Cycling enthusiasts may never look at the Fairplex in Pomona the same way again. After all, they’ve never seen anything like this at the familiar facility. On the weekend of October 20-21, 2012, the county fair, monster trucks, horses, motorcycles, guns, RVs, etc., were pushed aside so the first ever L.A. Bikefest presented by Planet Bike could take over.
Inside and outside the stadium, cycling in a wide variety of forms was in constant motion. Recreational road riders had the Tour de Foothills Training Ride, presented by La Rocque Better Roofs and promoted by ROCK Sports. Bike part treasure hunters were able to do some shopping at the Pomona Valley Bicycle Coalition Swap Meet. The Westside Invite Bike Polo Tournament had two courts rocking for two days. Cynergy Cycles hosted a Women’s Lounge. A freestyle BMX course saw some action. Live music performed by a number of entertainers serenaded an Outdoor Expo and Food Truck Festival when the legs needed a rest. Beer gardens and a Yoga for Cycling clinic by Brittany Poloni RYT 200 helped that process as well. A pumpkin carving contest, bike art, a classic bike showcase and more were all a part of the busy scene.
One highlight of the weekend was the Spooky Costume Race on Saturday night. A whole lot of truly creative, witty, hilarious and a few disturbing outfits were on display and in action, all for the benefit of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.
Even athletes preferring to do their thing on two feet instead of two wheels were included in the festivities with the first round of the three-event Steeple Cross series, organized by Team Squareone and presented by Kool N Fit Sport. Competitors ran two laps around the entire cyclocross race course, which was very spectator friendly; 95 percent of the circuit was visible from the grandstands.
Did somebody say cyclocross? Absolutely. Rounds four and five of the 2012-13 SoCalCross Prestige Series drew an impressive crowd of local competitors as well as a number of elite riders from around the country and beyond. They came in search of valuable UCI points available at Saturday’s Spooky Cross presented by Jenson USA and Sunday’s Krosstober-Fest presented by SPY and Squareone.
The finish of the Elite Men’s race under the lights on Saturday night was one of the most climactic in SoCalCross history. For most of the hour-long race it had been a freight train of ten riders swapping positions and probing for weaknesses while posting consistently torrid lap times. With three to go it was down to eight, nose to tail.
Mike Sherer (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) led at the bell but Chris Jackson (Castex Racing p/b Felt) put in a big effort with half a lap to go and gained a slight advantage. Coming up the long, wide finishing stretch on the horse track, Jackson thought the rapidly approaching timing stripe was his. He lifted his arms in celebration, only to have Sherer duck under his right elbow and execute a perfect bike throw to snake Jackson in a photo finish. The costumed crowd went wild.
As winner Sherer described the proceedings, “I kind of thought he had it because he had a decent gap coming around the last corner. I just didn’t give up and kept going and he saluted a little bit too early. Once I did the bike throw I knew I had it.”
For Jackson it was a disappointing finish that has characterized his season so far. “It’s all learning, you know,” he said sheepishly. “Every weekend I learn a new lesson. It just hasn’t worked out in my favor yet.”
Finishing a close third was Tobin Ortenblad (Cal Giant), with Mitchell Hoke (Clif Bar) just behind. Brandon Gritters (Rock n’ Road) rounded out the top five.
The earlier Elite Women’s Spooky Cross finish was much more clear-cut but the race itself was dramatic in its own way. Elle Anderson (Ladiesfirst Racing) jumped away from three early breakaway companions and led most of the race, but Teal Stetson-Lee (Luna Pro Team) waited until the two-laps-to-go-card was shown and then shot forward to reel in Anderson and completely detonate the group. On the last lap all four were by themselves.
“I wish I could tell you I had a plan, but I was kind of winging it to tell you the truth,” said victor Stetson-Lee. “The last two laps or so I just got a second wind and was able to lay the power down.”
Courtenay McFadden (Clif Bar/Bicycle Centres/Voler) ended up in second, followed by Anderson, Mical Dyck (Stan’s No Tubes CX) and Caroline Mani (Raleigh/Clement).
Anderson earned some redemption during the next day’s Krosstober-Fest. The storyline was much the same, with the same four riders moving away together on the opening lap. This time it was Stetson-Lee on the attack at the midway mark, but Anderson was able to drop the other two and close the gap. She leveraged the momentum she had built and simply said goodbye on the final lap to triumph over Stetson-Lee, McFadden, Dyck and Mani.
Anderson was thrilled with her first UCI win. “When I bridged up to Teal I still felt good so I just decided to keep going. I’m definitely not used to being in this situation so I had to really keep myself calm and focused on that last lap.”
Kudos to Cynergy Cycles for making the UCI Women’s podium payout equal to that of the Men’s.
The Krosstober-Fest Elite Men’s race was another tight, fast-paced affair. With three laps to go it was any of nine riders’ race to win. Emerging on the front with less than half a lap to go was the relatively unknown Canadian Mark McConnell (Synergy Racing). This bike messenger from Calgary had led the first three laps the night before but then finished well behind in ninth.
He got the crowd hooting when he bobbled in a bowl turn on the BMX section of the track within sight of the finish line and ended up making shoulder-to-shoulder contact with the second-place rider, Cory Greenberg (VRC Get Crackin-MS Society). McConnell was determined, however. He kept it upright and up front and even opened a bit of a gap in the final run to the line.
As he related, “Last night I went at it a little too aggressively, so today I decided to play it cool. I flew a ways down here and wanted to make it count. I’m trying to make the Canadian team for the World Championships so I need as many chances at points as I can get.”
Greenberg ended up second, trailed by previous night’s winner Sherer. The top Under 23 rider on both days, Tobin Ortenblad, was fourth, with Kevin Noiles (Cyclocrossracing.com) filling out the top five.
Complete results can be found at SoCalCross.org.
It was an awesome weekend for fans of bike culture, community and competition at the inaugural L.A. Bikefest. It was a vision that became reality. Special thanks to Team OTR for event support. We hope to be back at the Fairplex again next year, and to see you there! For more on the L.A. Bikefest, click here.
The SoCalCross Prestige Series now heads south for a round five-six, Saturday-Sunday doubleheader at the San Diego Velodrome — SoCalCross meets Paris-Roubaix! Round eight will be the Velocity CX in Chino on Sunday, November 4. For additional series info, visit SoCalCross.org.