Thanks Jeff Church for the video!
I’ve raced Brentwood Grand Prix since 2010, and the promoters have used the current course for the past 2 years. This is one of my favorite venues of the season. We raced Manhattan Beach Grand Prix last month; I am always so nervous weeks leading up to the race. I think it’s mostly the nature of the course that frightens me, but that is not the case with Brentwood; I love the course! While nervous, I was equally excited to race.
There was a great turnout of local fast girls for this event, which was also the SCNCA Elite State Crit Championships. SCVelo/Empower Coaching, Revolution, Helens Cycles and LaGrange were all well represented. The line-up included Laura Van Gilder’s strong lead out girl Kirsten LaSasso and Tibco’s young and very talented Alexis Ryan, who is preparing to race the Junior World Championships in Austria. Alexis is both the road race and criterium 17-18 year old National Champion.
I was nervous on the start line, but as soon as the whistle blew I was confident in my teams’ ability to win the race. We are always committed to riding for each other. The race started aggressively, with numerous riders attacking or going for the many primes offered by the announcer. We were not going to go for anything but the win, so we followed these moves waiting for the final lap. I tried to get in a couple of moves while teammate Joy McCulloch was attacking, making sure I wasn’t spending too many matches. We knew it would come down to a field sprint; there were solo riders dragging the field up to every move that had any potential of sticking.
Kristin LaSasso (Wheel Builder) made the race fast, and the speed just kept cranking up until it was strung out with 3 laps to go. Bonnie Breese (SCVelo) , Kristen LaSasso (Wheel Builder) and Emily Georgeson (Helen’s) were up the road in a move going into the last lap. The trio dangled for a bit, but the peloton wouldn’t let them gain any traction. On the backside of the 6-turn lap our team went into “let’s get it done” mode.
I was following Joy to the front, hoping that Shelby Reynolds was on my wheel or near me. Our plan was to have Michelle Ignash wind up the lead out, followed by NRC-alum Brenda Lyons. Joy would bring Shelby and me up the kicker-hill on the last turn, and onto the finishing straight away. Here, I would open up my sprint and bring Shelby with me so she could come around to go for it.
As we caught the last lap break, Joy rolled up to Emily, guiding her to a steady pace and slowly starting to ramp it up. Then BOOM, SCVelo came up on our left to over take us, ‘stay Calm Suzanne’, is what I was thinking, ‘Trust the team!!!’ Then came Brenda, dropping Shelby on my wheel and going straight in front of Joy. She started drilling it into the right hand turn on the backside; we all took the turn on the inside of SCVelo as they moved left and gave us a clean path. All four of us squeaked through, then Brenda took off and got Joy through the left hand turn; it was Joy’s turn. I yelled at Joy to GO! Coming into the last turn I could see the finish line (barely), and decided I needed to bust a move NOW, hoping I could hold on. I felt the chasers closing in and just kept telling myself to go and not give up. I grabbed my last gear and kept going, throwing my bike at the line. When I looked to my right and saw Shelby I was so excited I could not believe we went 1-2! We talked about that before the race but it’s not easy to do at a Championship race!
To say the least, I was overjoyed with how our team performed. Being able to pull it off after an awesome display of teamwork, I was relieved to hold on for the win!!!
Winning any championship event is really special because there are many people who never win even one. I’ve been very fortunate to have won my fair share. I am extremely grateful for my teammates and sponsors who have made it possible for me to race my bike all these years, and for all of the awesome past and present teammates from whom I’ve learned so much.
I would like to dedicate this win to my former teammate Nicole Reinhart who died in a bicycle race September 17th 2000 in Boston. She was only 24 years old and an amazing person.
Backyard Jam-Sesh: Brentwood Grand Prix
By Jenna ‘Jammer’ Kowalski
Sunday, August 7th, 2011, watching my teammates from the sidelines of a race called the Brentwood Grand Prix also known as the California State Criterium Championships. In my own backyard, but, here I am on the wrong side of the barriers, with a soon to be diagnosed case of strep throat. Always a frustrating feeling, when so badly you want to be out there pedaling in circles with everybody else. A fun race to watch, but always a better race to race.
Fast forward to this year: Sunday, August 5th 2012. Finally, I would have my first chance to contest Brentwood GP, a course favored by many locals for its technicality. However, after a long month of training for climbing hills in the altitude, I realized that I had not done one single sprint since the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix. Thus, I was a little nervous that my legs would be lacking the spunk needed for 55 minutes of sprinting out of corners.
With the course conveniently located in my backyard, my teammate Lauren and I decided to have our daily espresso at the Coral Tree Cafe and watch the mid-morning men’s races to get in the proper spirit. The double Americano certainly did the trick and kept me buzzing for the next four hours. We then opted to ditch our trainers for a warm-up spin down the coast to Venice, to take in the madness of a Sunday at the beach. After a pit stop at home to change jerseys and swap on race wheels, we jammed over to the course just in the nick of time.
As we rolled up to the start line, I was flattered to receive a call-up to join some of the established local racers. After a couple high-fives and fist pounds, we got the countdown to go. The race was animated from the beginning, and a few moves lighted up the first couple laps of the race. The goals for the day were to either get Lauren in a break, or set me up for the field sprint. So, while it was important for me to remain attentive as a teammate to a team of two in a field dominated by team Helens and InCycle, I sat comfortably in the front, following wheels and making sure to cover anything that Lauren could not.
Between Helens, InCycle, LaGrange, Revolution and solo strong woman Kristin LaSasso, there were a number of fliers that had some serious potential, but the combination of riders in each move was not enough to keep the field from letting anything go. I was pretty certain the race was going to come down to a field sprint, so I just sat tight, at one point finding myself well placed for a prime, thus taking the opportunity to jump around the two riders who set me up perfectly.
After a few last ditch efforts from riders to get off the front, the peloton seemed content for a field sprint with two laps to go. I must admit I was a little lax in setting myself up for the finish; a solid 10 wheels back, I kept thinking ‘it’s a long finish, it’s a long finish.’ Well, l find myself still wishing it was a little bit longer. The last half lap of crits are always a bit foggy in my memory. From what I do remember, riders were single-file going up the backside chicane. I wanted to move up but was hesitant to jump around everyone so early. I hesitate. I see a flag. And I know I have to go, now. I jump around a few riders and the InCycle lead-out train, my head screaming ‘YOU CAN WIN THIS! YOU CAN WIN THIS!’ I see riders in black, I see the finish line, weirdly wishing it was just a few feet further.’ I’m not going to make it in time and I know it. It feels close, and I throw myself through the line, but it’s not quite enough to edge into the top three, as I hear the excited hollers of well deserved winner Suze Sonye, followed by teammate Shelby Reynolds and Tibco’s Junior National Champion, Alexis Ryan.
I did make it onto the podium for the California State Championship, as Team Helen’s Shelby Reynolds is registered in Texas, however, it wasn’t for the coveted Bear jersey I had hoped for. But, there is always next year (third time’s a charm!?), and as my first California State Criterium Championship race, I am pleased with a top five. Just as well, I am thrilled for the podium finishers – and the entire peloton for that matter, for making for a fun and safe race to cap off the end of my 2012 SoCal road racing season. Many thanks to all of the supporters, sponsors, media and everyone else that makes these events possible! Until next year!
The Brentwood Grand Prix came on August 5 over 2,000 spectators watched the race between 7 AM and 4 PM . The 2.3 –mile course will begin in front of the Kaufman Library and circle the median from Burlingame to Gorham in Brentwood. The Southern California Nevada Cycling Association has chosen The Brentwood Grand Prix as the 2012 SCNCA Elite Criterium Championship and racers will be competing for the honor of wearing the coveted “Bear Jersey”.
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I got to the race super late; I had to rush because I had 30 minutes to kit up and register Brentwood Grand Prix. It was great having my Dad and girlfriend there to pin numbers, pump tires, fill bottles, etc.
Rolling up to the start I knew I was going to have a hard first 5 to 10 laps as my legs needed to warm up, so I was stoked to get called to the front line and avoid the scramble to move up with the hard corners on course. Through the first 15-20 minutes I was just trying to get on even terms with the other riders as I got moving.
Then the break went. I saw Eric Marcotte and Alex Darville moving around the outside through the start finish stretch, and tagged onto that train of riders as it went full gas through turn one. There was a small gap, and I decided it was worth it to do a little work since I wasn’t fully opened up yet. Over the next 5 laps or so most of the break worked hard, and the gap seemed to solidify. The only thing missing was that there were no Monster Media riders so it worried me to the point that I didn’t want to be putting everything into my pulls.
Mid-race I knew that the break would stay and started thinking of who was pulling the hardest (Marcotte & Darville) and who was sitting on conserving, which was only 1 guy every now and then, but a couple of guys sitting-on were just about to get popped.
A bit later, Marcotte grabbed a prime and caused a separation that I knew I needed to jump across or else he could roll away on his own. Then there was the $800 prime that Sandoval went for and gave Sandoval, Marcotte, and me the final selection. At first Sandoval had some skipped pulls in the last laps but then contributed.
I was pretty happy being up against those 2 guys in a sprint. I didn’t think I would need to worry about Sandoval with how he sprinted for the previous prime, but I knew I would have some trouble with Marcotte, especially if he went on the attack in the last 1.5 to 2 laps.
It turned out that he didn’t attack, and I found myself in the 3rd position for the last lap as we caught feild. It worried me that I might lose the other guys through traffic, but it was pretty clean through the bottom corners.
In the finish, Sandoval went long, trying to lose Marcotte and me in the field. Then Marcotte went with at least 300m or more into the head wind and I was able to wait and sprint as we got into the last 150m or so. Marcotte had a second kick as I went, and it made me really dig to stay at full gas all the way to the line.
The 45+ race had a solid field with three teams that had numbers: Spy Blue, Breakaway For Cancer and BBI. A notable rider, Mark Noble, was flying solo. I stayed at the front with the help of my teammates, John Hatchitt and Seth Davison. I followed moves and mainly watched Rich Meeker suck up nearly every preem this side of the Pacos. There was a promising move with Big Orange’s Steve Klasna, BFC’s Rich Meeker and Spy’s Alan Flores when the three of us rolled off the front for a few laps. This mainly served as a body blow to the field. Later on, one of the preems was decidedly won by Mark Noble causing the field to chase for half of a lap until we caught him. That’s when Mr. Vee Rich Meeker decided to fly the coop. Rich got a solid gap on the field, then the BBI boys tried to close it down. I was monitoring their progress and I decided it was do or die, so I launched out of the field alone up to Rich. From there we were all in; two men committed to the winning move. It was a close call for the first few laps, but with the BFC and Spy Boy’s dashing the hopes of the chasers, we were able to build on our gap. With three laps to go, I was getting tired, and Rich was doing what a multi-national champion can do; ride! Props to Rich, as he was the strong man in our tandem effort. With half of a lap to go, I was in the front going through the last technical dog leg turn, a rounding right, then a tight right, and the final left-hand turn on to the start finish straight. As we were going through this critical section, I heard the horrible noise of bike parts grinding on the pavement. I knew Rich had crashed and in the nasty business of bike racing, I was now the default winner. So I put my head down and flew to the finish solo. Every dog has their day, and today was mine. Some twenty seconds later, Craig Miller from BBI and Mark Noble finished up 2nd and 3rd respectively. Thx…Alan Flores
All photos ©Greg de Guzman for personal use only. For commercial use or prints, please contact: Cycling Illustrated
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All photos ©Hiromi Fujita for personal use only. For commercial use or prints, please contact: Cycling Illustrated