U.S. CUP West Series Finishes On a High Note

To paraphrase those immortal words of announcing legend Jim McKay at the opening of that iconic television anthology “ABC’s Wide World of Sports,” this year’s Big Bear Shootout represented the “thrill of victory and the agony of the feet.” Or something like that.

We’re talking a minimum of 7000 feet of agony, give or take one everlasting climb or another screaming, rocky, loose descent. The seventh and final event of the 2013 Kenda U.S. Cup West Series twisted its way into the San Bernardino Mountains the first weekend of June for the Big Bear Shootout. It was the most elevation the troops had experienced all season. Do not adjust your set — those riders’ faces really are blue.

Images by Phil Beckman/PB Creative

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Illustrating “home court advantage” in living color, Casey Williams (Whole Athlete/Specialized) dominated the Pro Men’s field for his second victory of the series. Williams has lived and trained here for his entire 19 years, so his oxygen uptake efficiency and course familiarity were almost unfair advantages.

Williams topped the first interminable ascent in the company of Joel Titius (SoCal Endurance) and Miguel Valadez (Bear Valley Bikes). These three stayed together along the high ridge road 2N10 to Grandview Point, where the decisive move was made.

“We crested at Grandview and when I popped out of the singletrack back onto the road I just put my head down and went,” said Williams. The hometown hero railed the fast, often blind downhill corners as if there were in his backyard, and was gone. Williams’ margin grew to some four minutes by the end of the 24-mile race. He’s now off for an extended period of overseas racing.

The battle went to Williams, but Charles Jenkins (KHS/WAR/Cytomax) won the war. Jenkins and teammate Sean Donovan clawed back to catch and pass Titius and Valadez for second and third. It was worth the effort, because when the final Pro Men point standings were spit from the computer — the best five out of seven finishes are counted, with the finals counting for 50 percent more points than the others — Jenkins had grabbed the title by just 30 points over Williams: 271 to 241.

According to Jenkins, “Staying consistent was the key for me this year, just not giving up even when I was gassed or dropped. It really paid off today when most of the field rode away from me on the first climb. I just had to put my head down, recover and hit it again. It worked, along with some super-human pacing by my teammate Sean.”

As has been the case for the bulk of the season, Larissa Fitchett (Lost Coast Brewery) and Deyanira Guerrero (Veloz/Ellsworth), were in the Pro Women’s spotlight. And once again, Fitchett emerged with the day’s laurels as well as the class championship.

The Big Bear Shootout also served as round two of the 2013 USA Cycling Pro Ultra Endurance Tour. The 52-year-young David “Tinker” Juarez is another rider who knows every nook and cranny around these parts. The Sho-Air/Cannondale legend finished his 50-miler in a time of 3:50:43.95, the best in Open Men.

Keeping him relatively honest was Chris Jackson (Castex/Felt), making a rare U.S. Cup appearance. The Burbank resident (yes, also home to ABC Studios; oh snap!) kept up an eye-opening pace to cross the line less than two minutes behind Juarez.

With first-round winner Monique “Pua” Mata competing with the majority of her Sho-Air/Cannondale team in Alabama, it was Jessica Cerra (Focus Bikes) stepping up for the Open Women’s victory. Bend, Oregon’s, Serena Gordon (All-Access Racing) was runner-up.

For full results and more, visit the US Cup website.

Words and images by Phil Beckman/PB Creative

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