Socal Cross Prestige Series OC Cyclofest
By: Jen Whalen – Ritte Women’s Cycling Team
I like to say that, when you are close to someone, you can egg one another on to up the ante in each other’s lives. What happened yesterday is a great example of just that. Kelli Samuelson and I, two athletes on the highly anticipated 2013 Ritte Women’s Cycling Team had just finished a long and serious road racing season. We were itching to have some good ol’ fashioned, rough n’ tumbling fun on the bike. We had to look no further than the Socal Cross Prestige Race Series.
Around 1pm it 90 degrees and bone dry (for those that drowned in freezing mud at Gloucester last weekend). We lined up to start the Women’s B Race of Cyclofest. Both being primarily road racers, and virgins to California CX, we relished in the delight of doing something spontaneous, dirty, and animalistic. Outfitted with Ritte cross bike perfection, we were ready to rip out of the shoot gate and ride our carbon horses home.
TWEEEEET! Kelli and I jumped for the hole shot and ended up 2nd and 3rd in line. The course started off with a technical dirt single-track simulation that included a deep pit of loose sand to force your way through, and hard packed, cliff-like drop-offs. It was a dry roller coaster that kept my heart in my throat. I heard Kelli yell at me from behind, in an angry mom voice, “GO JEN!” as I hesitantly tapped my brakes on one of the steep parts like a pussy. Her having more single-track experience than I, she decided to take the lead and carve out the most desirable path. We passed the leader mid-first lap, and were widening a healthy gap between us and the rest of the racers. I could feel our souls and bodies unite as one in a flying beastlike form domineering the course. Eating. It. Up.
On the 2nd lap, Kelli got a flat. A helpful spectator hooked her up with a tubular wheel, and she was on her way to catch back up to me, when the wheel exploded (ie came unglued) and sent her flying into the unforgivingly hard dirt heaps. I knew then it would be my mission to win this race for us. On that note, let me remind you here that we don’t take cross seriously. “We just do it for FUN in the off-season.”
The second half of the course was a flat grass maze that included a set of barriers that were adorably stenciled with some type of bird. CUTENESS! This was where I was able to gain a lot of time on the other racers, due to helpful end-of-road-season fitness remnants. With 2 laps to go, I had a 20 sec lead on 2nd place, and I was trying to sustain my pace. That’s when I caught myself daydreaming and when I snapped to, I was heading straight for a stake. My handlebars got caught up in the ribbon, and I finally untangled myself from the dorky mess. I hope someone got photos of that. Golden moments like those need to be documented and remembered.
I powered through the last lap and won with a 19 sec lead. Cannot wait for the next cross race, so I can get a right bloody knee so that the left bloody knee isn’t so lonely. Thank you Dorothy Wong and everyone at SoCal Cross. That was just what we needed.