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Rocky Mountain Bicycles’ Chris Sheppard made the most of a long-distance double weekend Sunday by winning the Cross Crusade series opener at Alpenrose Dairy in Portland. Sue Butler (Hudz-Subaru) decided to stay close to home for the weekend and easily won the women’s race.
More than 1,500 riders showed up for the first event of the 2010 Crusade series, breaking the one-day participation record set just last year at the same race. The official tally of 1,506 doesn’t include the 256 cutthroat racers who battled for glory in the Kiddie Kilo.
Sheppard, of Bend, raced Saturday at the UCI Kross-toberfest in San Dimas, California, where he placed seventh, and then flew back to Oregon for the Sunday afternoon race in Portland.
Sheppard had an eventful day Saturday, making a solo attack before crashing and injuring his left thumb.
“Yesterday I decided to do the middle half of the race off the front, and it was really stupid,” Sheppard said. “So today I was willing to sit back and watch a little bit.”
A “little bit” is about all the time Sheppard spent watching. Fellow Bend rider Damian Schmitt (Sunnyside Sports) powered off the front of the race from the starting gun and built a small lead on the field. Sheppard paused and then powered up to and past Schmitt about 20 minutes into the 60-minute race. From there, he set about the business of staying upright and maintaining his advantage.
With teammates Donald Reeb and Ben Thompson positioned in the first chase group along with Shannon Skerritt (Corsa Concepts), Erik Tonkin (Kona), Brett Luelling (BuyLocal.com) and Schmitt, Sheppard was able to benefit from some team dynamics despite not feeling smooth on the bike.
“I just kept steady, but really inefficient, like 70 rpm,” he said. “It seemed like I was humping my bike today.”
Sheppard fought his bike all the way to the line to win by 18 seconds over Skerritt, who won a two-up sprint for second over Reeb. Tonkin crossed the line about six seconds later for fourth. Thompson finished fifth, putting Rocky Mountain riders in three of the top five spots.
Butler rides carefully, commandingly
Portland’s dynamic pro Butler decided to skip this weekend’s UCI events in California and Massachusetts in favor of racing one of her favorite events in her own backyard. The Hudz-Subaru rider started building her advantage almost immediately and was quickly catching the tail end of the Masters A field, which had started the course minutes before the women.
“I was just picking my way through traffic,” Butler said of her early effort. “I saw Alice (Pennington) back there in every corner, and then finally I didn’t see her so I figured I was good.”
Like Sheppard, Butler focused on being steady and careful once she was off the front.
“I saw plenty of wipeouts on the back part of the course,” she said. “Guys were doing head plants because they went too fast into the bumpy stuff.”
Butler sailed over the course and by the finish had built a lead of several minutes over Team S&M’s Pennington, who scratched out a second-place finish ahead of last year’s overall winner Wendy Williams (River City Bicycles).
Williams’ teammate Brigette Brown crossed the line fourth, with Sunnyside Sports’ Serena Bishop grabbing fifth.
The win and the series lead went to Butler, who probably won’t be around enough this year to contest the overall series battle. Butler said she’s in the middle of a training block for the upcoming UCI races in Ohio and then a planned trip to Europe for the World Cups.
“I didn’t know how I’d feel today,” she said. “But I felt really good, so that’s encouraging.”
The Cross Crusade continues next Sunday, October 10, at Rainier High School.