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Category: cyclocross 2013

Wet and wild wipeouts at ‘Wintercross’ race (Photos)

Wet and wild wipeouts at ‘Wintercross’ race (Photos)

A mud bog section was a feast for spectators and a challenge for riders at Sunday’s Wintercross race in Washougal.
(Photos © Leonard Johnson/HotFootPhoto)

Our cyclocross coverage is made
possible by Sellwood Cycle Repair.

The penultimate race in the Gran Prix Erik Tonkin series took place on Sunday. With a few days of rain leading up to it, the race venue — a motocross course in Washougal, Washington — was full of soupy, slick and thick mud. One section featured several treacherous mud puddles that masked holes more than a foot deep. It was impossible to see which puddles were safe and which ones would eat your front wheel. Not surprisingly, this section claimed countless victims throughout the day.

Looking to share these wonderful wipeouts, we found an excellent set of photos taken by Leonard Johnson of HotFootPhoto. We asked Leonard if we could share a few of his best shots here on the Front Page and he obliged. Check ’em out below…

And if you like those, check out some of the sequence shots in Leonard’s full gallery. You might also want to watch the videos from Merrill Stubing on YouTube. Merrill’s video below shows that even the super-talented and smooth “A” category racers had trouble navigating this disaster zone…

After a season with mostly dry and relatively warm weather, Sunday’s conditions were a treat for true ‘cross fans. The local ‘cross action heads to Bend this weekend for the big Deschutes Cup and the Gran Prix Erik Tonkin wraps up on December 14th with the Santa Cross down in Corvallis. Thanks for following our coverage this season and thanks again to Sellwood Cycle Repair for sponsoring it!

Portland cyclocross is the pits

Portland cyclocross is the pits

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-13

Racing bikes is far from the only thing that makes our local cyclocross scene special.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)


A funny thing happens every Sunday during the Cross Crusade races: The team pit area turns into a big group campsite where a love of cyclocross is the only thing you need for a reservation.

Our cyclocross coverage is made
possible by Sellwood Cycle Repair.

Team tents are common at bike races. They’re usually used as a place for competitors to warm up, stash their gear, park their bikes, and display sponsor logos and products. But at the Cross Crusade — a beloved local tradition now in its 20th year — these team tent areas feel more like the Oregon Country Fair. At Sunday’s race out at Portland International Raceway, the tent areas teemed with activity. They were a mix of raucous spectators (a.k.a. hecklers), beer, families, kids, food, fire, dogs, and more. The atmosphere was festive and communal, with people walking between tents and having no fear of crossing private boundaries. Everyone is a cyclocross fan or racer, so everyone is welcome.

I’ve been going to these races for years now and I can’t help but notice how these tent areas have evolved and gotten more sophisticated over the years.

Take bike parking for instance. On Sunday you could see all types of custom structures; from a cool custom fabricated metal design by The Spokesman team, to more rudimentary versions like this wooden A-frame by Filth and Fury or this wooden cross-bar between two bike stands at the Tireless Velo tent…

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-28

Custom rebar flower design with cup holder in the center.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-29

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-54

Food is another staple in the tents. From boxes of donuts to fried bacon and sausages, the smells seduce racers each time they ride by. On Sunday I saw everything from your basic camping stove, to a full-fledged BBQ unit, and even a deep fryer that was cooking up whole turkeys!

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-21

“Have a sausage!” someone said as I walked by.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-61

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-56

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-48

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-55

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-47

Fire pits are another place where teams have stepped it up a notch. There’s the traditional, big-hole-in-the-ground bonfire of course, but also classier versions like the metal, self-contained fire pit many folks have in their backyards, and the custom-fab, laser-cut design from The Spokesman…

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-53

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-2

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-4

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-43

Changing tents have also become standard equipment. I liked this double-wide model the folks at Team S & M/Sellwood Cycle were kind enough to let me use…

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-64

The layout of Sunday’s venue (a wooded and grassy area in the infield of the PIR racetrack) allowed for two separate tent camps to evolve: One of them — near a section of the course where racers had to navigate three challenging small climbs, hairpin turns and descents all just inches away from the tents — was dominated by more adult-oriented antics like (illegal) beer hand-ups and profanity-laced heckling. It was jam-packed with spectators and local team Trusty Switchblade hosted a “Heckle Me Corner” which ratcheted things up a notch…

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-33

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-62

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-1

Trusty Switchblade brand founder Jason Miranda ready for a day of heckling.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-7

Dan Cheever was dressed for fun.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-8

Jose Sandoval doing his part.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-10

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-12

Hey! Be careful where you point that thing.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-14

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-17

I think this man was just telling his friend he’s in first place.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-22

Will race for a dollar.

The other side of the infield was a much tamer tent camp where kids and families were the norm. At times an open grassy area looked like recess at an elementary school playground where instead of balls and play structures, the kids had bikes…

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-58

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-57

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-46

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-49

Everywhere I turned there were these wonderful scenes of people just enjoying each other’s company and soaking in the atmosphere.

And of course there was plenty of serious racing going on too…

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-15

Shannon Skerritt showing the focus and style that makes him
a perennial top finisher in the Mens A category.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-3

Unicycling is gaining in popularity with the young crowd.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-18

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-16

The course was fast and relatively dry, but still tricky in the corners.
Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-27

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-42

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-34

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-37

Cross Crusade #7 at PIR-26

It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly creates this type of magical mix of racing, community, and camaraderie; but I have some ideas. The race promoters and the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) put a priority on fun for everyone, not just elite athletes. In other words, the goal of these events is to simply have a great time — whether it happens on the race course and/or off of it. Another reason is Portlanders just love bikes and they’ve adopted cyclocross in a way that hasn’t happened in any other American city. We’re simply crazy for it.

Whatever the reason, this is a part of the cycling world that you’ve got to experience. We’ve still got another month or so left in the ‘cross season, so check out the schedule and try to make it out to an upcoming race.

See you out there!

Cyclocross interview series: OBRA Executive Director Kenji Sugahara

Cyclocross interview series: OBRA Executive Director Kenji Sugahara

A visit with Senator Jeff Merkley-8

OBRA Executive Director Kenji Sugahara
in the office of U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley
in March 2012.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Welcome to the fourth installment in our series audio interviews with local cyclocross personalities. We’ve partnered with the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) to broadcast these interviews in advance of their 2013 Cyclocross Championship event coming to Troutdale on November 9th. (Yes, we realize that’s this weekend!)

This week’s interview is with OBRA Executive Director Kenji Sugahara. Sugahara has led the organization since 2008 and during his tenure cyclocross participation has skyrocketed. In addition to his capable leadership of OBRA, Sugahara has also branched out into bicycle advocacy as a board member of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and involvement with Travel Oregon’s bicycle tourism development efforts.

In the interview, Kenji talks about how he started racing cyclocross, his concerns about USA Cycling and his efforts to establish a new national racing organization (NABRA), how OBRA supports local race promoters, and much more.

Listen to the full interview here:

— Special thanks to Western Bike Works, Tenacious Training and Events, PAGATIM, Neil Green, and the Grand Prix Erik Tonkin Cyclocross series for making these interviews possible. Also note that all 2013 cyclocross coverage on BikePortland is brought to you by Sellwood Cycle Repair.

Getting hooked on cyclocross

Getting hooked on cyclocross

Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-5

Hooked.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Seeing people get hooked on a new type of cycling is one of the things that keeps cycling industry veterans going. And for some reason, cyclocross is especially good at reeling people in: Maybe it’s the challenging courses; the relaxed, non-competitive atmosphere; the support of family, friends and complete strangers; the mud, or all of the above.

Our cyclocross coverage is made
possible by Sellwood Cycle Repair.

This past weekend at the sixth stop of the Cross Crusade series, I got to see a friend experience ‘cross for the first time. Joe H. had never even ridden a cyclocross bike until last week; but after a friend and riding buddy of his starting racing this year, Joe started to get ‘cross curious. When I realized he was weary of investing in a new bike, I offered up an extra one I just happened to have sitting in my shed. (Tip: Eliminating excuses is the best way to convert friends into racing or riding.)

With a bike to ride, all Joe needed was a bit of practice. So last week I invited him out to Overlook Park in north Portland to go over some basic cyclocross skills and get comfortable on the bike. I had a hunch Joe would be a solid cyclocross racer because he’s a great athlete (played some college football) and he’s raised three boys on bikes. Towing an energetic boy who’s constantly moving around on a trail-a-bike that’s tugging at your seatpost is perfect training for staying upright and riding smooth — both of which are essential skills for cyclocross.

As we talked about the race, Joe downplayed it. “I don’t know,” he’d say sheepishly, “I just want to finish.” He was understandably a bit nervous about embarking on a new sport. But come race-day, he started smiling as soon as he put on his new team kit and he never stopped. And it turns out, he’s great at cyclocross! He finished very strong and I have a hunch he’ll race again soon.

Here are a few more photos of Joe in action, followed by a few other scenes from the Washington County Fairgrounds on Sunday…

Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-6

Cross with Joe

Post-race.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-9

Joe’s cleat wasn’t tight enough and it came off inside the pedal!
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-11

Joe (center) and his new Grouptrail teammates Justin Yuen (L) and Brandon Jennings.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-10

Family support always feels good.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-3

This guy is getting heckled while he races on a tandem loaded with bag of sand on the rear rack.
Tough crowd!
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-4

OBRA official Dave Roth requires this big chair in his contract.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-12

This sport has a bright future.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-13

Team Slow cheerleader Chris “Fool” McCraw.

Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-14

Women’s field is ready to go!
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-15

Haley Guettler, daughter of River City Bicycles owner David Guettler, got a pre-race “Happy Birthday to you” serenade.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-18

This guy couldn’t make it to Bend for the costume
race last weekend, but he still wanted to dress up.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-21

Ryan Weaver shakin’ booty to pump up the women’s field.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-22

“Who you callin’ sock monkey?!”.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-30

The beer garden looked more like a dog park.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-26

Suffer face from Mielle Blomberg.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-28

I think the skirt is some sort of anti-mud measure.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-31

Peter Koonce is training his daughter in the fine art of cowbell use.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-34

And then there’s cowbell professional John Howe.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-33

Madison’s chili fries were a huge hit.
Cross Crusade Wash Co Fairgrounds-35

Donuts make great racing fuel apparently.

The Cross Crusade continues this Sunday with a stop at Portland International Raceway. It will be a great event for the whole family and it’s just a few miles north of downtown Portland (just past Kenton off Denver Ave.)

— 2013 cyclocross season coverage on BikePortland is sponsored by Sellwood Cycle Repair (7953 SE 13th Ave). Drop by the shop for their great selection of Kona bikes and trusted cyclocross service.

Cyclocross interview series episode three: Tina Brubaker

Cyclocross interview series episode three: Tina Brubaker

Cross Crusade #1 Alpenrose-46-46

Tina Brubaker on the run-up at Alpenrose during the 2011 Cross Crusade.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Cross_Crusade_#1-2007-6.jpg

Welcome to the third in our series of six audio interviews with local cyclocross personalities. We’ve partnered with the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association to broadcast these interviews in advance of their 2013 Cyclocross Championship event coming to Troutdale on November 9th.

The following was written by Elaine Volpe:

Tina Brubaker, the namesake of the 2012 Grand Prix Cyclocross series and the ‘most badass lovable characters in the NW cyclocross scene’ is the latest interviewee for 2013 OBRA Cyclocross Championship podcast series.

As a veteran cyclocross racer (and UPS bike delivery rider), Tina has a lot to say about the sport. She talks about everything from her custom Speedvagen team bike, to coaching cyclocross to kids over the summer, and the supportive female cyclocross race community here in Oregon.

Listen here for the full interview:

Stay tuned… There are only two more interviews and two more weeks until the 2013 OBRA Cyclocross Championships!

— Special thanks to Western Bike Works, Tenacious Training and Events, PAGATIM, Neil Green, and the Grand Prix Erik Tonkin Cyclocross series for making these interviews possible. Also note that all 2013 cyclocross coverage on BikePortland is brought to you by Sellwood Cycle Repair.

Cyclocross interview series episode two: Brad Ross

Cyclocross interview series episode two: Brad Ross

Cross Crusade Hillsboro 2007-27.jpg

It’s a dirty job, but Brad Ross likes to do it.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Welcome to the second of six audio interviews with local cyclocross personalities and promoters that we’ll be sharing in the coming weeks. We’ve partnered with the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association to broadcast these interviews in advance of their 2013 Cyclocross Championship event coming to Troutdale on November 9th.

The following was written by Elaine Volpe.

Brad Ross, the race producer and director of the Cross Crusade, recently sat down with Neil Green to talk about cyclocross and the Oregon cycling community.

They talked about his early days as the first person to ever own a mountain bike in Alaska, the mentality of producing multiple events in a row, and the mission of the Cross Crusade, which happens to be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

“Cross is competitive, but its friendly. You’re competing against your best friends… It’s the best sport. It’s the most approachable cycling discipline. …it’s only 45 minutes long. It’s as painful as you want to make it.”

Not only is Brad passionate about the sport and the local community but he takes his day job as the Director of Cross Crusade seriously. The business, owned by Vivo Productions, has a staff of 9 that put on the race as well as 12 people from OBRA officiating each race. He explains in his interview that he has been attending every world championships in Europe since 2001 as it is a way for him and his crew to know what the sport looks like at the very top level, from the design of the courses to how the venue should look. It’s no wonder they are celebrating 20 years, as they take pride in constantly trying to improve their game and provide a better product to racers in the area.

“Our goal for our club is to ensure that you have the best possible day of your whole life.”

But don’t let us tell you too much of what he said, have a listen for yourself…

Stay tuned for more interviews!

— Special thanks to Western Bike Works, Tenacious Training and Events, PAGATIM, Neil Green, and the Grand Prix Erik Tonkin Cyclocross series for making these interviews possible. Also note that all 2013 cyclocross coverage on BikePortland is brought to you by Sellwood Cycle Repair.

Cyclocross interview series episode one: Molly Cameron

Cyclocross interview series episode one: Molly Cameron

Cross Crusade 2010 #2 - Rainier-88

Molly Cameron, shown here racing in 2010, is a fixture on the local cyclocross scene. In addition to being an elite-level racer, she also owns Portland Bicycle Studio.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Twilight Criterium

Welcome to the first of six audio interviews with local cyclocross personalities and promoters that we’ll be sharing in the coming weeks. We’ve partnered with the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association to broadcast these interviews in advance of their 2013 Cyclocross Championship event coming to Troutdale on November 9th.

The first of the series features an interview with Molly Cameron, a veteran professional racer and owner of Portland Bicycle Studio, a retail and service shop in northwest Portland.

The interview covers everything from her early racing days, her first-ever cross race (which she won using a road bike), how she got hooked on cyclocross, and her international racing experiences. Molly also talks with host Neil Green about her bicycle fitting studio and coaching and her desire to wear the prestigious 2013 OBRA Championship winner’s jersey.

Have a listen for yourself (if the embed below doesn’t work, here’s the direct link):

And stay tuned for interviews with Tina Brubaker, Kenji Sugahara, Erik Tonkin, Brad Ross, and Ken McClarty.

— Special thanks to OBRA, Tenacious Training and Events, PAGATIM, Neil Green, and the Grand Prix Erik Tonkin Cyclocross series for making these interviews possible. Also note that all 2013 cyclocross coverage on BikePortland is made possible by Sellwood Cycle Repair.

Cross Crusade’s 20th anniversary season kicks of Sunday

Cross Crusade’s 20th anniversary season kicks of Sunday

Cross Crusade at Alpenrose-33

There’s nothing quite like the Cross Crusade.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Believe it or not, Portland’s Cross Crusade cyclocross series enters its 20th season this weekend.

Founded in 1993 when Rick Potestio and Russ Humberston took over a smaller series dubbed “The First Mud”, the Cross Crusade has grown by leaps and bounds. Today it’s known as the largest cyclocross series in the world in terms of participants and it has played a key role in the burgeoning popularity of the sport in the United States over the past several years.

Cross Crusade Director Brad Ross was there at the beginning. I spoke to the 47-year-old professional bike race promoter from his home in southwest Portland this morning.

When Ross moved to Portland from southern California in 1989 he had never heard of cyclocross. He was an avid Category 3 road racer and after his first season in Portland his riding buddies started asking, “You’re going to race ‘cross aren’t you?”

Cross_Crusade_#1-2007-3.jpg

Cross Crusade Race Director Brad Ross.

Potestio, Humberston, and Ross were on the same bike racing team in the early 1990s (it was called “Ciclo”) when prolific Portland-area race promoter Jeff Haase decided to move away to pursue a job in another state. That’s when Potestio and Humberston took over his cyclocross series. At that point, Ross recalls, he was just a helper, doing whatever he could to help the five-race series happen. “Back then, we had about 80 people racing per weekend. We would make enough money to go buy pizza and beer after the race and that was it.”

The trio was good at putting on fun bike races and Ross says it grew by about 20% each year. At that rate, “It doesn’t take long until it kind of becomes a big deal.” In a few years, their small series had become a business and Ross became the front man as Potestio and Humberston were too busy to do all the footwork it required.

From the start, Ross says, he and his ‘cross compatriots operated with the same basic principles: put on a good race and make sure people have fun. “We never had any crazy marketing strategies, we just put on super good bicycle races and everyone has fun and tells their friends about it.”

It worked. By the year 2000, Ross quit his other job and became a full-time bike race promoter (he was also the director of the Cascade Classic). “It was about 2000 or so, when we all kind of figured out that the Cross Crusade was actually a legitimate big deal and it was at that time it took on this mythical status.”

Bend Cyclocross weekend 2-66

The Crusade’s Halloween races are the stuff of legend.

Unlike other major race promotion companies that cater to the elite riders and pros in attendance, Ross and his crew focused on what he calls the “rank-and-file newbie”. “We have always just wanted anybody and everybody to come out and give ‘cross a try. The rank-and-file newbies are the people we make sure have the best bike race and the most fun we can possibly provide,” he says.

The central tenet of the Cross Crusade, Ross adds, is to support the growth of cyclocross at all levels.

“Back then, we had about 80 people racing per weekend. We would make enough money to go buy pizza and beer after the race and that was it.”

And that’s exactly what has happened in the U.S. over the past decade or so. The sport has exploded in both popularity and the attention it gets from the major industry brands. Ross points to Portland’s hosting of the US Gran Prix of cyclocross in 2003 and 2004 as a launching pad for the sport. “Those were the years we got on the national stage and people from around the country came out here and saw the scene we had created,” he recalled. Then the industry started to take notice. Ross says the sheer number of Portlanders crazy about the sport made it a smart business decision. “1,400 people racing cyclocross bikes [in one day] here, you might want to pay attention.”

Even the Cross Crusade itself now attracts major corporate sponsors. This year’s list includes: Giant, Shimano, Yakima, GoPro, and others. Asked if it’s tough to balance the fun, irreverent, grassroots vibe of such a successful event, Ross said that’s not an issue. “It’s all about who you are putting on the bike race for,” he said. According to Ross, about 80% of their operating budget comes from riders via entry fees. Sponsors account for the remaining 20%. “I’m always very clear to our corporate sponsors that making them happy is not my primary focus. All my emphasis is to make sure riders have a great day and a great bike race.”

A few years ago, the Cross Crusade almost got too big. “It was becoming a circus,” Ross said. There were so many racers at some events that Ross and his partners considered creating another series just to compete with the Crusade in hopes it would decrease their numbers. That strategy was never needed, because other promoters have stepped in. There’s now a very popular race series on Saturdays, a weekday racing series that sees hundreds of racers, and well-established races all over the state.

That competition led to the Cross Crusade’s first ever decline in participants last year. At first, Ross said he was disappointed in those numbers, but then he realized that more races means the sport is healthier than ever and the Cross Crusade is doing exactly what it was meant to do: grow the sport. “As long as people are racing ‘cross bikes. That’s what we set out do, so we are very supportive of those other races. It’s literally written into our charter that the one thing the Crusade does is to support the sport of cyclocross.”

Cross Crusade #1 Alpenrose-4-4

The Cross Crusade opener at Alpenrose set the world record for participation with over 1,438 racers in 2009.

Cross Crusade finale 2012-26

Cross Crusade 2010 #2 - Rainier-75

Cross Crusade 2010 #2 - Rainier-59

‘Kiddie Cross’, crowd support and families are a huge part of what makes Cross Crusade tick.

At this stage in his life, Ross is scaling back his promoting duties and putting more effort into the nascent North American Bicycle Racing Association. While he plans to step back from the Crusade soon, right now he’s just thinking about the upcoming race. Alpenrose is the largest race of the series and Ross expects about 4,000 people to pack into the 12-acre dairy property in the southwest hills. For the past few days he and his crew have been busy setting up tents and fencing off the entire race course.

“We want to create the best impression at the first race,” Ross said in his typical irreverent tone, “then we can slack off.”

— The nine race series begins this Sunday at Alpenrose Dairy and runs through December. Learn more at CrossCrusade.com

— 2013 cyclocross season coverage on BikePortland is sponsored by Sellwood Cycle Repair (7953 SE 13th Ave). Drop by the shop for their great selection of Kona’s and trusted cyclocross service.

Cross Crusade’s 20th anniversary season kicks off Sunday

Cross Crusade’s 20th anniversary season kicks off Sunday

Cross Crusade at Alpenrose-33

There’s nothing quite like the Cross Crusade.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Believe it or not, Portland’s Cross Crusade cyclocross series enters its 20th season this weekend.

Founded in 1993 when Rick Potestio and Russ Humberston took over a smaller series dubbed “The First Mud”, the Cross Crusade has grown by leaps and bounds. Today it’s known as the largest cyclocross series in the world in terms of participants and it has played a key role in the burgeoning popularity of the sport in the United States over the past several years.

Cross Crusade Director Brad Ross was there at the beginning. I spoke to the 47-year-old professional bike race promoter from his home in southwest Portland this morning.

When Ross moved to Portland from southern California in 1989 he had never heard of cyclocross. He was an avid Category 3 road racer and after his first season in Portland his riding buddies started asking, “You’re going to race ‘cross aren’t you?”

Cross_Crusade_#1-2007-3.jpg

Cross Crusade Race Director Brad Ross.

Potestio, Humberston, and Ross were on the same bike racing team in the early 1990s (it was called “Ciclo”) when prolific Portland-area race promoter Jeff Haase decided to move away to pursue a job in another state. That’s when Potestio and Humberston took over his cyclocross series. At that point, Ross recalls, he was just a helper, doing whatever he could to help the five-race series happen. “Back then, we had about 80 people racing per weekend. We would make enough money to go buy pizza and beer after the race and that was it.”

The trio was good at putting on fun bike races and Ross says it grew by about 20% each year. At that rate, “It doesn’t take long until it kind of becomes a big deal.” In a few years, their small series had become a business and Ross became the front man as Potestio and Humberston were too busy to do all the footwork it required.

From the start, Ross says, he and his ‘cross compatriots operated with the same basic principles: put on a good race and make sure people have fun. “We never had any crazy marketing strategies, we just put on super good bicycle races and everyone has fun and tells their friends about it.”

It worked. By the year 2000, Ross quit his other job and became a full-time bike race promoter (he was also the director of the Cascade Classic). “It was about 2000 or so, when we all kind of figured out that the Cross Crusade was actually a legitimate big deal and it was at that time it took on this mythical status.”

Bend Cyclocross weekend 2-66

The Crusade’s Halloween races are the stuff of legend.

Unlike other major race promotion companies that cater to the elite riders and pros in attendance, Ross and his crew focused on what he calls the “rank-and-file newbie”. “We have always just wanted anybody and everybody to come out and give ‘cross a try. The rank-and-file newbies are the people we make sure have the best bike race and the most fun we can possibly provide,” he says.

The central tenet of the Cross Crusade, Ross adds, is to support the growth of cyclocross at all levels.

“Back then, we had about 80 people racing per weekend. We would make enough money to go buy pizza and beer after the race and that was it.”

And that’s exactly what has happened in the U.S. over the past decade or so. The sport has exploded in both popularity and the attention it gets from the major industry brands. Ross points to Portland’s hosting of the US Gran Prix of cyclocross in 2003 and 2004 as a launching pad for the sport. “Those were the years we got on the national stage and people from around the country came out here and saw the scene we had created,” he recalled. Then the industry started to take notice. Ross says the sheer number of Portlanders crazy about the sport made it a smart business decision. “1,400 people racing cyclocross bikes [in one day] here, you might want to pay attention.”

Even the Cross Crusade itself now attracts major corporate sponsors. This year’s list includes: Giant, Shimano, Yakima, GoPro, and others. Asked if it’s tough to balance the fun, irreverent, grassroots vibe of such a successful event, Ross said that’s not an issue. “It’s all about who you are putting on the bike race for,” he said. According to Ross, about 80% of their operating budget comes from riders via entry fees. Sponsors account for the remaining 20%. “I’m always very clear to our corporate sponsors that making them happy is not my primary focus. All my emphasis is to make sure riders have a great day and a great bike race.”

A few years ago, the Cross Crusade almost got too big. “It was becoming a circus,” Ross said. There were so many racers at some events that Ross and his partners considered creating another series just to compete with the Crusade in hopes it would decrease their numbers. That strategy was never needed, because other promoters have stepped in. There’s now a very popular race series on Saturdays, a weekday racing series that sees hundreds of racers, and well-established races all over the state.

That competition led to the Cross Crusade’s first ever decline in participants last year. At first, Ross said he was disappointed in those numbers, but then he realized that more races means the sport is healthier than ever and the Cross Crusade is doing exactly what it was meant to do: grow the sport. “As long as people are racing ‘cross bikes. That’s what we set out do, so we are very supportive of those other races. It’s literally written into our charter that the one thing the Crusade does is to support the sport of cyclocross.”

Cross Crusade #1 Alpenrose-4-4

The Cross Crusade opener at Alpenrose set the world record for participation with over 1,438 racers in 2009.

Cross Crusade finale 2012-26

Cross Crusade 2010 #2 - Rainier-75

Cross Crusade 2010 #2 - Rainier-59

‘Kiddie Cross’, crowd support and families are a huge part of what makes Cross Crusade tick.

At this stage in his life, Ross is scaling back his promoting duties and putting more effort into the nascent North American Bicycle Racing Association. While he plans to step back from the Crusade soon, right now he’s just thinking about the upcoming race. Alpenrose is the largest race of the series and Ross expects about 4,000 people to pack into the 12-acre dairy property in the southwest hills. For the past few days he and his crew have been busy setting up tents and fencing off the entire race course.

“We want to create the best impression at the first race,” Ross said in his typical irreverent tone, “then we can slack off.”

— The nine race series begins this Sunday at Alpenrose Dairy and runs through December. Learn more at CrossCrusade.com

— 2013 cyclocross season coverage on BikePortland is sponsored by Sellwood Cycle Repair (7953 SE 13th Ave). Drop by the shop for their great selection of Kona bikes and trusted cyclocross service.

Record turnout as ‘cross season gets rolling

Record turnout as ‘cross season gets rolling

Cyclocross race at David Douglas Park-20

A forested section of the course served up challenging ascents and descents.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

David Douglas Park hosted the first cyclocross race of the season on Saturday. And if the turnout of racers is any indication, we could be on the verge of yet another big season. Last year, 512 people showed up to this race. This year, the number jumped to 564 (not including about 70 kiddie racers).

Cyclocross race at David Douglas Park-10

Promoter David Saltzberg

It was the first race of the 10-race Gran Prix Erik Tonkin series, which continues this Saturday in Vancouver (Washington) with the Het Meer CX event. Based on last year’s numbers, GPET promoter David Saltzberg says Het Meer will likely attract even more racers than Saturday’s event. But, as Saltzberg shared with us on the phone this morning, he’s not worried about huge crowds. He prefers to keep field sizes manageable and he likes the vibe of his events (especially compared to the average Cross Crusade race, which has about twice the number of racers and many more spectators).

On Saturday, racers were treated to perfect conditions and a challenging course. Rain earlier in the week kept the dust down, yet it wasn’t wet enough to create any mud. That meant the intimidatingly long and steep run-up was ridden by about half the competitors. In addition to tacky dirt in the forested downhill and uphill sections, the course was full of very tight and twisty turns.

Check out a few more of our photos from the event…

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There was a fun little down-up feature just before a hairpin turn (below).
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Cyclocross race at David Douglas Park-23

Like soldiers, they dutifully pedaled (and ran) up the big climb.
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Mouths open to gather as much oxygen as possible.

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The main run-up was very steep — yet rideable for many.
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Cyclocross race at David Douglas Park-8

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— 2013 cyclocross season coverage on BikePortland is sponsored by Sellwood Cycle Repair (7953 SE 13th Ave). They outfitted me with an awesome Foundry Auger that served me quite well on Saturday. It helped me battle back from the rear of the large Masters B pack for a 10th place finish! Can’t wait to race it again.