Cross Race Reports
With the fires dying down, the wind changing direction, and even a little rain last week, the conditions were good and the race was on. This was a new venue on a nice, long and fast 2.3 mile circuit, which included parking that overlooked the dirt track start/finish-- very cool. Amgen went out of their way to make it interesting by creating a mud pit with a barrier. To top it off, they had a fog machine cranking out the fog making the pit seem like an eerie swamp the first time through.
The clay-like mud in the pit really stuck to everyone's shoe bottoms, and made clipping in a challenge. It was easy to slip off the pedal, but thanks to switching to Crank Bros new Candy SL, they worked (didn't clog) and I was able to get clipped in every time. I also never got stuck in them -- the release action is very easy and consistent.
Mens A - About 20 guys lined up on the dirt track start. First race winner Mark Noble got the hole shot off the track and into the sand pit. I followed in 2nd and quickly took the lead on the next straight away and tried to set a fast pace. I kept the speed high and I think there were around 9 guys still together at the end of the first lap. Gary Hanson took the lead for lap 2, but then Noble turned up the pace and took the lead for good on lap 3. I sprinted onto his wheel, and the two of us had formed the break as we came around the track.
The rest of the race was back and forth, with each of us leading at different times. Behind, Excel's Emilio Cervantes was alone in 3rd early on, but Kelly's Jeff Herring was making a charge and would eventually move up past him and get close to catching us. Over the last 2 laps, I followed Noble's wheel expecting a big attack at any moment, but we remained together nearing the finish. I took the lead just before the last barrier section, but he passed me right back as we made the turn onto the track. I jumped into his wake and tried to keep upright around the last corner, and then I cranked it as hard as I could -- I had just enough room to come around and take the lead for the win before hitting the finish line.
Herring would come in 3rd, and Perry Paolini had another good race finishing in 4th. Amgen teammates and promotors Gary Hanson and Jerry Jane took 5th and 6th respectively after passing a fading Cervantes. To his credit, Emilio came in 7th, which was a good result given he did back-to-back races and he won his first race.
FIRE BURNED all throughout southern california today, and while driving North to Palos Verdes we could barely see the red sun through all the dark smoke. We had no idea when we left how bad the situation was. When we arrived, there was ash and debris in the air, and it smelled bad. It was blowing across LA from San Bernardino and Ontario fires. As the morning continued, it seemed to get a little better, but it also got really hot (like 96 when we were leaving). Some people showed up and left, and others hung around and decided to race.
Men's A - 14 riders stayed and braved the smoky conditions and extreme heat. Emilio Cervantes (Excel Sports) lead a fast opening lap around the dirt track and into the cement stairs run-up. After some technical riding, Perry Paolini used his bunny hopping skill to take the lead and gain time on the field. I chased up and we took the lead together with Cervantes chasing alone in 3rd. Paolini would gain time by hoping both the double and the single barrier.
After catching back up, I took a brief lead, but soon got a flat rear tire. There were a lot of flats on the day due to a lot of tricky edges and rocks and garbage on parts of the course. I rode the flat carefully negotiating some of the turns and got into the pits where Jeff handed me my other ready to race Felt cross bike. Just as I remounted, Perry retook the lead. I again chased up, and then retook the lead, which I held for the last 3 laps.
Standout rides were made today by Leo Sandoval (4th) and junior David Mendoza (6th), who finished in the money in his first Men's A start. Watch for these two and Paolini at future events. Results - Top 8 received So Cal Cross Cup points:
Deep fog and wet grass greeted so-Cal crossers early Sunday morning for Celo's season opener. While this may seem like normal cross conditions for Belgium or Europe, this was a treat for us after enduring a long dry summer. The 1.7 mile course had a combination of fast and wide dirt trails (sometimes hardpacked, sometimes sandy), a short paved finish roadway, and a twisty hilly grass section.
There were 4 dismount challenges per lap: a fast flat triple on dirt, a steep run-up (no barriers), a double barrier run-up on grass, and a double barrier on wood chips. Besides these planned obstacles, the early waves turned a simple twisting grass decent into a greasy mud slide of tire ruts. This was both good fun and good practice for Portland Nationals, and the course received rave reviews from the racers.
Men's Elite - Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific/Felt Bicycles) pushed the pace from the start and created a gap that only Emilio Cervantes (Excel Sports) was able to close down. Once the two got in sync, they quickly opened up a sizeable lead on the chase, which was lead by Erik Burgan (Pacific Sunset Velo), Gary Hanson (Amgen), and Jeff Herring (Kelly). In the last 20 minutes, Prenzlow soloed away from Cervantes, and they finished one two with Burgan dropping his chase companions to take third. Also finishing in the money (top 8) for Celo Pacific were Tony Smith (6th) and Thad Sparrow (8th).
Women's Elite - Dorothy Wong opened up a lead
on the first lap and never looked back as she easily won the women's race.
The closest battle was for second place as Rebecca Cooke (Landis/Trek VW ) narrowly defeated Jennifer Franklin (unattached).
) narrowly defeated Jennifer Franklin (unattached).
The season opener in So. Cal. was special this year with Amgen and Rocket Parts putting up the largest cash purse ever in a so cal cross race. With big stakes on the line, I decided to see if I could survive a double -- back-to-back cross races -- so I entered both the Masters 35+ and the Pro/Cat A.
Masters 35+ - With $200 to the top 3, the race was fast off the line and a breakaway quickly established consisting of Gary Hanson (Amgen), Mike McMahon (Felt), and Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific/Felt). The break would last and claim the money positions. I got a small lead in the middle of the race that I was able to hold to the finish. Hanson would finish 2nd, followed by McMahon.
Men's Pro/Cat A - Nearly 30 riders lined up to compete for $1500 going 10 deep. I got an excellent start and was tucked in behind early leader Perry Paolini until the run-up area. Going through the run-up, I could sense someone stampeding behind. To no surprise, Mark Noble came raging though a tight space knocking leader Paolini aside in the process. Noble created a gap, and I was the only rider able to get onto his wheel. On lap 2, I followed Mark closely, but I soon made a mistake and missed a turn that opened up a gap for him. While I got restarted, he attacked and got the gap he needed to win. For most of the race, the gap was 20 seconds between us, but I couldn't close it down. Noble eventually lapped everyone but the top 5 riders! Behind, the race shattered and Erik Burgan out lasted the rest for 3rd place despite a flat. On the podium, Noble took home $450 for the win, while second was $320 -- Thanks Amgen and Rocket Parts for putting up some great prize money!
While back in Minnesota to visit family and friends, Brent Prenzlow competed at Boom Island Park in Minneapolis in Minnesota's first cross race of the season. The race was held under windy and cool conditions with temps barely 50 and the winds gusting from 10 to 20 mph. It felt cold warming up, but was o.k. once racing.
BP got the hole shot off the line and immediately opened up a small lead on the 40-rider Mens A field. "I was surprised to be in the lead and decided to keep it going to see what would happen behind. I held it for 3 laps when I saw Alan's top rider, Jake Stechmann, trying to bridge up. I decided it was in my best interest to not go it alone with the strong wind so I was happy to have someone coming up."
Once together, Prenzlow and Stechmann worked well together to distance themselves from the chase group and turn the race into a 2-man battle. The two would trade pulls in the front for the next 45 minutes until about 2 laps to go when Brent accelerated into and out of the triple barrier uphill run section. "I ran the triples as fast as possible, and got a gap that I was able to extend. I kept the pace as high as possible until the gap was big enough to cruise in for the win on the final lap."
Mens A Results (Overall): 1 - Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific / Felt), 2 - Jake Stechmann (Alan Factory Team), 3 - Dan Swanson (Nature Valley), 4 - Fred Frein (Salsa Cycles), 5 - Tim Norrie (Salsa Cycles), 6- Scott Ralston (Nature Valley), 7 - Hollywood Henderson (Gravity Lab), 8 - Derek Laan (Alan Factory Team), 9 - Harry Anderson (Ski Hut), 10 - Kevin Kralston (Kenwood)