David Fleischhauer (Rad Racing) jumped out to an early lead staying just out of the reach of Tommy Magrath (Vertical Earth). Fleischhauer appeared to have an easy time of it.
He is coming off a disappointing performance the week prior at the Cycle-Smart Amherst International Cyclo-Cross in Amherst, Mass. He was one of the favorites in that race, but finished seventh.
"I was trying to recover from Amhearst," Fleischhauer said. "I was also trying to have fun. On the start I went pretty hard and just got a little bit of gap and kind of played with it for a while. I'd amp it up if I needed to."
Tucker Thomas (Rad Racing) won the Junior 15-16 race. He led from the start, opening up a large gap on the first lap and continued to increase his lead to the end. Will Freeman (Rad Racing) was second and Tristan Skolrund (unattached) was third.
Notes: Dale Plant (Kona) second in the masters 30-35; races mostly mountain bike not road: "Last year (Matt Hill) and me would have been slugging it out. He's got a big motor this year. He's been racing on the roads and it shows. I thought it would be a better course for me because it's (better suited for a mountain biker), but he had the bigger motor today."
Kenuoke crashed on the third lap. He was in the group chasing.
Hill (34): Jim Brown won last year. "I'm having a good season. I seem to be able to kick it up a notch this year when I need it." Hill started racing bikes when he was 29. He said he's still developing as an athlete. "I punched it about halfway through the race and then it was just maintenance."
Fleshauer: "I was trying to recover from Amhearst. Trying to have fun. On the start I went pretty hard. I just got a little bit of gap and kind of played with it for a while. I'd amp it up if I needed it."
Beggs: With three laps to go Anne gave Beggs the slip. They've known each other for. "That was painfully exhilerating, but better. My back is feeling better. I hate to talk about because I might jinx myself, but right now I just need to train. Every race is a little gift. I'm going to go to nationals, but I have no idea how I'll do. The top women are going to pretty hard right now and I don't know if I'll get to that level of fitness and worlds is a big long shot. Right now I'm just happy to be riding my bike."
He was taking lines I couldn't take on my mountain bike. He takes the right line on the first lap and does it every time. It takes me five laps to figure out the line. He's just a great bike handler. My legs weren't a problem at all. My legs were great. I mean, who got third today? Atwood. A mountain biker. This is a mountain biker course." Rode a flat almost the entire last lap.
Knapp: "I'm glad the air stayed in the tires." I was thinking about it the whole race. Sure, I've won it a few times, but it's still a big honor. I wishing that some young challenger would step up and challenge me. Like Ryan Iddings. He was up there on the first lap and you know, I wouldn't let him have it, but I'd like to see him up there rallying for it. I wish some more key people would come out. There's only pride at stake here and the honor of being the state cyclocross champion, but
I knew I could carry more speed through the rough sections and accelerate out of them, so he was always chasing hard. I knew I broke his spirit here and there, and he knew it was going to be a long race of chasing to get back on me.
There's a lot of guys up there who start strong but they can never seem to spread it out over the hour. Him and Bradford are two guys that, if not later on this year, next year they'll be making me suffer. I expect that.