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All photos Mitchell Clinton / www.clintonphoto.com

US Cyclocross National Championships, Kansas City, MO
December 13, 2008
by Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific/ALAN)

I'm NOT going to Nationals!
I was not happy that USA Cycling altered the call up procedures this year for the Masters from the top 10 of the previous year getting front staging to the top 8. I was 10th last year. After the top 8, order of registration was used. Registration opened up in early Sept late at night, and I didn't sign up thinking I was all set with last year's result. 2 days after it opened, USA Cycling changed the procedure to top 8 so my call up was gone. There were already over 100 guys pre-reg'd. I was pissed so I decided I was NOT going.

Maybe I should go?
I was riding well winning races locally so 14 days out I bought a re-useable ticket on Southwest airlines in case I changed my mind. If I didn't go, I had 12 months to use the funds toward another flight. I tried to contact USA Cycling to plead my case for staging and it fell on deaf ears. I had local cx'er Adam Austin graciously offer to give me his third row spot since he could not go. The promoter approved it, but it was against the "no transfers/no refunds" rule and again USA Cycling was not budging and would not let registration make the switch. Ok, fine. I'm not going. Then on Wed before the race, Dave Sheek sent me a bunch of pictures of the course along with the message "there's lots of room to pass and lots of climbing - it's your type of course." The weather outlook was good for me - dry. There was a little bit of snow left on the course, but it should melt fast with the predicted warm temps.

I guess I'm going
So Wednesday night before a Thursday flight, I decided to give it a shot from the back. I convinced myself that I could move up and compete for the win or at least a top 5 position. Top 5 was my minimum goal. Thinking 'dry' I packed one bike with 4 wheels and flew out. I arrived in Kansas City to cold and light rain. What the heck? It supposed to be dry! The weather here is clearly unpredictable!

Friday - course preview day
I still hadn't signed up so I went to registration, filled out the forms, and forked over the $65 to get a number. Boy, did I get my money's worth - #2245 - the highest cross number I'd ever seen. I asked the guy, "are you sure this is right? This number seems awfully high." "Yep, all race site registrations use these two thousand plus numbers." I asked about staging again and was told to talk to USA Cycling's Tom Vinson, which I did. We discussed the staging issue, and basically Tom said he couldn't make an exception for me or everyone would complain and it would be a huge fiasco. He said top 8 was "easier to mange" than top 10. Ok, fine. From dead last it is. Time to make a plan on how to get up front!

I went down to staging for Friday afternoon's Masters 45-49 to watch and learn. They had an 8-wide grid on a paved road, but to my liking was the fact that there was a barricade on only one side of the grid. The other side was a 5 foot grass/dirt sideline. One official was calling up the riders in groups of 8 (each row) and then a second official was checking off each number present. The second official went through every row and every rider. So there was no chance of rolling up and standing where Adam should've been especially with my huge #2245 sticking out like a sore thumb. So the plan became to accept the dead last start, clip in quickly, and hopefully use the right side to move up fast while the back guys are just getting going.

Saturday - Race Day, Masters 40-44
I arrived plenty early, tested some tires during the Noon open course period, and settled on Challenge XS 32 file tread rear and grifo 32 front. It was very windy, but the course had dried up and it was not muddy. It was a very soft play-doh like spongy surface that sucked your tires in and made it feel very slow. But it was not sticking to the bikes (only the tires somewhat) so bike swaps were not going to be necessary except for flats or mechanicals. I got a decent warm up in and headed over to the start at 1:50 for the 2pm whistle.

The staging went as expected and I stayed warm and relaxed in the very back. I could not even see the front rows. 112 starters! At the whistle, the back rows were not even moving so I carefully used my "secret line" up the right and moved up. I veered back left onto the pavement and hit the gas sharply - like pedal to the metal! I was moving up the start/finish stretch in a big gear onto the grass and into the first 90 degree turn. Naturally, the expected pileup happened here, but I got around it to the right by going into the deep grass next to the woods. I lost my momentum and was in way too big of a gear, but I got going again and started the passing session.

I was moving up quickly weaving in and out of guys one-by-one. One big guy pushed me to my right as I passed and knocked me into the orange metal barricades, which stung and took a chunk out of my knuckle. Unfazed, I kept moving fast and stayed completely focused on reaching the leaders. By the time we reached the top of the long climb (several minutes long, but broken into sections), I had made contact with the lead group of about 10 riders led by Jonny Bold and Richard Feldman. It was a big effort to get there, and in the heat of the moment I don't think I realized how many matches I was burning to do it.

Upon reaching the run up at the top, I had a dropped chain and at the same time, Feldman got away with Bold. I rode through the rest of the lead guys and beginning lap 2, Roger Aspholm had caught me and we were 3rd/4th. The next time up the long climbing sections, I did not feel nearly as good as lap 1. I was hurting! Roger left me and I was alone in 4th. I was not moving up any more. Ending the 3rd lap, Michael Wissink caught me. We had 3 to go. He sat on me on the paved section and then attacked in the dirt so I never really got on his wheel. I was in 5th (last podium spot) and suffering even worse. The first lap effort had taken a toll. Meanwhile, up front Aspholm had ridden up to Feldman, while Bold was fading and dropping back. He was soon passed by Wissink for 3rd.

With 2 to go, I was still in 5th. Bold was 10 seconds ahead in 4th, and Todd Hoefer was 10 seconds behind me in 6th. I wanted to catch Bold and at minimum hold off Hoefer to make the podium. I stepped up the pace and was red lining, but I was catching Bold. Then disaster struck - coming into the fast double barrier section, I caught a toe spike on the first barrier and tripped. I hit the deck hard on my left side and my bike bounced to the ground and smashed into the second barrier. I jumped up fast, yanked my handlebars straight and remounted. My left shifter was bent all the way in so I yanked that back to the left, and started pedaling in a panic; I was shaken. Hoefer was now close to me, but he did not pass or make contact.

1 to go, I gave everything up the last climb to keep my top 5 spot and the gap opened back up to ~ 10 seconds. There was a lot of lapped traffic on the last 3 laps of the race. The difference in speed between the front and back of the race was huge. Most of these guys got out of the way, but there's always a few clueless ones out there that don't yield the trail. Mostly I got through them ok. The last time over the barriers I made sure to step higher and I got over safe. I checked my gap to Hoefer was still holding 10 seconds! I had it. So I carefully passed a few more lapped guys and hit the pavement to take 'er home for 5th.

THEN, THE UNBELIEVABLE HAPPENED!!
I was sitting on the tops "cruising" toward the line, and with 10 yards to go I sensed a rider sprinting up to me. I glanced and it's not Hoefer. My brain said, "Why is a lapped rider trying to out-sprint you?" There was no time to react, this guy nips past me at the line as the announcer says "Prenzlow comes in for 5th." I'm thinking, "what just happened?" The "lapped rider" was Rich McClung, who it turns out was behind Hoefer in 7th most of the race. I asked him after the race, and he said he caught and passed Hoefer with 1/2 a lap to go at the top of the hill. With lapped riders all over the place, I had not spotted him at all and was marking the wrong person at the end. OMG! How horrible. So I had 5th, but I blew it and moved myself right off the podium. No one else watching/cheering for me had spotted this guy either - everyone thought I had 5th including cxmagazine.com and the announcers. Crazy! I won't be making that mistake again...

I'll Be Back
Next year at a TBD location - starting on the front row this time! I'm hoping for a west coast venue. Rumor is Bend, OR or Spokane, WA.

Adding Insult to Injury
After the race, still in shock I checked the results to make sure it wasn't a mistake. Sure enough. 6th. The results sheet had every single rider's first name, hometown, and team name wrong. It looked like some kind of sorting/database error. I did not report it figuring that they would surely correct that on their own. Later, when I got back to the hotel that night I looked up the results online. Sure enough, they corrected every single rider's information EXCEPT for mine. Awesome!! So I'm now Jeff Prenzlow from Vancouver, B.C. BTW, how does a rider from Canada compete in the United States National Championships?

1 1210 ASPHOLM, roger haworth, NJ westwood velo 00:44:06.00
2 1157 FELDMAN, Richard Ketchum, ID Durance Cycleworks - Lehman Br 00:44:06.00
3 1212 WISSINK, michael Walled Lake, MI Specialized 00:44:35.00
4 1159 BOLD, Jonny Marstons Mills, MA CORNER CYCLE 00:45:09.00
5 1226 MCCLUNG, Richard KIRKLAND, WA Hagens-Berman LLP Cycling 00:45:17.00
6 2245 PRENZLOW, Jeff North Vancouver, BC Team Coastal Cycling 00:45:17.00
7 1152 HOEFER, Todd Aptos, CA Cal Giant/Specialized 00:45:32.00
8 1154 REID, Doug Seattle, WA Veloce Velo.Com 00:46:10.00
9 1160 PFLUG, Gerald Mount Pleasant, PA Speedgoat/SPK/Salsa 00:46:15.00
10 1151 WEINERT, Jeff Lake Orion, MI Giant 00:46:23.00

THANKS!!!
A big thanks to my sponsors and supporters for all the help and encouragement - Celo Pacific, B&L Bike and Sport, Stellina Sport/ALAN frames, Alpha Q forks, SDG saddles, Oakley, TRP brakes, Challenge tires, CrankBrothers, and Hudz.

BIKE SPEC for Natz
ALAN full carbon frame, Medium compact 54.5
Alpha Q CX 20 fork
Easton carbon bars, 44cm, Salsa alu stem, 100
Challenge grifo 32 ft, XS 32 file tread rear
White SDG Edge Flex saddle and I-beam combo
Campy Chorus 10-speed shifters, ders, and cranks, 175 with 46/39
American Classic hubs, Zipp 404 or Velocity rims
TRP CR950 brakes with SwissStop yellow pads
CrankBrothers 4-ti egg beaters
White Hudz and tape

FEELING GOOD EARLY

WORKING DOWNHILL

HOLDING ON TO 5th

DIGGING DEEP

LAST LAP PAIN