Saturday, November 16, 2013

2013 El Dorado Park Cyclocross: DNS

I have been involved in racing long enough to understand the mentality. Not that the knowledge has translated into an understanding of how to win mind you. I have been around cyclocross (CX) enough to recognize subtleties and nuances, but that recognition has been gained solely from the perspective of an armchair anthropologist, knowledgeable sure, but lacking in the experience of the field. It is one thing to write about the suffering of the CX racer, how gopher-infested grasslands will rattle the brain in your skull, how run-ups and other obstacles will gradually leave you drained of energy to the point of tripping over the barriers on your last lap, based on what you see. It is another to write about all that based on what you feel.

If I may borrow from the great Monty Python, "and now for something completely different". I am ready to leave the predictability of the road, and the comfort of full suspension on trail, for the wild and wooly world of racing on grass, sand, wood chips, jumping off bikes and over barriers, running up steps, heckling the hecklers, while trying to not be passed by the front runners while I am still on my first lap.

I have made mention a couple times now of, what I call, my pseudo-cross bike. Essentially it is the single-speed Origin8 Uno to which I added a Schwalbe CX Pro rear tire, and an old pair of Shimano SPD's that came off one mountain bike or another, at some point in time. I would hardly call it perfect for all situations, for instance I would not take it to Cross at the Beach (too much sand), but it may be just right for the Long Beach course this weekend. El Dorado Park, where the race is held, is mostly grass, some pavement, and a little sand (which I can always run, if need be).

What I really needed to do today was get out and practice that running dismount, so off to the little park around the corner I went. This is the only kind of dismount my son seems to know how to do, and he makes it look easy. Needless to say, I have watched him do it, I have watched racers at the local cross races I have covered for the blog over the past few years, I have watched some of those "how to" videos on YouTube. As a result I was pretty sure I wouldn't embarrass myself in front of the neighbors. Well, you know what? I didn't. It was easy; no tripping over my own feet, no awkward clipped in flops. The motion seemed pretty darned fluid and, other than the painter working on a house across the street, no one around with a critical eye to say otherwise.

I did notice a problem that just was not going to work - my gearing. That grass might as well have been six inches of wet concrete for all it slowed my momentum and prevented me from picking up speed. Off to the bike shop I went. Picked up a new 39 chainring to replace the 46, shortened up the chain appropriately, and now feel I am about as ready as I will ever be for my first cx race. All you single speed back markers beware, I may be confident about my dismount, but actually getting both body and bike over barriers, then hitting the saddle again may be a challenge. Or high comedy.



So, all that up there was written on Friday. I was going to post it Friday as well - you know, good incentive and all that - I would have had to race, no way around it. But then I decided to save it as a kind of introduction for the actual race post. It would also give me a way out in case I didn't race - I just wouldn't post it. Well, as it turns out, sometimes the best laid plans just don't work. I didn't realize it at the time, but the evidence of failure is in the photo above - it just barely made the picture frame. There I was, doing some warm-up laps in between races; I had gone through the barriers, ridden beneath the pines, sailed through the double run up, remounted and was picking up speed again when a loud metallic BANG brings me to a stop. No power. I thought the chain had broken. No, it was still a complete loop but it was off the chainring and freewheel. What the heck, how does that even happen on a single speed? I thought it strange, but after getting everything back in order I continued on my way and circled the rest of the course with no problems. 

I photographed a couple more races (including the shot above) and then took another warm-up lap. Once again, BANG. Now this is just too weird, so I studied the chain and found the broken link. End of day. No race. It always seemed like a kind of cheap chain to begin with, it was red after all. I had no idea how old it was, having bought the bike used. I guess I should be surprised it lasted as long as it did.

I was yet to pay my entry fee, but was still surprisingly bummed about how things turned out. Of all the races on the calendar, I always figured this one was the best option for my slick-fronted bike - mostly gopher infested grass with some sections of concrete pathway, one sand pit which virtually everyone runs anyway. Considering the strength of the field I, no doubt, would have finished dead last but then you never know until you try. My try will have to wait. In the meantime here is the link to a Flickr set of seventy-seven photos.

Garnet Vertican leaps the barriers at, what appears to be, supersonic speed




But, you say, stop all this gibberish about yourself; how about some of the actual racing?

The Men's 35+ A (CX 1-5) probably ended up the most closely contested race of the day. Garnet Vertican (SPY/Giant) established the initial fast pace by leading the charge away from the start. Vertican, and eventual victor, Rob McGee (Blackstar) then swapped the lead spot throughout the rest of the race. With those two leaders pushing one another, the remainder of the field battled to limit the deficit. With all the back and forth there was really only one appropriate way for the race to finish - in a sprint. McGee crossed the line with an edge of 0.169 seconds over Vertican. Matt Freeman (Cyclery USA) crossed third at 1:23, Brett Cleaver (Ritte) at 1:50 was 4th, and Carlos Matias Mendigoche (Velo Club LaGrange) 5th at 2:37.

For a while it looked as though the Women's A (CX 1-4) race might play out the same as the Men's 35+ A race. Nicole Brandt (Velo Club LaGrange) and Hannah Rae Finchamp (Team LUNA Chix) had a close battle going for the first laps. Somewhere along the way to the finish, though, Brandt was able to gap Finchamp who, I did notice slide out on some of those slick pine needles at one point. By then Brandt had already pulled away, and would finish with a comfortable fifty-four second advantage. Finchamp held on for 2nd, while Christine Probert-Turner (Turner Bikes) came across the line 1:33 behind, having pulled away from the remainder of the field.

In the Women's B (CX 3-4) race AJ Sura (G2 Bikes) took top honors, ahead of Michelle VanGilder (Troupe Racing). Chirstine Pai (G2 Bikes) edged our Courtney Comer (The TEAM SoCal Cross) by a mere second for 3rd.

Julie Swafford (Team Break Wind) won the Women's C (CX4) race ahead of Martha Mauricio (The TEAM), with Isabelle Thompson (Montrose Bike Shop) finishing in 3rd.

Many of the usual protagonists were MIA from the single speed races, but that does not mean there was any lack of competition. The Men's A (CX1-5) race shaped up early as a three way contest between Joseph Warner (Happy Houseboating), David Turner (Turner Bikes) and Ty Hathaway (Mudfoot). Eventually Hathaway slipped backwards, and it was up to Turner to keep Warner within striking distance. That was all though, as Warner crossed the line 1st, with an 18 second advantage over Turner. Hathaway hung on for 3rd, 1:07 behind Warner, and ten seconds ahead of a hard charging Mike McMahon (Team Velocity).

In the race I would have done, the Men's B (CX4-5) Jay Kwan (The TEAM So Cal Cross) took the win ahead of Hernan Montenegro (Anytime Crew), with Paul Hernandez (The TEAM SoCal Cross) in 3rd.

In what was at least her second race of the day, Christine Probert-Turner won the Women's single speed race, finishing ahead of Dorothy Wong (The TEAM), and Olivia Harkness.

The Men's A race saw the brothers Gritters (Blackstar/Rock n' Road) take top honors once again, Brandon with a twenty-six second advantage over Kyle. Brent Prezlow (Celo Pacific/Focus) came in 3rd at thirty-three seconds. Jason Siegle (SDG/Felt) took 4th another half minute back, while SDG teammate, Anton Petrov, rounded out the podium finishing a mere three seconds behind Siegle. The 1st and 2nd placings allowed Brandon and Kyle Gritters to solidify their lead in the overall standings. 

For complete results (of all the day's races) and overall series standings be sure to check the SoCal Cross Prestige Series website.

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