Cyclocross San Diego Style
By Anton Petrov (SDG Felt p/b IRT)
Saturday was the first of the two SoCal Prestige Series races in San Diego. The race took place in the same venue as in the year’s past with mostly the same course. The main difference this year was that the race course actually entered the velodrome every lap. This was a cool addition as it brought in some variety but at the same time the track only has one relatively narrow entrance that was meant to accommodate riders coming in, leaving the track, as well as the flow of spectators. The San Diego course is notoriously rocky and hard on wheels and tires, and the torn up infield did not help.
This was the sixth race in the series, following a big UCI weekend, so I expected a few guys to skip it and take a break. Like most racers I prefer big and competitive fields, but unfortunately this race was a smaller one. There were a dozen of guys with only a few front runners like Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific) and Kyle Gritters (Rock N’ Road) on the start line. I also noticed Elliot Reinecke (Velo Hangar) as well Jonny Weir (Mudfoot-Shimano) – both had very strong results in the past and were capable of going very fast.
The start was relatively uneventful. I let Kyle take the lead and settled into the second spot. By the end of the first lap we had Kyle, Prenzlow, Elliot, Jonny and junior Doug Hall (The Team SoCal Cross) in the group. Everyone, including myself, was a little sketchy on the loose and gravely course. We were all making mistakes. At the beginning of the first lap Kyle got a flat and was gone from the group. A couple laps later, Prenlow flatted as we were rolling into the velodrome- pretty far from the pit.
As soon as Prenzlow started running, I realized that this race could actually be mine. The rest of us were still together with Jonny leading the charge. Being a superb mountain biker, he was exceptionally smooth through the technical parts but we were just not going fast enough on the straightaways. Normally, I would be content riding around in a group for a while as it makes the race more interesting, but even with the massive deficit; both Prenzlow and Kyle could have made their way back to us. I did not want that to happen so I got to the front and turned it up a notch. I went hard up every rise and straightaway and tried to stay composed through the corners and rocks. On more than one occasion I noticed the guys behind me fumble and pretty soon I had a nice gap.
The rest of the race I rode by myself, trying to keep my heart rate high and keeping as big of a gap as possible to the guys behind me. Elliot, Jonny and Doug worked together for a while but eventually they broke apart leaving Elliot 15-20 seconds behind me with Jonny and Doug trailing further back. With four laps to go I was pretty confident that I had it, but I also noticed BP charging through the field putting in faster laps than me. So I kept the pressure on and tried to keep my concentration and stay out of trouble. I didn’t relax until the bell lap and finished off the race surprisingly clean with only a few minor blunders and no mechanical problems. Elliot rolled in behind me with Prenzlow making his way back up to third. It was a bittersweet victory with the main guys either absent or having technical difficulties but I I’ll take it.