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South Knoxville Cyclocross Spectacular
Alcoaway Park, Knoxville TN, February 23, 2003
By Tarik Saleh
Ok, the South Knoxville cross spectacular is in the books and the first cross series in eastern TN (to my knowledge) was a success. After a week that saw 10" of rain and a 24 hour period that produced weather ranging from torrential rain to sunny and 70 degrees to thunderstorms to hail and then snow, race day dawned somewhat chilly but shockingly dry. The course at Alcoaway Optimist park, by happy accident, seemed to slope evenly downhill and be built on top of a hill and on a bed of gravel. Despite massive flooding elsewhere in the county the course was sloppy and wet, but the expected mud spectacular never materialized.
Tarik Saleh and race promoter John Baker (highland adventures) laid out a .6 mile course that featured a short steep run up, a set of stairs and a single and triple barrier.
Knoxvillans did not get the message that it was still cross season and only 4 A's showed up to do battle. Baker wisely combined the A and B classes and ended up with a 13 person field and a 50 minute race. No women came to race, perhaps finding cross icky? Where were you women? You promised...
Anyhow, due to the lack of females and the generosity of our sponsors, the prize list was spectacular, featuring letterpress posters, cycling gear, t-shirts and Ephemera, as well as generous cash prizes for the A's. Riders had to declare A or B prior to the race, but the combined class made a fun challenge for all.
The race started with a Le Mans start, a 100 yard curvy cement dash to the waiting bikes. True to his hasty self, Tarik Saleh (Kelly bikes) burst out to the lead, but was not paying attention at the racers meeting and took a wrong turn (at his own race!). This let up and comers Max Trent (CBC) and Jason Stephens (unattached) take an early lead.
The pack strung out quickly over the first lap and Stephens burst out to a big gap over the tentative field. Saleh worked his way through the pack and up to Stephens. When Stephens took a spiraling crash on a pavement hairpin at the end of lap one, Saleh took the lead for good. Behind him Gary Chambers (SCO), Don Taylor, Chris Pace (SCO) and Stephens formed a loose chase pack. Chambers put a gap on the other three in the third lap, but quickly lost it when he had his first of 3 chain derailings. Over the next few laps, Taylor stood solidly in second with Pace and Stephens next and Chambers chasing hard between mechanicals.
Saleh took command of the race and proceeded to lap the bulk of the field on his way to victory. The last few laps became a barnburner as Stephens and Taylor, both racing in the B's, battled for second overall. With the coveted Evel Knievel poster from sponsor Yee Haw Industries on the line, Stephens put in a hard charge to pull away and finish second and Taylor followed close behind for third.
Chambers and Pace followed them in with a hard fought battle for second and third in the A's. Chambers overcoming his mechanicals to finish second A with Pace as third A. Notably the top three A's were all rocking single speed bikes. Filling in the B's in 4th and fifth were promising junior racers Mike Webber and Max Trent, both racing for the Cedar Bluff Cycling team. A bright cross future should await these two.
Thanks to Yee Haw Industries, Label Industries and the Bike Zoo for their kind and generous sponsorship. Thanks to Johnn Baker, Lee Marchalonis, Tarik Saleh, Doug Bataille and Knox County Parks & Rec for making the race happen. A big thanks to all the racers for showing up, racing, and then, almost to a man, helping breakdown the course in record time. Look for a series next winter, a weekly dose of January/Febuary pain is in order.
A Race 1 Tarik Saleh (Kelly Bicycles) 2 Gary Chambers (SCO) 3 Chris Pace (SCO) 4 Alex Morton (SCO) B Race 1 Jason Stephens (Unattached) 2 Don Taylor 3 Michael Weber (CBC) 4 Max Trent (CBC) 5 Kyle Robbins (SCO) 6 Jay DeFoe (CBC) 7 David Lane (SCO) 8 Kevin Trent(Unattached)