Race Report: NorCal Vs. SoCal Championships Race

With Saturdays event marking the end for the SoCal Prestige series, presented by SPY Optic, and the crowning of many series overall categories winners, Sunday would be the last CX race of the long eventful 2011-12 season. The event, like last year was the NorCal Vs. SoCal Championships Race, an event for bragging rights and a true California champion jersey to each of the categories winners.

The course had no surprise rains or gusty winds to challenge riders, the cool sunny B-town weather was perfect for the final day. It was a challenging, Euro style course but run in reverse from Saturday’s course with a few turns changed to make it flow and consistently test competitors. The start was a fast road straight into a sweeping left but entering back into the main expo area. This presented riders with the most difficult turns, climbs, and run-ups right away into their laps. As they hit the grass section on the backside of the course the elevation change was much more than the previous day and it really seemed to take its toll on riders later in each race.

With SoCal winning the overall the year before, NorCal definitely showed up this year with a vengeance and won a lot of the events. In the Masters Men’s events we saw NorCal take the top spots in 35, 45, and 55+. The single speed title went to NorCal and the recently crowned National Champion Aaron Bradford and teammate Scott Chapin (Rock Lobster) rode away from the competition. Ty Hathaway (Mudfoot) gave a good battle but the Lobster men seemed to have the gearing and course absolutely dialed. The consistency of the SoCal racers all day still had them leading into the elite events.

Elite Women
After some impressive racing from the strong NorCal Cal Giant Berries/Specialized team all day, Gina Hall took to the start in the elite women. Her competitors new it was going to be rough. Hall recently won the masters 45-49 national championships and definitely still has good fitness.

When the whistle blew, the women came sprinting down the road and it was hard to tell if it was Hall or Ellen Sherrill (Bike Station Aptos) who went into the dirt and came around the sweeping left turn first. The women lined up as the course had a nice groove into the next set of turns before the first steep punchy climb. Third wheel was Sofia Gomez Villafane (Ibis/buy-cell), Amanda Schaper (Ritte Racing), Christine Probert-Turner (The TEAM SoCalCross/Turner Bikes), ultra promoter and overall SoCal Series winner Dorothy Wong (The TEAM SoCalCross), and others.

Going into the climb Turner made a move passing Schaper and up front Sherrill was first to start the descent. By the time the women were leaving the main expo portion of the course on the dirt straight Sherrill and Hall were already starting to get some room on the field.

The women came back down the road charging into lap two. It was Hall with Sherrill and just a few seconds back it was Turner who moved past Gomez for third. The chase was already starting to break apart as Gomez, Schaper, and Wong were all more than five seconds apart and the rest of the women scattered behind them.

The next two laps had Sherrill led through the climbs then Hall opened a gap down through the descents. The two were riding strong and gaining space on Turner but she was still on a mission. Halfway through Hall moved ahead of Sherrill and from there continued to open space from her lead and second place.

Into the final lap the National Champion stayed strong and soloed in for another title jersey this season. Sherrill held on for 2nd and Turner the same in 3rd. The youngster Gomez showed a great race and rolled in to take 4th and Schaper just behind in 5th.

Elite Men
The field was stacked and all eyes of course were on another Cal Giant Berries/Specialized rider, as Andy Jacques-Maynes took the line. But to make things even more interesting B-town promoter Sam Ames and renowned announcer Dave Towle started calling to the spectators for a first lap cash prime. Ames offered up the first portion of the money and while officials were talking to racers the two were collecting aloud.

Just before the whistle blew there was $160 being announced for the fastest first lap. The men were off and Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific/Focus) took the hole shot with Jacques-Maynes second wheel. The entire field was hungry as riders where making their moves to get in a good position. As the riders came into the wall Prenzlow and Jacque-Maynes battled up the run-up where the Cal Giant rider took the lead. Prenzlow held on and the field chased behind. But by the end of the Fly-over, Jacques-Maynes moved ahead to begin his gap off the field.

Into the back part of the course, Jason Siegle (SDG/Felt p.b. iRT) passed Prenzlow and continued to push his pace in chase of the leader. Here the race for 1st and 2nd were decided as these two soloed an entire hour for the first two steps. The chase was the real battle as a large group of riders were together for most of the race.

With three to go hometown boy Gareth “Cru” Feldstein (Ritte Racing) and Prenzlow broke away from the group and started to work together to solidify their podium spots. Krishna Dole (Sheila Moon) stayed close chasing the two but could not get back on their wheels.

On the last lap Prenzlow led up through the back grass section then Feldstein passed onto the road. Prenzlow let him lead out the sprint and came around him hard but Feldstein pulled back and grabbed 3rd in a photo finish to beat him by .02 of a second. Prenzlow was 4th and Dole rode in for 5th.

It was a great finish to the cyclocross season and a fantastic event, all of which was definitely not possible without the hard work of Dorothy Wong, Sam Ames and all of the local volunteers and sponsors.  This event already has people talking for next year as SoCal has taken the title home again and NorCal is requesting a location that is further north.

Photo © Kenneth Hill / Light & Shadows Photography

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