This previous weekend was the last Cyclocross race I had planned for this season, until I decided to race nationals in Austin, TX. I started the CX season only planning to do a handful of races, but fell back in love with the sport for a second time.
The races this weekend were up in gorgeous Bakersfield, (ha) at Hart Memorial Park (actually pretty nice). This is a course that I have been wanting to do for a long time, and thanks to the hard work of Sam and crew (Sam Barn Promotions) it didn’t disappoint. The laps were actually longer, like over 7 minutes, and the course was brutally tough, showcasing the infamous run-up, Hart Attack Hill. The course also featured a couple very steep rideable (most of the time) hills, with some fast technical descents, a flowy section in the grass, a long paved straight, some stairs and some barriers. The only thing its missing is some sand, hopefully Sam won’t read this and make it even harder 😉
My good friend and teammate Gareth is from the area and we were able to sleep in his parents fifth wheel in the driveway, I felt like a Bakersfield local. The best thing about staying there, besides free hot showers, was that his parents made fresh bread like everyday. Were talking cranberry bread, banana bread, pumpkin muffins the works, and it was all super tasty. Im glad its the ‘off-season’ because I couldn’t help myself.
I went into the weekend leading the SPYclocross series with Brandon Gritters not to far off, so my main goal was to have solid races and finish in front of him. Gareth and I hashed out a plan and went over possible ways the race could play out, and we were ready to roll. It’s pretty rad having a teammate to race with, but we were both missing Alan Danger who was feeling a little under the weather.
We got to the race Saturday early enough to see Gareths GF Dara race and all of our other friends, I rarely get to see everyone else race so it was nice to lounge around and get in some cheering.
The start of the race had a nice long straightaway and I was able to get the holeshot, which I relinquished before the course turned into the grass. Kyle Gritters was trying the brothers famous tactics and had a small gap in the first couple minutes of the race, but it didnt stick.
A big group of us kind loligagged around the first couple of laps, letting the course dictate our pace since it was super brutal. I tried to get on the front and keep the pace a little lower hoping G$ would be able to make the group after a crappy callup but it didnt look like it was going to happen. After a couple of laps there were 4 or 5 of us around, and I heard some noise on one of the faster descents and it appeared Brandon had made a small mistake, and got slightly gapped off of the group.
I stayed at the front for the next couple laps trying to keep Brandon away, and battled with Bouldervaire trying not to let him crash me out with his idiodic passes. With a few laps to go it was myself, Victor ‘Slasher’ Sheldon, Jason Siegle, and the french guy. Jason put in a good dig with a couple of laps left but we were all able to respond and the group stayed together.
Right before the last lap my cleat got really clogged in the soft dirt on the run-up and i was unable to clip in for the techy descent resulting in about a 10 second gap from the group of three. I kept my cool and was able to latch back on halfway through, and even pass Siegle on a short uphill right near the finish. There weren’t very many places to pass on the last half of the course so the order remained the same, Frenchy, Slasher, myself then Siegle. Longtime cross pro B. Prenzlow rode a solid ride to finish 5th, right in front of Brandon who ended up 6th. First day was a success.
Day two, on the other hand, was…interesting. I pretty much had the series locked up, all I had to do was put in a good ride which I knew I was capable off, I loved the course and it suites my style of racing. But the cross gods had other plans for me on Sunday. Gareth rocketed out of the start and put in one of the fastest laps of the day, and I was super comfortable riding in the front group letting him do his thing. But about halfway through the first lap, not too far after the pit, I heard a loud ‘pop’ on a very non technical turn in the grass section of the course. I was like what the heck was that, Slasher was behind me and I asked him if it was my tire, and he saw immediately and sad yeah rear tires flat. Tintsman offered me his bike, but I knew we didn’t have the same pedals so I had to ride a good way back to the course on the flat.
Dave Lawson had my other bike ready and Dara was there to catch the other bike, sweet! Perfect bike exchange and I was back racing about 50 seconds off of the leaders. I started riding as hard and smooth as I could to try to bridge backup, there was still a lot of racing to do. Gareth had fallen back to help me out and we connected at the end of the third lap, he pulled like a madman for me on the pavement, and I had to remind him we still have 6 laps to go so don’t kill yourself!
We were set man, G$ was riding strong and we were gonna take turns until we bridged back, we had the gap down to about 25 seconds which is totally doable with 6 laps remaining. I noticed that my ‘A’ bike was ready to go again with a fresh wheel and I planned on getting it the next time by the pit, I had passed Gareth and was leading up the climbs. Then on the steepest descent of the day my front tire rolled while riding all out, and I hit the deck pretty good. (Full disclosure – I was using a wheel that came on a demo bike where the tire was glued over a year ago by someone I don’t know, completely my fault for not having a better setup for my backup bike)
I had to run, who knows how far, back to the pit, where thankfully Jay had my other bike ready to roll, Dara caught my bike and we had another perfect exchange and I was back at it, probably DFL at this point. I was pretty f*cked the next couple of laps from the effort of chasing, crashing hard, then running, and really just tried to focus on not dropping out and just riding smooth. I was finally getting back into the groove and just as I passed D. Sheek (who was having gnarly back issues) my chain dropped. I had kept my cool through everything, but I let some words fly this time. Got the chain back on and continued riding along.
I managed to finish, so that was cool, but Brandon had a good race and got first, I think I ended up 8th, which put him in the lead for the overall. It was an awesome season of racing between us and I think we both had fun, Ol’ red beard even bought me some ice cream on Saturday night. We have some good talent around here and it keeps you honest, not to mention everyone (except 1 person) is a great sport and understands that its just Socal Cross and we all have family and jobs to go to on Monday.
For its first year the SPYclocross series rocked it, I am excited to see, and help, them grow cross in Southern California. I hope that it doubles in size next year, I know its possible. See everyone at Nationals