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!