The Toughest Ever???

CX Nation

Every year I go with the family down to Santa Cruz to rent a house and spend the weekend down at the beach.  I lived in Santa Cruz for 10 years while attending school and working in the outdoor industry for Patagonia.  I always enjoy going back and October is traditionally a great month as far as weather.  Oh and there is usually a cross race the weekend that we go. hehe…

The first round of the Surf City cyclocross series, supposedly the oldest in the country, was held at Aptos High School.  I have raced here once before and it was a tough course.  Lots of up/down and off camber.  This year was no exception.  It also brings out the best racers.  I didn’t get a call up so I was third row.  Sage was one row ahead of me.  This wasn’t a race that I was really focused on for the year, but I wanted to be competitive.  The gun went off and after a couple turns I found myself dead last.  Wait, what just happened???

We hit the first obstacle – a punchy uphill, dismount, over a barrier and up a 30 yard steep sand hill.  It was a mandatory “throw the bike on the shoulder” which I usually don’t like doing, but it was the fasted way.  To add insult to injury, the remount at the top was uphill.  So you had to be in the correct gear before you even got off your bike at the bottom or you were screwed.  Each lap I made this obstacle cleanly, which is more than I could say about some of the other obstacles.

I started making up riders, but was too far back and the splits/gaps started opening.  I saw several good riders just ride right off the course and head to the cars.  That’s one thing about me…I will never give up.  You never know what could happen.  I kept hearing Sage’s name on the loudspeaker and it seemed he was having a good race.  He ended up 5th and on the podium.  I was  not as good, but the up and down of the course doesn’t really suit my style. I made the most of it, had fun and finished with my girls cheering me on.  I rarely get that,so it was pretty cool to have the family there.  Brij had a great race in 45+’s.  He started 30 seconds behind our group and flew by me after 2 laps.  Brij is a great bike handler and this course really suited him.  Brij ended up 3rd.  Impressive result for him.  A lot of the riders who have been around for a while called this the hardest course ever in NorCal.  I wouldn’t doubt it.  Nice work Surf City.

 

Brij Surf 1

Brij getting some air at Surf City

Sage Surf 1

Sage coming down a sandy run out onto the road = rough

Brian Surf 1

Same section as Sage – so steep we were both in the drops

Santa Rosa Cup – Round 2

The second round of the Santa Rosa Cup brought us the “original” cross course in Santa Rosa – A Place to Play Park.  Three years ago the city let us “do whatever you want” to the former poo ponds on West 3rd St.  They built several amazing soccer fields on the acreage, which of course we couldn’t use because bikes tear up grass and soccer players don’t.  As a former college soccer player, I guarantee you that soccer players tear up grass.  Amazingly it grows back.  OK, end of sarcasm.

I extended the course this year to add some more power sections and lengthen the lap times.  It is pretty much a bumpy dirt track with some pavement mixed in.  Not very exciting, but loose in all spots and you have to pay attention at all times.  By the end of the day ruts were formed and there was a “good” line and “bad” line.  Overcooking was the norm, goat heads were all over and in the hot, dry California fall; hydration was key to having a good race.

I did have something  interesting occur in one of the earlier races.  A spectator came up to me and said someone was riding around the barriers.  I didn’t up the barriers that morning because I was off doing other stuff, so I didn’t really have a chance to look at them.  I went down to their location and did notice just enough of a gap to pass both of them and still stay within the tape.  Now there have been many cases in recent years of riders doing this exact sort of thing.  Zac McDonald got DQ’d when footage showed up of him doing this last year.  The proponents say that it is within their right because they are still within the tape.  Opponents say that the barriers are there for a purpose, no matter about the tape….you need to go over them.  I am your worst opponent…and I take it personal. Cheaters beware!

I readjusted the barriers, which is probably illegal in the UCI playbook…”adjusting the course midway through a race, etc….”  Oh well…  The spectator pointed out the rider coming through.  I knew the guy as a local cross rider.  He went to ride and then realized that his route had been shut down.  It was too late though and he went slow-mo over the handlebars.  To add insult to injury, he rolled a tire and had to pit.  Karma…gotcha!  Afterwards both myself and the spectator wished we had our cameras out.  That wish was granted when we turned around and Tim Westmore was sitting in the perfect spot.  He got the shot.

Sneaking the Barriers

Karma gets you in the end…

As for the racing, CX Nation had another good showing.  Sage battled to second place in the Men’s 35+ A’s, beating out defending World Champion Don Myrah.  Miles was a little sick so he was lucky to just finish the B’s race.  I actually had a decent day, but the heat and bumps eventually got to me and I finished 11th in a stellar field.  Scott Chapin of the my old Rock Lobster team took the win over local hot shot Brian Finnerty of the Berries.  Max Judelson, also from Rock Lobster took 3rd and there was a Berry/Lobster sandwich on the podium.

Miles SR Cup 2 (2)

Miles Attacking

Kristin SR Cup 2 (2)

Kristin Charging to 2nd Overall

Kristin 2nd SR Cup

Podium for the Ladies

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Berry and Lobster sandwich – Men’s Podium

Sage SR Cup 2 (1)

Sage with some hops…

NorCal Cross Gets Rolling

Literally….Seems like we started out with a bang.  Two big events in the SF Bay Area/Sacramento then…crickets.  The second weekend in October brought a slew of races to NorCal.  Two on Saturday and two on Sunday.  We are so lucky here.  Saturday was Round 1 of the Santa Rosa Cup.  This is the race series that Bike Monkey and I, CX Nation, co-produce.  Round 1 brought us to a familiar venue, The Windsor Christian Academy in Windsor…obviously.  We had a race at this venue last year.  I am friends with the pastor of the church and he is really into active living.  This year he agreed to open up the soccer field more and allow us to use more of it.  This was a saving grace (no pun intended) because the biggest complaint from last years course was “too many turns”.  I agreed and the lap times were very fast.  It gets boring if you do the same loop 15 times.  Well, we added some big stretches but it only amounted to about 30 more seconds, so lap time for the elites were around 4:30.  Not ideal….

So we began setting up the day before and at a private property it is so much easier than at a public park.  I always worry that someone is going to come by a public park after we have set up and rearrange all the stakes and tape.  My worst nightmare….  No need to worry here, although when we were setting up we did see a guy stealing parts from the junk yard next to the school.  he was wearing all black in the middle of the day and driving a pink car with a lime green spare tire on it.  I am guessing he won’t get far in the “robbery business”.  We decided to do something new this year and have an impromptu kids race the day before the event.  It was mostly kids from the school, but others showed up and we sent them off in two waves based on age.  This was probably my proudest moment of the whole race.  Kids are the future of cycling and exposing kids to cyclocross is turning into my main focus.

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The “older” winners

Race day brought the early morning wake up call, lots of sore muscles and total satisfaction once the racing got underway.  All the races went off smooth.  “Bike Monkey logistics” are on a whole different level.  After doing the Gran FOndo and 7,000 people, I am sure a couple hundred is no problem.  CX Nation showed up in force with Miles, Sage and Kristin racing.  Sage battled with newcomer Ryan Greiner in the Master’s A’s.  Ryan got the best of him and Sage finished on the second step.  Crazy, just a year ago Ryan took a clinic from me in Oakland.  Now he is beating both Sage and I (he took me when I cracked my wheel in the GP Clark Natwick).  He is a strong rider.  Miles had a strong showing in the B’s and finished 4th, just off the podium.  Krisitn battled Marin Bikes’ Caroline Dezendorf for the top spot.  Caroline was just too strong and Kristin had to settled for silver.  I jumped ingot he Elite A’s which always seems like a good idea, but doesn’t really turn out that way until I am actually racing.  With my feet swollen like 10 lbs. of sausage in a 5 lbs casing, I rolled around for an hour and ended up a surprising 5th.

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Fog greeted the early riders at SR Cup #1

Hosey WIns

Hosey wins with “the big man” shining some light down on him

DAY 2: Sunday – Sac and Marin

The CX Nation split up on Sunday as there were races in both Sacramento and Marin.  I really like the Sacramento races and their venues.  Actually I am jealous that they get use the parks of the city.  I wish Santa Rosa was just as generous.  Sunday’s course was new last year and I loved it so much I had to go back – Orangevale Park.  This is a classic grass course – fast and faster.  James Coates from Cal Giant showed up, along with Jude Mayne from the Ibis team and Jeff Mitchell made his way back after sitting out most of last year with injury.  Jeff and I have battled for years in the Sac series and have had some dramatic finishes, including my one and only “bunch sprint” for the win at Ione a few years ago.  We got off to a fast start and Jude split the field with a strong surge at the beginning.  I was patient and just followed wheels knowing that we had an hour in the 90 degree heat and 30 mph winds.  For the first time ever I brought two water bottles…and I used both of them before the race was over.

Jude had a mechanical on the 2nd lap and four of us – Coates, Mitchell, myself and a Velo Fratello rider, Justin Madison, got the gap on everybody.  With about 7 to go Coates attacked and I was at the back of the four, which actually turned out to be lucky because he crashed in an uphill turn and took Jeff and Justin out.  I saw this as a sign to attack and I did.  I was holding them for a couple laps, but the three of them were just too strong.  Then I got gapped off only to find my way back up to them as they were playing games and forcing one and another to pull in the wind.  With 1.5 to go Coates attacked again and I was 4th wheel again.  You see a pattern here.  Don’t be 4th wheel.  Justin slipped some gears and then just fell apart.  Jeff and Alan got a gap on me and that was all they needed.  Try as I could the rubber band was broken and I wasn’t going to be tying it back together.  Still a good performance after all I went through that weekend.  If you ever want to be really tired, put on a race and then race two days.  I was a zombie on Sunday night.

Brian Sac #1 2014

Over the bridge at Orangevale

Sac Podium 2014

First podium this year – I got a cowbell….appropriate

Meanwhile down in Fairfax…..

Sage and Kristin lined up for the Lion of Fairfax.  It is the first time in many years that the Lion has actually shown up in Fairfax.  The school where they have the race has been undergoing some renovations.  Murphy Mack brought the race back home this year.  Judgeing from the photos and video coming from the course it looked hot and dusty.  Sage had a good start in Master’s 35+ A’s but then got a nail in the rear tubie.  Figures on a construction site….  He had to run to the pits and by the time he frantically chased back on he could only manage 5th.  Kristin lined up in stacked field that included Rachel Llyod and Luna chick Katerina Nash who just happened to finish 3rd at Worlds a couple years ago.  Kristin slotted in for a 4th place with the afore mentioned taking the top two steps and yesterday’s nemesis, Dezendorf, taking bronze.

Kristin Lion #1

Kristin taming the Lion

Sage Lion 2014

Sage with the hops at Lion of Fairfax