Salem's Patrick Jackson celebrates winning the A's race during the first Keizer Rapids Cross Twilight CX Series race Monday at Keizer Rapids Park. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Salem’s Patrick Jackson celebrates winning the A’s race during the first Keizer Rapids Cross Twilight CX Series race Monday at Keizer Rapids Park. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Of the Keizertimes

There was some home cooking going on Monday evening at Keizer Rapids Park.

The Keizer Rapids Cross Twilight CX Series kicked off the first of three events Monday, using a 1.5 mile course through the woods at KRP. The three-race series continues the following two Mondays at the park, with registration at 5 p.m. and the first of three races starting at 5:45.

Each winner on Monday had plenty of experience with the course. And for good reason: two of the winners were Salem residents, while another lived in Keizer until a month ago.

Rolland Hayden recently moved to Gresham to start a new job, but until July was assistant principal at North Salem High School and lived about a mile from the park.

“I knew every bump and corner on the course,” said Hayden, who won the beginner/junior/C’s race. “I had the home court advantage. It was a pretty big advantage, but I didn’t mind it. When I compete up in Portland, the guys from up there have the advantage.”

Even discounting his experience on the KRP course, Hayden enjoys the layout.

“It is a super fast course, very technical,” he said. “I’m super excited about racing here at Keizer Rapids Park. I will be here whenever they’re here.”

Organizer Jarod Seaman from Half Penny Cycling in Salem first proposed the series at the June Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting. Parks Board members agreed to allow the series to take place. Volunteers with Keizer CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) helped with parking.

A total of 61 racers competed on Monday, ranging in age from 12 to 64. The course included several barriers and a wooden staircase, one of the key sections for the course.

Seaman said a minimum amount of alterations were needed to make the course race-ready.

“We asked the city if they could move a section of logs and they were willing to move those to the staircase,” he said. “That definitely helped out. They let me paint (arrows on) the course.”

Seaman predicted a fast course.

“The overall technical aspect of the course is definitely a factor,” he said. “You can really get going with a lot of speed, because it’s so dry. But you can also crash more easily because of that.”

On a day when the temperature hovered around 100 degrees, Seaman pointed to a nice aspect of the course.

“It’s a lot cooler in the trees,” he said. “The heat of the day does play a factor. I expected the numbers to be low this week because of that, but I’m pleasantly surprised by the number of cars here.”

Josiah Zukowski of Salem won the combined B’s/single speed/master’s 50+ race.

“The key is riding harder than you think you should and not stopping,” he said. “I’ve been out here on this course three times. That helped a lot. There were several times I almost fell, but I got up and was able to keep going. It’s a super fun course. There was way more pedaling than I thought.”

Patrick Jackson defeated his friend Ryan Garner to win the A’s race, the fastest category with the top riders. That race went 40 minutes – which was roughly equal to six laps – while the other two races went 30 minutes.

“It’s a super fun course,” Jackson said. “I definitely had the local advantage. I knew how fast to take each corner. I knew which ones to take at full speed.”

For the most part, the winning riders dismounted and carried their bikes up the staircase. Hayden noted he had practiced dismounting before getting to the base, allowing him to shoulder the bike in one fluid – and thus quicker – motion.

“It seemed too risky to try riding the bike up the staircase,” he said. “There was too much margin for error. If you don’t make it up or fall, you could lose more time.”

Jackson tried both ways.

“Running it was probably faster than riding it,” Jackson said.

There is a $15 registration fee to compete, while spectators can watch for free. The highest finisher over the three weeks in the A’s category will receive a $100 payout, with $75 for second and $50 for third.