It’s not often that road race tactics come into play at UCI cyclocross events, but then again, it’s not often that UCI events take place in Southern California. As is the norm for CX in this region, conditions at CXLA were warm, dry, flat and fast.
As in, those-funky-new-aero-road-helmets-might-come-in-handy-today fast. As in, deep-dish- wheels-could-actually-make-sense-here fast. Vin Diesel would have appreciated the racing taking place a stone’s throw from Hollywood, because it was fast and furious.
In the Elite Men’s main event, under a phalanx of stage lighting on a lovely Saturday evening, Ryan Trebon (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com) was able to hold off Logan Owen (California Giant/Specialized) for the victory in a sprint that included Danny Summerhill (K-Edge/Felt), Tim Johnson (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com), Ben Berden (Raleigh-Clement) and Adam Craig (Giant Factory Off-Road Team).
Words & Images By Philip Beckman/PB Creative
For much of the nine-lap race, a peloton — not a word used often in CX — comprising most of the field, circulated nose-to-tail at speeds that would have impressed the CHP. By the halfway mark the torrid pace began to thin the herd, but 13 were still together at the front as the final-lap bell rang. Trebon then went to the sharp end and drilled it.
As he explained the bold move, “It was such a fast race and we had a huge group for most of it, so I just tried to sit and wait until the end. I led the whole last lap. I wanted to stay first wheel, to keep the pace super high and make sure I was the first one onto the final straight. I’m not the fastest sprinter, but I am a strong sprinter when there are heavy legs. I slowed the pace down in the tight section near the finish and then just punched it really hard. Once I got up to speed I just hoped it was enough.”
Johnson, who was nipped at the line by Summerhill to be pushed into fourth, echoed Trebon’s thoughts: “It was the fastest, biggest group we’ve had all year. It’s something we’re not used to. It was really hard to get a gap. The only thing you could hope for is the group would get split up because of a crash or a dab or something, but it was just so fast the whole time. Ryan and I both made a couple digs to try and get some separation but it was obvious that it wasn’t going to work.”
The 18-year-old Owen was all smiles after his second-place finish. As this rising star from Bremerton, Washington, put it, “This was definitely one of my best finishes — it’s my first UCI podium, with all the best guys here except [Jeremy] Powers. It’s very pleasing to be able to do this on this level, especially after just coming back from a World Cup in Belgium. I flew straight here and then did a lot of training with my coach over the last three days getting ready for Nationals, so I wasn’t expecting to do this well.”
Trebon’s triumph secured the Cross After Dark Series crown, moving him just ahead of defending champ Berden, who ended up in fifth for the night. Johnson rounded out the top three.
Bathed in bright, warm sunshine the next day, Berden got a measure of revenge. The Belgian followed wheels near the front of another large group until the halfway mark, when teammate Jamie Driscoll — seventh the night before — made things interesting. Driscoll launched an attack that stuck for two laps, gaining a maximum of roughly ten seconds. The pack began to fragment, with a group of three getting away to chase Driscoll. A lap later, Berden, Johnson and Summerhill made it four at the front with two to go, some 20 seconds ahead of the second group.
Driscoll led out of the final turn, but Berden came from third wheel and timed the line superbly to win by a whisker over his teammate to give Raleigh-Clement the top two steps on the podium. Johnson topped Summerhill for third. Twenty-six seconds later, Craig narrowly edged teammate Carl Decker to round out the podium.
When asked if his mid-race move was planned, Driscoll responded, “We had discussed that I was going to race aggressively and it just worked out really well. I thought maybe I would attack and the whole group would bring me back but it worked out perfect that only a few guys came back up. I was surprised at how much it paid off. Usually you try that and you waste a bunch of bullets and you don’t have anything left. But I think maybe with the fitness I have right now for good, steady efforts instead of just punchy stuff, I was able to put people on the defensive a without putting myself at a loss.”
Everything certainly fell into place for Berden. “We had a really good, tactical race to go 1-2 at the finish,” he said. “My teammate attacked and got a gap, and Johnson and Summerhill closed it while I was sitting on their wheels to keep my strength up. Jamie pulled the last lap because I’m really fast at the finish line, especially when I’m fresh. We have a really good team and awesome bikes and tires; we have all our stuff dialed in.”
Luna Pro Team’s Katerina Nash was unstoppable all weekend in Los Angeles, winning Saturday night as well as Sunday. In both five-lap races she appeared to be toying with the relatively small field until the halfway point, then jumped away to build a comfortable gap in a matter of moments.
This multi-time Olympian insisted that it was not as easy as it looked. “This is a really fast course, so I knew it was going to be hard to get away. Once I did I was like, ‘I really have to go now.’ It was a hard push all the way until the end. It’s game on and try to keep the gap so I had to put the hammer down. It’s great to be racing here in downtown L.A. It was a lot of fun. We drove from Northern California, took three days along the coast and had a great time. It’s been a fun trip.”
Nash clinched the Cross After Dark Series title as well, with Nicole Duke (Marin/Spy) second and Courtenay McFadden (Bicycle Blue Book/HRS/Rock Lobster) third.
Rachel Lloyd (California Giant Berries/Specialized) and Duke traded second and third over the weekend, both of them well ahead of the rest both times out. Lloyd had a better sprint on Saturday night, while Duke came out ahead on Sunday.
For Lloyd, CXLA was a gratifying return to big-league bike racing. “I haven’t raced at this level for four years, since the 2009 Cyclocross World Championships in The Netherlands,” she stated. “I’ve got two kids now. My twin sister started racing ‘cross up in Washington, so that kind of inspired me to start again, to support her in her racing. Then before you know it I was doing well in local races and I just wanted to see where it could go. My husband’s been really supportive, and I called up Anthony at Cal Giant and he was very excited to hear back from me; he told me to hop aboard. I’m really grateful to Anthony and SRAM and Zipp for hooking me up and helping me out.”
Junior Men had the opportunity to gather UCI points at CXLA too, and Maxx Chance (Clif Bar Development Team) made the most of it. He topped a seven-rider sprint on Saturday night and then came from way behind after a first-lap spill to win again on Sunday.
This event was produced by the SoCalCross Prestige Series crew, and it was jam-packed with cycling and community activities as well as a full program of CX racing for riders of all levels. Next weekend the series heads north to Bakersfield for another double-header at Hart Park as the season draws to a close.
To stay fully informed of all the SoCalCross PRESTIGE SERIES activities, visit SoCalCross.org.
Full Cyclocross Schedule on SoCalCycling.com