Issue 05: Starcrossed

In Seattle, Gabby Durrin rode away from everyone to her first UCI victory at Starcrossed.

Gabby motion blur, as seen on Instagram during the race

The 2013 UCI Cyclocross season got into full swing state-side when Starcrossed kicked off at Redmond Washington’s Marymoor Velodrome. The event, though technically not the first UCI race of the season, commanded an all-star cast of who’s who in American men’s cyclocross. Absent Tim Johnson, Zach McDonald and Todd Wells, it was a stacked field that included rivals Jeremy Powers and Ryan Trebon, national champion Jonathan Page and a fully loaded Raleigh-Clement squad in Ben Berden, Allen Krughoff and Jamey Driscoll. On the women’s side you saw international riders from Rapha-Focus in Gabby Durrin (formerly Day) and Raleigh-Clement’s Caroline Mani and Canadian national champion Mical Dyck. Locals in both fields got in the mix including Courtenay McFadden, Jessica Cutler and Portland’s Sue Butler along with local men Steve Fischer and Spencer Paxson.

Starcrossed got its start in 2002, when Terry Buchanan and local mountain bike pro Johnny Sundt decided Seattle needed a big professional ‘cross race. “The first year was just a start, an experiment. Good production but a local race. Response was fabulous in the first year so we pursued UCI the next year.” From rather humble beginnings, the first American cyclocross race under the lights has grown into a top five event on the U.S. cyclocross calendar.

Starcrossed is often a fast course, and the 2013 iteration was no different. The dry and dusty track meant folks could run higher pressure and the term “grass crit” certainly applied. There was plenty of off-camber, as the course is built around the slopes of the bowl of the Marymoor velodrome. There was a short three or four stair steps early in the course which could be taken nearly at speed. The obstacles were set in the velodrome infield, along side the beer garden, which made for a Starcrossed signature.

The serious racing began in the single-speed heat with Molly Cameron of Portland Bicycle Studio getting a big gap early on local Raleigh-Clement single speed star Craig Etheridge. Craig jumped to bridge but Molly’s hard work proved too much to overcome. As a result, the Cyclocross “Grail Della Grunge,” a trophy crafted from a keg and old bicycle parts and reminiscent of the Stanley Cup, returned to Portland. Oddly, even the Portland mayor was on hand to take in the race and he had a hand in taking the grail back from the Hodala crew (the Mayor was actually Brad Ross).

Rapha-Focus did the double on the men’s and women’s elite with Gabby Durrin riding away from everyone to her first UCI victory. Durrin left Bellingham based rider Courtenay McFadden behind with over a lap remaining to put to rest any drama about who would occupy the podium’s top step. As the race unfolded Durrin and McFadden were in the mix with Mical Dyck, Sue Butler and Jessica Cutler. The rest of the field was never in contention and once McFadden and Durrin pulled away from the group of leaders Durrin quickly displayed who had the better legs that day.

For Gabby it was her first time on the top step of a UCI podium. “It was a great confidence boost to take the win. I am not on full form right now, it’s very encouraging that I can get some good results and know that I still have a lot to come. It is only September the season is long and I have a tough European schedule ahead. My aims are not until December and January.”

While Gabby might prefer a muddy circuit, the strategy that comes into play in a faster track is something that will serve her as the season progresses. “Dry fast races tend to be more tactical, more crit style racing. It tends toward more group racing and is not always about the strongest rider. Knowing where to attack is the key and where to make it count.” For Gabby it was about picking her spot. “I rode fast on the front and made the straight sections fast. I attacked hard on them and that is when I finally gapped Courtenay. I then just kept the pressure on and rode my own controlled race!”

As darkness settled in and the elite men took to the course, Ben Berden took the hole shot and was the first to emerge from the dark and hit the shoulders of the velodrome. The men’s race played it much closer to the vest. The lead group included a strong Raleigh-Clement contingent, with Berden, Krughoff and Driscoll in the mix, Trebon, Page, Powers and even local racer Steve Fischer did some pulling.

Berden looked very strong throughout the race and was flying over the barriers each lap with a bunny hop. With nine laps to go Berden wiped out in the barriers. National champion Jonathan Page bumped him, intentionally it turns out. (Page admitted later in an interview with that he regretted the move, and that it was a product of some frustration he had with the way Berden was racing him in an earlier stretch of the course.) Berden went on to drop Page later and finish third but one can’t help but wonder if he might have been able to stay with Trebon when he bridged to Powers later in the race without that spill.

With three laps to go, Powers and Trebon had gone off the front and with two to go they lead Berden and Page by 11 seconds. On the final lap Powers gapped Trebon on the stair section and was able to get away from him heading into the infield sprint for the win. Powers took a big win under the lights and has been on a tear for the first few weeks of the 2013 US season.

The Northwest’s signature cyclocross event made for a big night under the lights. For Terry Buchanan that’s the element that makes Starcrossed so special. “I played high school football and there is nothing like the experience of playing under the lights. When I played in college day games never felt right. The dome the light creates around field or course with the darkness beyond just makes competing so electric.”

Ed. note: Gabby Durrin rode away from everyone to her first UCI victory at Starcrossed. Clive Pursehouse runs the blog the Northwest Wine Anthem, is a contributing writer for Peloton Magazine, and he races for the Seattle area club Motofish Racing of note, he has recently given up processed sugars.

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