Kona’s Sean Babcock returned to Cross Crusade No.7 from his national racing campaign and took the win Sunday at the series’ penultimate weekend, while Wendy Williams out-dueled rival Alice Pennington and added to her lead for the women’s overall series.
The Oregon weather cooperated again Sunday for the racing at the Washington County Fair Complex in Hillsboro. Rain saturated the 1.5 mile course Saturday evening and all through the night, but sunshine greeted competitors Sunday morning and peeked in and out through the day.
Steady as he goes
With Chris Sheppard (who had notched three wins and one second-place finish before missing both races last weekend) in Canada winning that country’s national championship, Crusade series leader Shannon Skerritt (Corsa Concepts) jumped off to his usual quick start. Babcock, Ian Brown (River City Bicycles) and Adam McGrath (Feedback/Van Dessel) picked up the pursuit not far behind. As McGrath lost touch with the two other chasers and started to fade, Babcock and Brown happened upon Skerritt tangled in some course tape.
“I got blown off course trying to overtake some lapped riders,” Skerritt said. “I probably tried to pass at a less appropriate time than I should have. It was definitely my fault. So I went from having a little gap, to them having a gap twice as big on me just like that.”
Babcock said that after watching Skerritt’s initial burst, he thought everyone else might be racing for second.
“At the beginning of the race when Shannon pulled away again I thought well, maybe Shannon’s going to have his day,” Babcock said. “I started racing with Ian, and then we came around the corner and saw Shannon in the tape.”
Both riders attacked and began trading leads as they covered the pancake flat course. Brown and Babcock matched each other pedal stroke for pedal stroke while Skerritt slowly clawed his way back toward them. Eventually Babcock noticed a better line through a 180-degree corner and stuck a small advantage over Brown.
“Everyone was going to the left and it was really slimy,” Babcock said. “I finally went on the right where not many people had ridden, so I was able to ride faster and open a gap.”
Babcock focused on closing out the race by going fast where he could and nailing the quickest lines through the technical corners, all the while conscious that Skerritt had passed Brown and was inching closer. But as the light began to fade on the first day without Daylight Savings Time, the race clock ran out on Skerritt’s comeback and Babcock took the win. Skerritt finished second and Brown third.
Skerritt’s second-place finish may have been enough to lock up the series overall, which is based on the best six of eight races. No matter where Skerritt finishes next weekend, his worst possible result will be a third place. Sheppard has now missed three races and will have a goose-egg figured into his final tally.
Williams v. Pennington
The women’s race boiled down to a battle between rivals Wendy Williams (River City Bicycles), the current series leader, and runner-up Alice Pennington (Team S&M). Williams took the series lead from Pennington after the Team S&M rider skipped last weekend’s doubleheader, and it looked as if Pennington was determined to take it back with a burst from the line that immediately put her in front of the field.
Williams slowly pulled Pennington back and regained contact early in the second lap, while her teammate Brigette Brown trailed just behind in third. Pennington took the initiative and drove the lead pair until Williams gained an advantage on a long off-camber section that was super slick from rain and thousands of racers who had trampled, slipped and sometimes rode over it multiple times throughout the day.
“(Williams) ran the whole thing, and I decided to try and ride it,” Pennington said. “But I was going slower and she was getting a gap on me running, so I got off my bike and did something stupid and fell over. So she got a gap of like 10 seconds right there. And once she gets a gap like that it’s really mentally hard to try and close it. She had about 20 seconds most of the race. I closed up to like 10, but then I was blown.”
Once Williams had seized her familiar spot on the front, she focused on making it to the finish in one piece, relying on a series bike changes to avoid the derailleur-destroying conditions that sidelined many competitors over the day.
“It was actually the bike, or trying not to blow it up, that was the key,” Williams said. “I pitted three or four times, and it really helped. Both bikes were suspect in shifting, one worse than the other. It helped just changing that.”
Her bike management and riding skills earned the third consecutive win, with Pennington finishing a dozen seconds later. Brown led the rest in for third.
Williams appears to have a solid lead in the women’s overall race. Serena Bishop, second-overall coming into Sunday, scored no points, and Pennington will miss the final race of the series, choosing to head for the USGP Belgium Cup in Fort Collins, Colorado Nov. 13-14 instead.
Cross Crusade No.7, November 7, 2010
Washington County Fair Complex, Hillsboro, Oregon
1. Sean Babcock, Kona-FSA
2. Shannon Skerritt, Corsa Concepts
3. Ian Brown, River City Bicycles
4. Damian Schmitt, Sunnyside Sports
5. Aaron Tuckerman, Corsa Concepts