by Brian Co
Southern California. A mixture of all things different. Some good and some just plain weird. The thing about this place is that quite a few people who live in the areas of Los Angeles, Orange Country or San Diego were from someplace else. As a result the residents have the luxury and ability to reinvent Southern California as anything they want it to be. The constant is fad and the tradition is change. I was born in California and made the move from northern California to southern California some years ago. To some, it might as well be a different country.
Where does cyclocross fit in? This is a scene of contradiction. Southern California is a big mixture of organic sustainable food trucks that a few years ago used to be cheap greasy Mexican food trucks and lifted vehicles with fake bullet hole stickers and snow tires parked next to a Prius. It fits wherever the people want it to fit. This is the wild west of the sport. Anything goes. We have a race series of sixteen races that covers the region. Thrown in are some UCI races for ’cross cred and L.A. is hosting the single speed cyclocross world championships or SSCXWC.
While we don’t have the tradition or roots that the East Coast, Portland or Belgium, for that matter, has, we have heart, the interest and definitely the talent. Where else can you ride and race your bike year round in sunny skies? The competitors are tough and I will try to mix it up with them this season. This will be my first foray into an entire season of racing ’cross. Coming from racing a shortened road season, I’m skeptical of how I’ll do.
Sunday was the first race of the season in Costa Mesa, Orange County. A land filled with expensive gas, cars that love it and oblivious soccer moms that drive them. Dubbed as “CX in the OC,” this race had it all. It was the largest turnout I’ve seen too. The organizers were working out the kinks as the logistics were a lot to handle.
My race was running late but because registration took a while, I didn’t have much time to do a proper warm up. I also could not preride the course. Two big kinks I need to work on are being meticulous about tire pressure and making sure I’m using the right tread. I lacked attention to both today and ended up paying for it.
Staging was set and the race was off. The race had it all. Twisty turns on soft grass, sand pit, hard dirt with whoops, a run up and my favorite, the barriers. I tried to stay in contact with the leaders but had a terrible start. When we hit the sand pit, two guys collided in front of me and I lost all my momentum. I spent the rest of the time chasing and avoided getting passed. I tried not to get complacent and forced myself to pass someone every lap through the barriers which I stuck with.
The weather was a toasty mid 80’s. A hell for purists who love the cold. Kind of like surfers who swear by wetsuits and loathe Hawaii and tropical water. On the last lap, I was still in the top 12 and was ready to turn it on but washed out on a sharp corner, couldn’t correct and landed knee and left brake lever down on the dirt. Five chasers passed me and I couldn’t reel anyone back in. Tire pressure and tread, you will never be ignored again. I felt like Tom Hanks not paying attention to that damn volleyball.
Racing in SoCal lived up to the hype. It had it all. Hipsters with skinny jeans, pencil ’stache’s and old skool caps flipped up to bros with sleeve tats and Tapout wife beaters, families with tykes on bikes and the future, plenty of juniors tearing it up. They had the obligatory Hollywood celebrity turnout and in this case it was Jason Segel of How I Met Your Mother Fame as well as a fan of cyclocross. Cowbells rang true and dudes on bullhorns yelled encouragement and insults to racers. A sensory overload or a distraction from the suffering.
A fantastic day that set the bar high for the rest of the season. At night we celebrated at our under ground shop Velo Hangar of Solana Beach complete with a taco bar, kegs of IPA and a live band.
Next week, I head into the belly of the beast as the series goes into downtown Los Angeles. I have no idea how I finished today but I am learning a lot and more importantly having fun. After all isn’t that the common denominator no matter where you ride?