by Tim Westmore
The course at Howard Park, Ione was unaffected by the rain earlier in the week. There were a few muddy spots and the dust was gone. The big issue were the bumps, and many riders remarked on this during their pre-race reconnoitre. Still, racers enjoyed another sunny California day – this late in November, wet and muddy ’cross conditions remain allusive.
In the Women’s Category A race, Sarah Maile (Ventana Mountain Bikes) and Marja-Liisa Magnuson (Kinetic Cycles) jumped out to an early lead but were soon joined by leaders from the Women’s A35+ field, the latter making quick work of their 1-minute start deficit. The Women’s A35+ field did include a strong and confident Linda Elgart (Webcor/Alto Velo) but she dropped off before catching the top category women due to a flat tire. Those A35+ racers that did reach Maile and Magnuson were Joan Gregg (ProTek Abruzzo) and Lauren Liden (Michael David Winery Cycling Team/Delta Velo).
The group of four controlled their pace until Gregg suffered a mechanical failure. Liden had put herself in the right position at the right time to win the Women’s A35+ category, finishing shortly behind Maile and Magnuson. Although Maile appeared in control, a distraction at the finish almost cost the win; finish-line judges were changing the remaining lap counter and the number six briefly came into view. Maile’s sudden drop in pace allowed the closely placed Magnuson to make a last dash for the line only to be denied by not enough track remaining. Another wheel rotation may have seen Magnuson win the race. “I was looking for her [Magnuson’s] shadow on the straight,” said Maile, “and I didn’t see her. She actually came on the other side.”
About the bumpy course, Maile said that she did not handle them well. “The bumps slowed me down a lot. With my thumb injury I can’t grip strong enough so I was losing my bike under me and my handling [left] me.” Maile did praise the layout of the course but noted the lack of cycling at the park left the course in its current condition.
With Maile on the top step of the Women’s Category A podium and Magnuson in second, Amanda Seigle (Metromint Cycling) came home third with Stace Cooper (The Bicycle Business) in fourth. After Liden’s win in Category A35+, Gregg followed in second, Trudy Bjornsen (Davis Bike Club) was third, and the unfortunate Elgart finished fourth.
After the call-ups, Cody Kaiser (California Giant Berry Farms) found himself in the second row. Halfway into the first lap, however, the World Cup competitor had stamped his authority on the race. Kaiser easily stormed away from a strong field with the likes of Keith Hillier (Marco Pro-Strava), Robert Braun (Alta Alpina Cycling), Matt Obregon (Team Bicycles Plus/Sierra Nevada), Max Jenkins (Folsom Bikes), and Collin Samaan (The Bicycle Business), all former winners or top-three finishers from this year. Kaiser went on to solo for the win, “It was fun. I had a really good time. I always like racing at local races. Right from the start, I just rolled off the front and kept my pace. I tried to keep my lap times as consistent as possible.” Kaiser continued, “[The course was] really bumpy but I always tend to roll a bigger gear and [the bumps] didn’t seem to affect me too much.” Kaiser was grateful, thanked the race organisers, sponsors, other racers, and his team and will next prepare for the World Cup Koksijde, Belgium.
With Kaiser away early, the race appeared to be for second. However, midway through, Gannon Myall (CalGiant/Specialized) emerged with a sole lock on second. “After the stairs I was able to ride the turns a little faster than the other guys,” said Myall, “I put a little effort in with four to go, held that gap, and just built on it.” After this, Myall had no need to look over his shoulder and, although he finished close to 2 minutes adrift of Kaiser, there was a further gap of 39 seconds to third. Gannon joked that the racers behind him were “too young and let the old guy go.”
The final battle in the race then went for third place with Braun, Obregon, Hillier, Jenkins, and Samaan all in contention. “After [Kaiser and Myall] rode off the front, I just had to play the race smart,” said Hillier, “The wind started picking up so I [tried] to sit on these guys’ wheels. Everyone else was bunny hopping over the log; I can’t do that so I had to chase back on up to the next obstacle. I was able to catch them there and stay with them the rest of the lap. As long as I was on their wheel I could come around them and I just had to be first coming through that last corner.” Hillier’s strategy paid off as he did come around the final corner ahead and held off Obregon. Unlike his win at Lembi Park, with Hillier doing most of the work off the front, staying patient behind other racer’s wheel paid off for the third podium step. Obregon finished a close fourth with Samaan coming home fifth. Full results from these and all races for Round 6 of the 2011 Sacramento Cyclocross Series are available at http://www.bicyclingevents.com/SacCx/Results.asp.