It would have been easy to blow off last Saturday's Crossaflixion cyclocross race. With snow falling heavily on race day, the appeal of a Nordic ski, or a day on the sofa with a glass of wine, was obvious. With nationals less than two weeks away, however, many local racers packed up bikes instead of skis and headed up Cascade Lakes Highway.Brent Chapman, the course designer and self-described Director of Fun and Pain for Fresh Air Sports, adapted to the weather at Seventh Mountain by shortening the lap to make it more accessible and safe. "Friday night it started to snow, and it got so heavy we couldn't ride the course," he explained. "It was melting and freezing constantly."
Local pro, Adam Craig, opened up the throttle early in the Men's A race, and entertained the hardcore group of snowball-throwing spectators by hauling ass down the rutted, snowy descent with his hands lightly on the handlebars.
"The downhill section was sketchy," said Craig, "and entertaining." A crash on his second lap filled Craig's gloves with snow. The 29-year-old professional mountain biker had built a sizable enough lead to warrant a pit stop at his car for dry gloves.
"All due respect to the competition," Craig said, "but I wanted warm hands more than winning."
Craig, who found late-season form after recovering from knee surgery last winter, has been an unexpected contender on the professional cyclocross circuit this fall and is racing in next week's nationals to win.
"I ride until 'cross nationals," said Craig. "It keeps me in shape until the weather properly sucks." Craig, who popped a wheelie mid-race for demanding spectators, is cautiously optimistic. "We'll see if I've got what it takes to win the big one," he said.
"I thought it was fabulous," said Serena Bishop, the winner of the Women's A race, "because the course was really challenging and 'cross is about nasty weather. If you really love 'cross you have to embrace whatever Mother Nature throws at you."
Bishop, who is competing in next week's throw down, appreciated the chance to race in Bend. "It's not only fun, but really good preparation for nationals," said Bishop.