Some were calling the SoCalCross doubleheader in San Diego the weekend before this the “Paris-Roubaix” of the series due to the fact that, like the famed Spring Classic in France, it features a velodrome. I submit that if any Prestige Series race should be compared to Paris-Roubaix so far this year it would be Velocity Cross.
Paris-Roubaix is defined not so much by its velodrome, but by its rough-and-tumble cobblestones. It’s the bumpiest, most skeletally taxing single-day event on the pro road cycling tour.
Velocity Cross would probably make Paris-Roubaix seem like a spin over freshly laid asphalt. Going downhill. With a tailwind.
The eighth round of the 2012-13 SoCalCross series was held at Prado Regional Park in Chino. According to a July 2011 census, Chino has a population of 77,983 people. Apparently it’s also home to about 2,678,546 gophers.
Although mostly flat and without significant technical challenges, the Velocity Cross course was carpeted with gopher holes, anthills and other critter-created nastiness that rattled teeth, anesthetized butts and exploded hand blisters like land mines. Most of this was hidden in power-sucking sod that felt like a wet sponge. Add in yet another day of above average temperatures and a Mojave Desert-derived Santa Ana wind condition and the sum was a race that required equally copious amounts of willpower and legpower.
In other words, it was perfect for series veterans Brandon Gritters and Brent Prenzlow. These two starred and sparred once again in the elite Men’s A race, separating themselves from the rest of the pack at the midway point and again setting up an exciting finish.
And that it was, but not in a way you usually associate with CX. Prenzlow (Celo Pacific) railed onto the final long, paved start/finish straight first, with Gritters on his wheel. But fans were not treated to an elbow-to-elbow bike throw or big victory salute under the banner. A subdued Prenzlow crossed first, with Gritters freewheeling in and gesticulating to the race officials. Gritters contended that Prenzlow had cut him off during the sprint. The officials conferred and within moments concurred. Gritters was named the winner while Prenzlow was relegated to second place.
As Gritters described the last lap, “I felt pretty good. We started the sprint and I started coming by on his right side, which was clearly wide open. As soon as I got next to him and had more momentum he moved over on me. I was not happy when I crossed the finish line. I thought it was pretty obvious and the officials did too. So it was good in the end. It seems like there’s a little bit of controversy every weekend. It keeps it exciting.”
Prenzlow contended that there was no intentional impediment. “The finish straight is not straight,” he said. “I took a straight line and tried to make him go into the wind to pass me but the finish curves a bit to the right and he was trying to pass me on the right side so it looked like I impeded him. I don’t think it’s a good call. It’s not like I went to both sides of the course trying to run him into the barriers. I went to the fastest line and I was in the lead, so I get to choose my line. It’s okay, there are plenty more races to go. It’s a good battle.”
Chris Jackson (Castex Racing p/b Felt) rolled in by himself nearly a minute and a half later for third. He had been among the leading group then dropped a chain during an awkward remount and was never able to get back up front despite a determined chase. Kyle Gritters (Rock N Road) had taken the holeshot but then had to deal with a leaky tire and eventually finished fourth. Doug Hall (The TEAM SoCalCross) rounded out the podium and claimed Under 23 class honors.
The German Carolin Schiff (Felt/SDG/IRT/ SPY) obviously had what it took to tame the Velocity Cross course in the elite Women’s A class. Her silky style made it seem like she was astride a full-suspension mountain bike. It was hard to imagine that she was actually riding in anger. Normally cool, calm and smiling, this runaway points leader indicated afterward that she had taken offense to some scuttlebutt going around earlier in the week concerning her form.
So she simply laid waste to the race. “My plan was to go very fast on the first lap and to be alone,” she stated. “It worked. I had a lonely race but I pushed myself very good. It was exhausting with the heat and the bumps and I had a very high heart rate, so it was good training.”
Then she added with a laugh, “Some people are learning German! They’re cheering in German — that’s so cool!”
Emily Georgeson (Helen’s/Cannondale) and Amanda Schaper (Ritte CX Team) were the best of the rest and fought over the runner-up spot until Schaper went down and possibly bent her derailleur hanger. Not long after that the derailleur ripped loose and Schaper had to make a long run to the pits for her spare bike. She still managed to snare third place by a comfortable margin, then went out and won the Single Speed Women’s class on the same bike.
Many thanks to Mike McMahon and Team Velocity for their hard work in staging a well oiled, entertaining event. Chiropractors and orthodontists throughout the region thank you too!
For full results and more, visit the SoCalCross Prestige Series website.
Rounds nine and ten of the 2012-13 SoCalCross schedule make up another doubleheader: Storm the Beach in Oceanside on Saturday, November 10, and SPYclocross in Escondido on Sunday, November 11. The next Prestige Series event will be the Turkey Trot Cross on Sunday, November 25. This is the weekend after the SCNCA CX District Championships November 17-18 at Hart Park in Bakersfield.
Story and photos by Phil Beckman/PB Creative