Shannon Skerritt stands as Portland’s greatest hope for a top finish in Kentucky. The 40-year-old former New Yorker has been tearing up the local ’cross circuit since he moved to Portland in 1997. His myriad wins include a slew of local ?titles and the Masters Cyclocross National Championship, the highest honor for American ’cross racers over 30. “I want to do something I haven’t done before,” he says, “and Worlds would be one of them.” But even Skerritt is eyeing Worlds—which promise a field bristling with European pros and ex-pros—with wariness.
“Winning? I don’t know,” he says. “I always show up to race to win … but it’s shocking how fast some of the guys are in that category.”
Indeed, the Masters category—second below the sport’s all-ages category—is often a late-career destination for riders for whom cyclocross was never a wacky weekend activity, but rather a job. It’s no old-timers league: competitors like California powerhouse Justin Robinson and 10-time national champion Richard Feldman are expected to compete in Louisville. Robinson, for example, has sponsors who pay not only travel costs, but also living expenses, so he can spend his days training and recovering rather than squeezing in dawn training rides before rolling into the office.
Skerritt is sponsored, too, but on a Portland scale, by companies from the burgeoning local bike industry: the small wheel company Corsa Concepts pays for his race and travel expenses; Castelli kicks down clothing; and Signal Cycles donates custom bikes. But to live, he still has to work a full-time job as a manager at Bike Gallery.
Kristi Carver plans to represent Portland in Kentucky on the women’s side. Carver, who took up ’cross in 2010 after years as a competitive mountain biker, doesn’t expect a top finish, even with a good qualifying race. “If I was in the top 75 percent,” she says, “I would be really happy.”
For Carver, Worlds is as much about the experience as it is the result. Carver’s attitude isn’t unusual in the cyclocross scene, where there are as many mud-covered riders looking for personal victories as for trophies. “I like competition,” says Carver simply, “even if that means it’s just with myself that day.”