Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What Do The Nation's Top Pros Think About Cyclocross Portland Style? FUNTASTIC!

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Reminiscent of the international and domestic pros' glowing reviews of the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic last May, America's top 'crossers seem to relish racing in Portland.

Luna pro and Beijing Olympic mountain biker Georgia Gould, who took second both days of the Portland Cup Dec. 6-7, said the fan support in Portland is a “huge” boost for riders like herself and teammate Katerina Nash.

“Especially at this point in the season,” she said. “For people like me and Katerina, who have been racing since March, the more people who are out there, it can inject some enthusiasm and give you that extra little bit you need to dig deep when it really hurts. So I think every extra person and cowbell, or even some little kid banging on a pot or whatever, it all helps. Absolutely!”

Cyclocrossworld.com-Cannondale pro Jeremy Powers, who races for Jittery Joe's on the road, said the most “Belgianesque” crowds in the States are found in Portland, where the rowdy-yet-knowledgeable fans are known to tip back one or two at the beer garden.

“I love when people come out to the races,” Powers said. “Especially in Portland. Last time there was a drum band and people were dressed up. It sets the bar pretty high.”

Reigning national champion and 2008 USGP winner Tim Johnson (Cyclocrossworld.com-Cannondale), who said he first raced in Portland in 1997, always enjoys the enthusiastic – and creative – Pacific Northwest crowds.

“The bigger the better,” he said before recalling a USGP race he won in 2006 at the Hillsboro Stadium.

“The course was just sick,” he said. “It was just nasty. There was one especially tough climb, and at the top of it there were people in a hot tub watching – just hanging out. That was great.

“They’re out there racing all day in their categories and then they hang around to support us,” Johnson said. “It makes you want to perform.”

Bend's own Ryan Trebon, the 2006 national champion who will head to Europe for the World Cup races after traveling to Kansas City for this year's nationals, said he enjoys racing so close to home, but it's about more than just the obvious convenience.

"I much prefer racing out here," Trebon said. "When we're out east, there's always a bias for the East Coast riders. I like coming to race in Oregon, where there's a bias toward Oregon riders. I know most of these people, and I think it's the best scene in the country for racing and the best place to live."

As if to emphasize the point, Mother Nature put on a little show of Her own Saturday evening as the day's events wrapped up and PIR's holiday lights flickered to life. Cyclocross is great fun, but the greatest show on Earth puts it all into perspective ...