Report & Photos: Return to the Classic: Turkey Trot ‘Cross

What do you think of when you hear the word “classic”? Led Zeppelin? Gone With the Wind? Hudson? Coke? If you’re a cyclocross enthusiast in Southern California you should think “Turkey Trot ‘Cross.”

This is the longest running cyclocross race in the region, having taken place over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend for nine straight years now. It’s as much of a tradition as turkey, football and shopping malls. It’s been around longer than the SoCalCross Prestige Series.

The most recent Turkey Trot ‘Cross returned once again to lovely Verdugo Park in Glendale, and served as Round 11 for the 2012-13 season. Perfect weather and reputable history combined to bring out an impressive gathering of riders, product exhibitors and spectators for this year’s event.

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Photos By Phil Beckman/PB Creative

The course, run in the opposite direction from years past, gave no advantages to any particular type of rider. Half featured deep grass with sweeping turns and long straights that favored power riders. The other half included some playground sand as well as a technical stretch in, over and around a small creek and its wooded banks. A little bit of mud here was a novel treat and sometimes aggravation for desert-dwelling SoCal natives.

Carolin Schiff (SDG/Felt/IRT/SPY) was able to deal with it all in typical dominating precision in the elite Women’s A race. Mostly precise, anyway. She took a rare, hard fall on lap two that gashed her right elbow, but the popular 26-year-old German was able to remain comfortably up front in what would be her last event on American soil this year. Visa restrictions have her returning home. But with nine wins in nine points-paying Prestige Series events so far — and a rider’s best nine events counting in the final point standings — she has already effectively locked up the season championship with six points races to go in the SoCalCross series.

Joining Schiff on the podium at Turkey Trot were Hannah Rae Finchamp (Cynergy Cycles), Amanda Schaper (Ritte CX Team), Maddy Melcher (The TEAM SoCalCross) and Holly Breck (SC Velo).

Schiff said her crash, caused by a concrete curb that washed out her front wheel while exiting the sand, put some doubt in the outcome. “It’s a bad one; deep. It was very bloody and at first I thought it’s broken. It really hurt during the race, but everything is OK.

“Now I have to leave. That’s so bad; it’s so nice here and I met so many nice people. I’m really sad because it was a lot of fun. But I will come back for sure. Thank you to Dorothy [Wong, the co-promoter of the series along with husband Jeff Herring]. She did a great job. This series is so cool,” Schiff concluded.

The first half hour of the elite Men’s A race was rather processional, until then-leader Elliott Reinecke (Velo Hangar) lost his front end on a fast, rooty, off-camber turn. Second wheel Jason Siegle (SDG/Felt/IRT) got caught up in the mayhem and suddenly the field showed some significant openings. Brandon Gritters (Rock n Road) drilled it and only two others were able to follow: longtime rival and current points leader Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific) and a surprising Under 23 rider, Tyler Schwartz (SDG/Felt/IRT).

These three worked together to build an insurmountable gap during the next two laps. With three laps to go Gritters made another hard effort that detonated this trio, and when Schwartz went down on the last lap, what had promised to be a compelling finish ended up being somewhat anticlimactic. Gritters celebrated alone, Prenzlow rolled across the timing strip some 23 seconds later, with Schwartz another seven seconds adrift. Siegle regrouped for fourth, Reinecke was just behind in fifth and John Bailey (Bailey Bikes) rounded out the podium in sixth.

According to Gritters, who was riding without the usual assistance of his vacationing brother/teammate Kyle, “I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel because I was sick earlier this week. I felt good once we started. I went kind of hard the first couple of laps to try and break up the group but we were all riding around together for three or four laps. When Reinecke dumped it I took advantage of the situation. Then it was just me and Brent and Tyler. I talked Tyler into working and he went to the front for a lap. When he came off I decided to hit it and see what would happen, and it broke us up. From there I just stayed on the gas, rode smooth and stayed on my bike. It worked out.”

“I needed a couple more sand pits,” runner-up Prenzlow said with a wry smile. “I had no problems, I’m just a little bit short on fitness to beat Brandon right now. I’ll keep working at it and see if I can get him one of these days again. I’ll try to finish the series strong. Anything can happen. I’ll keep trying.”

In the wake of his best elite finish yet, an impressive Schwartz stated, “I’m very excited with my performance. My start was horrible, but my bike handling was a little better today than it has been. I was just having fun while I could.”

For full results and more, visit the SoCalCross Prestige Series website.

Photos & Report By Phil Beckman/PB Creative

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