Tobin Copley (Escape Velocity) on course with Lake Sammamish backdrop

This past weekend I ventured across the border to photograph a classic Pacific Northwest cyclocross weekend.  Starcrossed and Rapha Focus GP were  held at Lake Sammamish State Park near Issaquah, Washington on the same weekend and attracted a top field.  It was an opportunity for me to photograph some high profile amateur and professional racers and I was not disappointed.  The list of riders was a who’s who of North American racers with a very strong Canadian contingent in all fields.  The big draw for many people were Belgians Bart Wellens and Rob Peeters from the Telenet-Fidea squad.  Wellens, an ex-world cyclocross champion, and Peeters were beginning their early season training in North America and they showed why Belgium is still the centre of cyclocross in the world.  But enough about the racing, the photos that follow will tell that story.

What really amazed me was the atmosphere at the event, from the food truck and coffee stand, to the Deschutes beer garden, and yet it was really a family event.  Many families were there to cheer on Mom or Dad and the size of the kids and junior races would match any Cat. 3/4 field in BC.  The cowbells were everywhere and there was constant background of thumping music and the play by play of the announcers, who were perched on top of an old milk truck.

Perhaps the most amazing event that came out of this CX weekend was the crash that involved a rider in the Singlespeed Eliminator race, and the subsequent YouTube video that went viral the next day.  The rider, Joey Mullan eventually got up, dusted himself off and hobbled to the beer garden, no doubt.  That video, and the ensuing rebroadcasts on TV, brought cyclocross to the masses and brought Joey at least fifteen minutes of fame.

The weather was not typical cyclocross weather.  I left during a downpour in Vancouver and by the time I was walking the course in Issaquah, it was warm and partly sunny and it remained this way throughout Saturday.  Not ideal CX conditions!  It rained steadily overnight and I think racers and spectators alike were openly excited about rain and mud on Sunday.  It drizzled, the sun came out, it rained and then dried up.  By the time the elite men were racing the course only had remnants of the mud and slick grass that had greeted the riders in the morning.  It was great racing nontheless.

To see and read more about these two races check out the coverage from including more videos and a gallery of my photos of the event.

Bart Wellens, Belgian cyclocross superstar

Katarina Nash, professional mountain biker and Olympian, dominated the women's races

Dry conditions on Saturday made for a dust storm on the beach

The Stanley flyover was especially popular especially when the riders lifted off

In terms of photography, I spent most of the weekend shooting at the long end of my Canon 70-200 f2.8 zoom and the short end of my Tokina 11-16 f2.8 zoom, two extremes.  I also utilized my flash units, mostly off-camera with Pocket Wizard triggers.  I found that the extra light helped create a more three dimensional light, since it was either overcast or I was shooting in the trees.  I like “dragging the shutter” to create a sense of motion so many of my photos were shot at 1/30 or 1/60th of a second to create the blur that helps sell motion.  The flash exposure helped ensure that at least parts of the subject remain sharp.  An assistant would have been very helpful this weekend!

There’s some great cyclocross events coming to the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island so check out the schedule here.  Put your gumboots on, grab your cowbell (and camera) and check it out!

Read more.. Thursday, September 22nd, 2011