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Microsoft Seattle Cyclocross Series #2
Seatac, WA, September 29, 2002
Knapp's sweet redemption
By Joe Zauner, Northwest Race Report.com
It was sweet redemption for Kona-Kenwood rider Dale Knapp in the second round of the Microsoft Seattle Cyclocross Series in Seatac, Wash.
The 38-year-old Northwest cyclocross icon was likely still smarting from his second place finish less than 24 hours earlier at the Star-Crossed Cyclocross event in Redmond, Wash., where he took a sound thumping from K2 rider Jonny Sundt in front of a packed Marymoor Velodrome.
That course, with its twists and turns, favored a finesse rider, and Sundt, nicknamed The Cat, definitely is that - a finesse rider. Sunday's course in South Seatac Park, with its sandpits and steep run-ups, favored a more powerful rider, and Knapp, at 6 feet, 190 pounds, most definitely is that - a powerful rider.
From the gun, Knapp and Sundt hit the front quickly, exchanging leads as three other riders - Erik Tonkin (Kona-Kenwood), Steve Crosier (Redline) and Shannon Skerritt (Trek/VW/Bike Gallery) - seemed content to watch the two heavy hitters on the Northwest circuit slug it out.
The composition of the lead group was the same as the night before in the early laps. As he did the night before, Skerritt fell off the pace early, but Crosier hung on like a Pitbull Terrier and Tonkin was yo-yoing on and off the back of the three leaders with three of nine laps completed.
But Tonkin found his legs with four laps to go and attacked hard, dragging Sundt and Knapp behind him and loosening Crosier's grip on the lead group. It was at about this time that Sundt nailed one of the many rocks on the course and flatted his front tire.
Sundt was well away from the pits when he flatted and was forced to run his bike back for an exchange. To make matters worse, Sundt's backup bike was equipped with wheels too delicate for the rugged South Seatac Park course.
"I smacked a rock and punctured and the only other wheels I have were - eh, I hate to sound like a wussy, but I wasn't about to go hard on my Cane Creeks," Sundt said. Those wheels have to make it through the season. I popped a rock hard and probably killed a tire and then I babied it for a lap on my Cane Creeks."
While Sundt was babying it, Knapp was driving the pace with the throttle stuck open. He and Tonkin briefly tangled in the sandpit at which point Knapp took it upon himself to narrow the margin of error by staying clear of the rest of the racers. "I yielded and he opened up a gap that I could barely close and it wore me out to do it," Tonkin said."One lap later he was gone. He's just got more power."
Behind Tonkin were the remnants of the lead group followed by a tightly knit bunch vying for sixth that thought better of the early pace. Sundt was well back of this group, which included Matt Hill (Ti Cycles), Eric Atwood (Ritchey/Woods) and Richard McClung (Broadmark/Elitebicycles.com) and was 62 seconds off Knapp's pace. Kona/Kenwood rider Joe Brown was in no-man's land vying for fifth, which he would eventually earn.
At the bell lap, Skerritt caught Crosier and was starting to take time out of Tonkin, who was 25 seconds behind Knapp. But little changed on the last lap. Sundt caught the chase group containing Hill and McClung. Hill won the battle taking sixth with Sundt seventh, McClung eighth and Atwood ninth.
Tonkin held on for second while Skerritt collected his second third place in as many days. "I was pretty worried about today's race," Skerritt said. "I put in a lot of work last night (at the Star-Crossed Cyclocross race) and I wasn't feeling all that good for about half the race today until I started warming into it. I started coming on but by then the gaps were too big. I'm pretty happy, though. I'd rather have something better than third place. I've had three thirds in a row now."
Croiser held on for fourth. Knapp crossed the line with his arms raised to take the victory.
Though the rematch from the night before never fully materialized, the consensus among racers and spectators was that Knapp appeared the strongest rider on the racecourse. He was the quickest over a steep incline that some riders ran up, but racers and spectators alike would have rather seen Sundt and Knapp duke it out to the end.
"A couple guys in the pits (at the top of the sand hill) said I owned the sand hill," Knapp said; those were nice words to hear. But it's too bad Jonny (Sundt) got a flat because I think it would have been a pretty good battle."
In the women's race, Josie Beggs (Bianchi) and Kristie Berg (Bicycles Centers) were locked in battle for the early laps, with Berg doing most of the hanging on. Interestingly, Berg is a former professional mountain bike downhiller and took time off last season to have a child. Since that time it seems she's added uphills and flat sections to her repertoire, in the process becoming a solid cyclocross racer. But Beggs was too much, dropping Berg with two laps to go and winning by a comfortable margin.
In the masters' race, Jim Brown (Rad Racing) outfoxed Randy Daniels (Ti Cycles) on the last lap to take the win. Daniels, who won the masters race the night before at the Star-Crossed event, rode a patient race, moving up to the lead group well into the second lap.
Course designer Pat Bentson (Rad Racing) set the early pace and was soon joined by Brown and teammate Randy Iddings. Bentson faded, but Iddings and Brown were taking turns attacking the lead group, which numbered six early on.
Daniels, who started in the rear of the field since he didn't race the weekend before and had no series points, worked his way up to the leaders and closed down a gap that Iddings opened with two laps to go. The plan, according to Brown, was to attack and counter attack Daniels until he was dropped. It nearly backfired.
"When he closed the gap down, of course the plan was to attack him again," said Brown. But he was so strong when he came through, he attacked us and caught us with pants down."
Daniels opened a lead that looked like it might stick. With one lap to go he was six seconds ahead of Brown, who looked like he might throw in the towel.
"He came through with a real hard road attack and he gapped me - the guy has super strong road power - and I thought, that's it. He's gone," said Brown, who is the head coach of Rad Racing. "I try to teach our kids to never give up and I thought to myself, that's exactly what I'm doing - giving up. I knew I was getting through the sand way faster than he was, so I bridged to him and let him pull me all the way down the road. I attacked him before the sand and I knew I could get home faster than him."
Brown did get home fastest. He came across the line with enough time to celebrate. Daniels was second, four seconds later, followed by Iddings.
In the junior race, David Volkert (ASC) led nearly from start to finish. The 16-year-old had his hands full on the last lap as Rad Racing's Devin Anderson, 15, made a late charge.
Volkert's lead was up to 18 seconds at one point. Anderson, in his third year of cyclocross, cut that to three at the finish.
"I was getting really tired and Devin is real strong later in the race," said Volkert, who works as a grocery store bagger. "I probably started out a little too fast."
Morgan Schmitt finished third.
Images by Northwest Race Report.com
Men 1 Dale Knapp (Kona-Kenwood) 2 Erik Tonkin (Kona-Kenwood) 3 Shannon Skerritt (Trek/VW/Bike Gallery) 4 Steve Crosier (Redline) Women 1 Josie Beggs (Bianchi) 2 Kristie Berg (Bicycles Centers) Masters 1 Jim Brown (Rad Racing) 2 Randy Daniels (Ti Cycles) Juniors 1 David Volkert (ASC) 2 Devin Anderson (Rad Racing) 3 Morgan Schmitt