by Kristi Hanson
At the end of September, I made a big move cross country to the wonderful city of Portland. Overall it has been a good transition, but I have to admit the one thing that has surprised me the most is with a little sport we call CYCLOCROSS.

Believe it or not prior to moving to Portland, I actually thought I was some what good at cyclocross. I was not the fastest girl out there for sure but after working hard over the summer, focusing on building strength/power (Thank You Newt Cole and the Morning Bird Crew), and mountain biking to gain the technical skills, I thought I had a chance of having a really good season. That is until I did my first race in the CROSS CRUSADE series.

Holy moly they do things different out here!! I have never gotten my ass handed to me so hard. The only way I have been able to describe the difference is that they take every one thing in each of the Chicago races that is hard and put them all into one.

To give you an example, I have put together a collection of pictures and words from this weekend’s race to try and give you an idea of what it is like to race here.

The start is pretty much the same except only the top ten in each category get called up. Then the rest are staged randomly by the last digit of your number. We reuse our numbers here so it really is the luck of the draw. One week you can be up front and the next you can be at the back of the pack. Unless you are the fast few that get called up.

Also the other difference is unlike the Chicago Cross Cup series a race can have more then 100 people in it. This weekend we had over 150 women on the course all at the same time from 6 different categories. They are started about 30 seconds apart and are scored separately. How the officials do it I have no idea! They are amazing!!

After the start, the first challenge of the course were some short and punching up and down hills. That looked something like this:

Photo by Jon Fogarty

The next challenge was the coffin barriers.

Photo From Cross Crusade Crew

Photo by Chris Baker

At this point, it is all pretty similar to stuff you would see in a Chicago Cross Cup course however, things are about to get interesting.

Next challenge is hill run up 1 of 3. The steepest and hardest of them all.

Photo From Halloween Cross Crusade Crew

This is followed by some flat switch backs and then some single track before you hit hill run up 2 of 3.

Photo From Halloween Cross Crusade Crew

Which then lead us to the scary downhill. It was ridable but really no good line. You had to just trust it and hoped for the best.

Photo From Halloween Cross Crusade Crew

This was immediately followed by hill run up 3 of 3 and depending on how talented you were it was either a short run up at the top or a longer run up from the bottom. Only person I saw ride the top was Trebon.

Photo by Jon Fogarty

Photo by Jon Fogarty

And then it was on to the Fly Over which you road up and over.

Photo from Halloween Cross Crusade Crew

But there were those that truly flew over the fly over! Impressive!!!

Photo by Halloween Cross Crusade crew

Lastly the course finished up with the stair run up and it was on to the finish.

Photo from Cross Crusade Crew

And then you did it all over again 4 more times. It just so happened that during our race it was raining so it was a little muddier than these pictures show but that is pretty par for the course in Oregon where it rains a lot.

After my first race of the year, I learned very quickly I was in no shape for what these ladies can do. It was a very humbling experience but I am sticking with it. I have continued to work hard and adjusted my work outs to fit the style of racing I am doing. Hello hill running and hard hill intervals.

Each race I do a little better and that is all I can really ask for. It also helps that racing has allowed me to meet an awesome group of very supportive ladies (West Coast Women Cycling), which I now call teammates along with my favorite Spidermonkeys.

Although the style of racing has changed, one thing I can say is the Oregon cycling community is the same as Chicago!! They are very supportive and welcoming!