Cross Crusade: Alpenrose

PDX Devo racer Peter Newlands competed at the Cross Crusade: Alpenrose weekend and, after a bad first day, was able to recover to win the Junior category.

Words by Peter Newlands. Photos by Joel Fletcher.

For weeks leading up to this past weekend, everyone was buzzing about how it was going to be the start of “The Real Cross Season,” and in some ways, they were right. Although there had been cross races for a month and a half already, this weekend was going to be huge. Previously, this race has set world records for participation in any cyclocross race. Rain was in the forecaste for most of the day Saturday, so we were expecting a muddy race.

All week, I was getting stoked. On Friday, the course was open for pre-ride. I had only gotten my new Giant TCX built up earlier that day, which is never a good idea the day before a race. While previewing the course, the bike worked well, except for a few loose bolts. That night, I got my tubulars glued up for the next day, another bad idea to do the night before the race.

The next day, I felt ready. My bike was working, I was all warmed up, and my tire pressure felt perfect for the course, and conditions. On the start line, it started to pour. The skies opened up, and it didn’t look like it was going to stop before the end of our race. The whistle blew, and the race started. Everyone was timid in the first few corners, because of the pavement getting wetter by the minute. I was first into the first corner, and tried to stay off my brakes as much as I could safely. Behind me, everyone was on their brakes, and I had a five second gap going into the dirt, although it didn’t last long. Up the first hill, I realized my tires had too much pressure in them. I lost traction on the way up, and lost two places. There was a sharp corner at the bottom of the hill, and I slipped out. I got up, back on my bike, and realized that my bars were crooked. I got off once again, and twisted them back. At this point, I was more than a minute down from the leader, and my motivation was gone. I got back on the bike, and I was able to ride back into 8th place from about 30th.

The next day, I was determined not to let there be any problems with my race, except for my fitness, or tactics. I had eighth call-up, which, because of a narrow start straight, meant second row. Once the race started, I was working hard to make up spots. After a long starting straight, I had moved up to fourth place, behind the top three from the day before. On a loose off-camber section, I made a pass that put me in into third position. I knew that trying to go this early in the race was a bad idea. I waited, and hammered on a long, steady climb. I passed into second position and closed down the gap that the leader (Henry Jones)  had. The positions in the front stayed the same until the technical section on the next lap, when Davis Melkonian attacked from behind me, took the lead, and got a gap. I stayed on Henry’s wheel, and he closed down the initial gap, but once again, on the second technical section, a gap opened up. I knew I needed to close it down, so on the climb, I came around Henry, and went as hard as I could. I closed the gap down to about five seconds, but the velodrome with the finish inside of it was getting closer and closer. Above the track, on a corner before a steep hill, Davis slipped out, and broke his shifter. I knew that this was my chance, so I didn’t give up. I went as hard as I could around the corners, and passed him down the hill. I was not sure whether I would make it into the track without crashing, because I had built up a lot of speed, and it was a loose, gravel corner. After I crossed the finish line with the win, I laid down and tried to catch my breath for a few minutes. It felt great to be able to do this well, especially after such a bad race the day before.

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