With the drought ending rain, crisp autumn air, and pumpkin spice latte renaissance, the atmosphere Wednesday evening at the DNRC complex was unmistakably cross. The fields were as swollen as ever, and the first row of the Men’s A race was stocked with a few notorious faces that we’ve missed over the past two weeks. With returning race winners Landen “Will you help me sneak in to this rated R movie” Beckner rubbing shoulders with Jesse “Let’s get this over with I have to be back in surgery in one hour” Doll. Douglas “wait, it’s cross season?” Shryock elected to line up behind Dave “Don’t look at me or I’ll cut you” Hartman and Toby “Sean Kelly, not that Sean Kelly” Meierbachtol. Sam-well “I am from Mon-tana” Schultz took the spot behind Stinky “The Cranky Buddha” Seaton and mostly just heckled everybody. The first start in this race was three and a half rows deep and the short, technical laps ensured that a good start was essential to good placement.
The air was filled with nervous laughter and the aroma of embrocation cream when Monsieur Russell initiated the neutral roll-out a.k.a. hair-raising sprint into a loose, blind, off-camber, constricted right hand two-wheel slide. Heart rates jumped to 190 and despite the anaerobic nature of the first lap, most riders in those first two groups took a moment to comment on Dale’s smooth bike handling skills and intimate familiarity with the course. Constant tight corners and a thick bed of pine needles quickly separated the field into two general categories: those who are in their element on a technically challenging course, and those who are not. Dave attacked early on for Hellgate Cyclery but the move was vetoed by an early forming group of Landen (Montana Velo), Sam (Subaru-Trek), Jesse (Montanacyclocross.com), and Toby (Hellgate Cyclery). The rest of the field shattered into small duos and trios and several riders had a hard time keeping the rubber side down.
In the end, Sam, Landen, and Toby filled out the podium, but the race saw strong rides and deep fields in all of the races. Results are forthcoming, but you can bet that Missoula cross racers will be well represented in the winners’ circle come Thunder. Just two weeks out and the course construction is underway. Channel your inner Lussier. Rip legs. Fill the boot.
A few photos from last night from Myke Hermsmeyer Photography.