Cyclocross in Southern California: A Look From the Outside In, Part 3
by Brian Co
CAMARILLO, CALIFORNIA – I always have a hard time driving through LA from San Diego to get up north. This weekend, that’s exactly what I did. The drive can either be done in under two hours or over four depending on traffic. I had the luck of experiencing both. A “quick” jaunt up and an agonizing drive back. The SCPS #3-Pacifica Crossfest was held in Camarillo. A “lite” version from the previous and upcoming weekends action. There were no long lines to registration or the porta potties, smaller fields, plenty of timing chips and everything was running on time. The race was held at Casa Pacifica. A rehab facility for people with variety of needs yet there were no ex-pro-cyclist sightings.
The race was mainly flat with a sand section, small run up, BMX section and most people’s favorite a ride through a barn. Being far away from the urban jungle that is LA or the cookie-cutter Orange County, the vibe was a very down home, “yee ha” kind of feel. Nestled in an agricultural farming hotspot filled with many migrant workers doing morning calisthenics, there were not many distractions. It was a place that made you do a double take at a hipster’s tight jeans as they were a long way from any place that serves PBR.
Studies have shown that whenever there are less people around, you are more likely to receive help from a stranger. If your car breaks down on a sleepy country road someone might pull over to help you out. But If you are on the 405, forget it. That mentality worked the same way at the race.
I was in the parking lot doing my pre race rituals. Kit, beach towel, lenses, Skratch mix. All good to go. A guy next to me says “Hey if you need anything from my van, let me know.” We were strangers, but today, comrades. I’ve never seen that at a road or mountain bike race. This is a true and building sense of community in ’cross that makes the draw that much more appealing.
At the start line, I was a bit nervous as I was in a new and faster category. I eyeballed the more seasoned riders and my buddy Dave was giving me last second tips on the course. The start was fast, flat and paved. I started in the big ring and after the first five leaders were called up, like an encouraging dad he yelled “gogogogogogo!” I got a good spot, second row and was ready. The first part of the race, I was holding seventh wheel and feeling good, although on the slick grass, my rear wheel was already pogo-ing up and down. 50psi for a rider my height and weight is still too much on clinchers and I was cursing myself at another fixable mistake. Through the first sand pit to run up section I got forced on the outside, lost control and had to put my foot down. I got passed by a few people and realized I made the mistake of not letting a small gap open up before the section.
My skills need major work. I am realizing in addition to fitness, it’s a lot about the lines I take and the momentum that I carry. On the brainless flat straight sections I was bridging up to and passing guys but anywhere else it was struggling. I finished 15th but I am learning so much. I need to trust my gear and learn to really lay things out when I need to.
It’s my first clean finish of the year with no flats or crashes and only my rookie skill set to rely on. Looking at the real fast guys, the same laws of physics apply to them as it does to me (unless you’re a Page or Powers). Next week is the big UCI event and I may have to invest in some race wheels. I love ’cross and the community. I’m all in and the Kool-Aid tastes pretty good.
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