On Sunday, Sept.11th, the Cycle U - PopCap Cyclocross team headed to the first MFG series race at Big Finn Hill Park between Kenmore and Kirkland.
With temperatures near 90 degrees, dust was the menace vs. mud for this race. With a course consisting of lots of short fast grass and a long paved start/finish area, the course would favor the "roadies".
For the Elite women, Kristi Berg, and Mel Lewis got warmed up on their Cycle-Ops trainers under the shade of the team area. Their race started off like everyone's, very fast and quickly strung out. Berg suffered an early crash in the woods from a simple mistake which dropped her back to 9th while teammate Lewis forged ahead keeping the leaders in sight. Kristi already on the "injured list" from last weeks crash at the Labor Day Classic, which resulted in an injury to her shoulder and back, now had her work cut out for her.
Lewis continued to chase down the leaders in her low profile menacing style on the bike, getting faster as others faded. Berg also was moving up and working to preserve precious series points. Lewis finished with a strong 3rd place followed by her teammate, Berg in 4th with a tremendous ride overcoming her own adversity.
Later in the day, team riders Sean Kelsey, and Chad Berg toed the line. Berg got the hole shot up the paved road, with Kelsey close behind. With both Cycle U - PopCap riders up in the front of the race about half way through the first lap, things were looking good. Unfortunately, as they entered a wooded section, Berg hit a sharp rock and suffered a front flat and was forced to run all the way to the pits with entire field passing him. Meanwhile, Kelsey worked with a group of 3 riders to stay in the game and share some work on the fast sections. Berg made it into the pits and was glad to see team mechanic, Justin Claasen, ready with a front wheel that was quickly changed by Claasen. Berg continued on nearly a full lap behind and intended to get his workout in and have some "fun" with the spectators on some of the sections. Kelsey finished the race in 7th place, with Berg being down on laps, due to the ill-timed flat, a real result would not be earned. Kelsey later stated, "Another scorching hot race, and my legs weren't too happy about it. I had to put it in survival mode and just ride steady. I liked the course, good flow with enough short technical sections to keep it interesting."
Next weekend the Cycle U - PopCap Cyclocross team heads to Issaquah for the Star-Crossed race on Saturday and the Rapha/Focus Grand Prix on Sunday, both at Lake Samammish Park. These two races will draw some of the nations top talent including several European top riders.
The season is now underway.
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