by Geoff Gunderson, Photos by Andrew Yee
Golden Gate Park’s history reaches back to the 1870′s, and people have been riding bicycles there nearly its whole existence. Cyclocross racing in Golden Gate Park reaches back to at least the 1970′s. There was a race here just one week before the very first Cyclocross National Championships (held in Berkeley’s Tilden Park) in 1975!
This year’s round four of the Bay Area Super Prestige series in Golden Gate Park evokes a sense of the history of cyclocross in our area. It is the most well attended cyclocross event in Northern California, with 561 registered entrants Sunday. Field sizes swell for this race, as the beautiful scenery, lakes, and other attractions in the park make it an easy day trip for the family. Throw in sunny skies and seventy degree weather, bbq’s and beverages and it’s no wonder that this event invites not only tons of racers and families, but also crowds of fans just coming out for the party. To lend credence to the lineage of cross racing in the park, there were numerous legend sightings, including Jim Gentes (1975 Jr. National CX Champ, and inventor of Giro Helmets), racing twice; Don Myrah, getting a superb 10th in the 35+ A’s, and even legendary frame-builder Otis Guy out there tearing it up in the 55+’s. Gary Fisher was also in attendance, taking the day off from racing (he raced the ’07 event) and watching from the sidelines in his unmistakable stylish threads.
The now “classic” GGP layout has varied only just a bit in the five years of the BASP series visits (plus one USGP race) but the long, serpentine course keeps the DNA of previous incarnations. The Pilarcitos Cyclesports crew used the available terrain to create a track that flows with the landscape. The racing benefited from some heavy rain a few days prior as the sandy soil packed down a bit and offered up ample traction and speed. Throughout the day the course stayed together far better than it has in years past, encouraging hard, aggressive riding. Not overly technical, the circuit does have several single and double track sections that put positioning at a premium and forced you to burn that match wisely trying to get by someone. Bring your legs and lungs – this race alone is worth the trip, one of the funnest there is even if you don’t care about the peripherals available in GGP. That’s what makes it the race that all others in the area are compared to.
With the fast conditions and perfect racing weather the big guns were firing from the word go, or the whistle rather. In the master’s fields, which are as competitive as the Elites, we got treated to the closest finishes of the day. In the Sr. Circuit (35+ A men), National Champion James Coats (Morgan Stanley / Specialized), his teammate Chris D’Alusio, and Rich Maile (Sacramento CX) got a bit of separation and finished in that order with D’Alusio five seconds back and Maile another three. Steve Reaney (CalGiant / Specialized) went two-up with Tim Thompson (Blackmarket Racing) for fourth place honors, 42 seconds back. Rachel Lloyd (CalGiant / Specialized), at home for the weekend, tuned up her form for the National Championships, racing with the Master A 35+ men, and finished 14th in the field of 47 racers, just two minutes off Coats’ time.
In the Really Sr. Circuit, only eighteen seconds separated first through fifth as David Schaefer (Peninsula Velo) improved on his round three second place by snapping a win off at the expense of a hard charging Norm Kreiss (CalGiant/ Specialized) and series leader Brett Lambert (HRS / Rocklobster). Just a few seconds back Thomas Feix (Peninsula Velo) secured a forth place finish in front of Bob Downs (Planet Bike).
The Woman’s A field featured one hell of a race; it started out fast, and stayed that way. A group containing Sarah Kerlin (HRS / Rocklobster), Kathleen Hannon (Hunter / Freewheel), Karen Brems (Webcor) and series leader Sarah Bamberger (Le Sports Basement) tore off the front of the race and began to put distance into nearly everyone. Sarah shot off and held solo court for a majority of the race for a very convincing win. Kathleen Hannon then shot out of her chase group, and put in one of the fine performances of her career. Behind her, Bamberger and Brems were joined by second-year phenom Melissa Schultz (Kaiser Permanente/ Team Oakland) and Stella Carey (HRS / Rocklobster), who overcame a poor start to get herself back into the mix for a podium shot.
At this point the race seemed to be for 3rd. Karen Brems had a different notion, and on the bell lap she shot out of the chase group and came within 4 seconds of catching Hannon for 2nd. Hannon held on, and got herself into the series leader’s jersey for her efforts. Brems came in behind her, and Carey held off Schultz for a fourth place finish that it didn’t look like she could get half way in.
The HRS / Rocklobster team is ever present, but particularly in the Men’s A’s, they are the dominant team around here. They occupy three of the top six positions overall in the series. It would be no different in the day’s results, three of the top six. What was different however, was the team of the race winner. For the first time in the series, the Rocklobster boys were held off the top step of the podium as Christopher Jones (Sonic / Garneau) returned to the series after a 2 race absence to take the win convincingly. Justin Robinson (CalGiant / Specialized), who also missed rounds 2 and 3 of the series picked up where he left off from the first race with a strong 2nd place effort. Aaron O’Dell (HRS / Rocklobster) continued his improving form with a third place finish followed by Aroussen LaFlamme (WebCor/ Alto Velo) and O’Dells’ HRS Rocklobster teammate Scott Chapin. With the first and second place finishers not in contention for the series, all Josh Snead (yes, HRS / Rocklobster) had to do was keep Chapin in his sights, and finish with him to protect his lead. He did that with a 6th place on the day, and heads into next Sunday’s finale still in the red leader’s jersey.