Alright . . . here we go . . . the trip began with lots of aiports
Here was my view leaving Madison. A light dusting of snow on the ground - the first we've gotten on the year. I flew to Chicago where I met up with Kaitie and we headed to Seattle.A view of the setting sun from my seat on the plane. I've never been to Seattle before so I needed a shot. Someday I'll have to go back - I hear it's an awesome place. Once we were in the air to Portland I was in awe of this mountain pushing up through the clouds.
A quick survey of my flight companions concluded that this was Mt. Rainier - very rugged and way cool to see. Kaitie and I arrived at PDX and quickly gathered our luggage and hurried to get our rental car. We were hoping to make it to the USGP Number presentation at Hopworks Brewery. Turns out all 3 of us (Linda, Kaitie, and myself) made it into the top 10 and thus would be presented with our numbers in a ceremony. We made it with time to spare and decided to get a picture with this sweet bike/bar.
The number ceremony was fun and we got to rub elbows with all the cool kids. Linda played up her superfan persona and snapped pictures of anyone and everyone. Kaitie and I give her a lot of crap about this but it's nice to have the photos ;) We also met up with Daniel and Dave G. who drove our bikes all the way out to Oregon - you're the man Dave, thank you tons! Thanks to everyone associated with the USGP as well - it's been a blast racing the series in its entirety and the announcing crew always gives a lot of praise to Planet Bike and the team for their support of the sport. Likewise we appreciate the opportunity to participate in some high caliber, well organized events - thanks to Joan, Bruce, Barb, and countless others for their hard work!
We were starving so we hit up the amazing Paradox Cafe for some tasty food and a discussion of the weekend's race course. Daniel used napkins to draw it all out for us.
Somehow Portland was dry and sunny the week leading up to the races - rather unusual for a city known for its rain. But it was still chilly and there was a lot of fog Saturday morning. Luckily most of it had disappeared by the time we got to the venue - Portland International Raceway.
Supercool course with a mix of motocross dirt track and some twisty sections of tacky mud in the woods. The series of swoopy bumps was so much fun. We really enjoyed our preride and the wet mud had dried up by the start of our race.
photo: Dave McElwaine
Off we went. There was a big crash on our first passing through a sloppy mud section and riders were flailing. I think only about 7 made it through and unfortunately we all got stuck behind it. It was time to try to make up some ground. This picture doesn't do the terrain justice - riders were catching air off these - so fun!
photo: Dave McElwaineI was riding alright but admittedly am not a great technical rider. Luckily there were enough straight away power sections that I could make up for that a bit anyway. The last lap my left foot didn't unclip right away and I nearly smashed into the barriers. My bike hit them and my chain dropped. I quickly put it back on and was able to keep off the chasing rider behind me to finish 13th. Linda rode awesome to finish 8th and Kaitie a strong 11th.
Following the race I noticed Kaitie was talking to some random guy who I assumed was interviewing her. Turns out she was picked as a random for drug testing. The one race we're at all year that actually is testing and Kaitie is the lucky one! Since she's under 18 I got to be her representative and hang out in the tent with her. What a process! Interesting to talk to the nice couple who work for USADA though. We watched the mens race afterward and then packed up to head home. The venue also had a Christmas light drive going on and we figured we'd check it out. Little did we know we were driving the wrong direction and when we finally got to the "end" there were a line of cars waiting to enter - woops!
After cleaning up Kaitie and I headed to a little local pizza joint while Linda got dinner with her family. Portland has so many cool neighborhoods and restaurants and the cycling culture there is awesome. Bike lanes everywhere! And the Planet Bike Superflash is the light to have there - I saw the boom, boom, pow light pattern on many bikes.
The next day was even colder (high of 35F) and extremely windy. Brr. We layered up and got on the course which had quite a few changes. A few tough short steep hills with some thick mud going into them. Another techie course but again a lot of fun. The long headwind section was cold and speed zapping.
Off we went for Day 2. Getting through traffic was again tough on the first lap as many riders were forced to dismount a few sections as there were only one or two good lines.
photo: Dave McElwaineI felt like I was riding okay but just never got in a good rhythm. I bobbled a couple of times on a section I had ridden every lap on Saturday and my confidence was shaken. I ended up 17th - a bit disappointed but so it goes. Linda, who has been riding like a rockstar got another top 10 with a 9th place finish, and Kaitie was just behind her for 12th.
A cooldown on the trainers and then another chance to be a superfan with the guys race. We bundled up and ran around the course trying to see how fast the guys can ride some of the tricky spots.
Eventual race winner JPow over the barriers.
I also got a little post race recovery food - fries! C'mon - it's a cross race - live it up.
We had dinner that night with some Wisconsin transplants to Portland, Dan and Jen, as well as a friend from Madison, Dave T, who was in town for the cyclocross spectacle that was hitting Oregon for the week. Excellent food once again and following dinner some more Midwest crossers joined us for drinks and conversation. Kaitie and I had to pull the plug around 9 though as we were pretty much falling asleep at the table - maybe we were still on CST?
And so concludes the first leg of the journey. Next up we had 2.5 days to do something we hardly ever get to do while travelling for cross races . . . we got to be tourists!