2013 CXLA Cross After Dark: A Night for Nash

Katarina Nash crosses the line in victory

I always feel I should use the word indomitable when writing about someone like Katarina Nash, who is so capable of winning no matter cycling speciality she finds herself competing in - cross, mountain, road - does not matter. I have been fortunate to have seen her win across all three disciplines, and in dominating fashion. Whether she would agree with that assessment of not, I don't know, but tonight she did proved to be by far the strongest, winning both the evening race, as well as clinching the Cross After Dark series overall.

Considering some of the strength in the women's field, I was a little surprised that Nash was able to open as sizable a gap as she did. As they tend to do during a cyclocross race, the final outcome began to take shape during the very first lap. The unrelenting pace, undulations of the course, twists and turns, fierce accelerations all took their toll, until eventually Katarina emerged out of the darkness alone. Her gap over the chasers continued to during each succeeding lap. Crossing the line with one lap remaining the gap was impressive to say the least. Over the course of the final lap was closed out, the chasers had made up significant ground on the leader but, whether that was because Nash realized at some point on the backside of the course was comfortable and she could afford to let up, or whether the chasers made a massive concerted effort, only Katarina could say for sure. Rachel Lloyd and Nicole Duke finished best of the rest, crossing the line nearly together in 2nd and 3rd. Courtenay McFadden came 4th, and former French National Champion, Caroline Mani rounded out the podium in 5th.

Incidentally, during the women's race I witnessed why beer hand-ups are not always a good idea, when an overzealous fan stretched out a long arm, a can of Tecate grasped at the end of it. Regrettably, the action was so sudden one racer, deep in chase and emerging out of the dark, was unable to avoid smacking into that outstretched arm. The Tecate went swirling down the course like a live grenade, spewing foam out of its opened top. And the racer, well… lets just say she had a few choice words of her own to spew, berating that spectator all about the head. Yes, it truly is all fun and games, right up until the point when a beer gets hurt. Or something like that.

Before the women took to the course it was time for the UCI junior men to show what they are capable of. If nothing else, they are fast - at the end of their race it was announced that theirs had been the fastest of the day. The announcement only confirmed what everyone watching already surmised. They were simply moving. In a cx race, this of course, translates as, not just pure speed, but an uncanny ability to handle a bike, to guide it through the various obstacles thrown in its way. If these racers are what the future of American cyclocross looks like, than that future looks very promising. When all was said and done Max Chance (Clif Bar Development Team) stood atop the podium. Just below him were Ethan Reynolds (Hot Tubes Development Cycling Team), Garrett Gerchar (Clif Bar Development Team), Lance Haidet (Bear Development Team), and Nolan Brady (Rad Racing NW). Less than four seconds separated the first four - that is some close, hard fought racing.

UCI Junior Men's Podium

when the sun sets over Los Angeles, it does it with some style

Max Chance, victor in the UCI Junior Men's Race

It was Saturday afternoon, or nearly so, and I had arrived at the race venue near downtown Los Angeles early. I was so early, the Juniors were still thirty minutes from being called to staging. All was muted hustle and bustle; it was mostly quiet, but there was a lot of preparation taking place. Major teams were largely set up and ready to go, some of the vendors were in place arranging their goods and services. Waiting. Some racers were out warming up, checking out the new course layout, new twists, new turns, committing to memory the muddy spots, remnants of yesterday's rain. Riders to and from downtown stopped in for a look, rolled up and greeted announcer Mike Bowers with shakes of the hand as began his duties at the microphone. Kegs of beer from Golden Road Brewery filled the bed of a pickup truck, directed to their set-up location by Dorothy Wong.

The day progressed beneath a sun-filled, blue sky, all the while racers strove toward victory, others simply to finish, all to put in everything they had; leaving anything in the tank rather than in the dirt, or the mulch piled beside the course, would be anathema to the spirit of cross. 

Finally darkness fell; racers could be distinguished only as black masses in movement against a stationary dark background. Out of that darkness they emerged in lines, pairs or singly. Passing before light towers, illuminated by camera flash they gained perspective and character. A flash of passing color before darkness again clamped down. SquareOne's reindeer mocked passers-by, fast or slow, with verbal taunts; out of nowhere vuvuzela's materialized, and all along the course, from one end to the other their blur could be heard, marking the progression of the race as it wound through turn after turn and along straights.

Beside the few photos here, a select 138 can be seen in this Flickr set. There are plenty more as well; if you don't see what you are looking for, let me know - I may have it.