Golden Gate Park has to be considered a historical monument to northern California cyclocross, with events dating back to the mid-1970s generating a mystique surrounding the event. Combine that with a longer, flatter course than previous rounds of BASP, as well as a history of somehow pulling beautiful weather out of a late November date, and the Golden Gate Park event is often the “one” cross race a year that tons of people come out to. The 70-degree weather brought out the casual cycling fan or park user that happened to be out on a nice day along with other assorted urban dwellers that came out because “it’s in the park,” making for phenomenal crowds and high energy.
The Golden Gate Park course has a great heckling and spectacle zone – just as the riders get to the end of their lap, the Pilarcitos Cyclesports crew decided to arrange a skills and fitness test. First, there’s the “drop” that claimed scores of souls: a dive between two trees, down a good eight feet of elevation in about five feet of linear distance that’s full of holes and soft dirt. That went down to a run-up the other side of the hole. Then the course went around a bend, slightly up hill, to a set of barriers. Finally racers re-emerged on the pavement section, also slightly up hill. The combo made for some spectacular viewing for the cheering section, as well as a stout heart-rate punch for the riders. The racers took full advantage of all that the park had to offer for a great day of racing.
Women’s A: A Foreign Surprise
Karen Brems (Webcor) took the series lead with a third-place finish at Golden Gate, recalling, “I was pretty happy to stay on her wheel for the first half a lap…” To whom was Brems referring? It was Truckee, California-based Katerina Nash (Luna), who decided to contest the race to continue her build-up for the World Championships in her home country of the Czech Republic.
Barb Howe (Vanderkitten) also was back in town and brought more speed and class to what was already an outstanding field.
Nash got herself to the front pronto and took Brems with her for that half-lap. After that, Howe caught and passed Brems and almost, but never quite, caught Nash. It was impressive riding considering that Howe and Nash chase UCI points across the nation. Brems destroyed the rest of the field that was comprised of all of the NorCal fast-girls, easily maintaining her position in what she described as her “first clean race, with no mistakes.”
A hard-charging Kerry Barnholdt (Scott/ Ritchey) did manage to get pretty close, finishing another twelve seconds back. Sarah Maile (Ventana) came through with yet another smooth professional effort to snag a fine fifth-place finish, consistent enough to stay in the hunt for the overall, but not enough to keep the leader’s jersey for which she came into the day tied on points.
Nash was delighted with her decision to make the four-hour drive and take the win at her first Bay Area Super Prestige race. “The scene and course were awesome… they should have Nationals or a UCI race here!” she said.
Men’s A: Jones Makes it Two Years in a Row
The men’s field also saw some guys who are not always here at home to race. Andy Jaques-Maynes (Bissell), Justin Robinson (Cal Giant Berry Farms) and Aaron Bradford (OnSite Ultrasound) all showed up to supplant HRS RockLobsters and the rest of the local-yokels. Chris Jones, a NorCal resident who rides for the pro road team Team Type 1, also showed up for the fun. “I think the other guys kinda forgot who I was and were surprised to see me,” he said.
But Jones’ anonymity would not last for long as he rifled through the field to end up soloing for much of the race, easily taking the win by 1:15 over Robinson, who had a good battle with Bradford before finally separating and coming across sixteen seconds ahead of him. Robinson and Bradford rode the run-up but Jones chose to run, explaining later that “I was riding file treads and didn’t quite have the traction.” It was Jones’ second win in a row at Golden Gate Park as the pro pulled a similar stunt in 2008, putting on an impressive performance to leave the rest of the field in the dust, literally.
Cody Kaiser (Cal Giant) broke out of the chase and also pedaled up the steep climb to secure a quality fourth-place finish, showing that he is firing on all cylinders ahead of his trip to Nationals in two weeks. Chris McGovern (HRS Rocklobster) took a hard-earned fifth place, keeping the Lobsters’ representation on the podium intact. As a bonus, he also took over the series lead from teammate Josh Snead. All in the family, eh boys?
In the 35+A’s Don Myrah (Ibis/ Buy-Cell.com) once again secured his series win and added to his lead in the overall. Behind him the armada of Cal Giant held five of the next six spots, only interrupted by Jesse Scatton (Bullseye/ East Sac) getting in there for fifth place. Book ended between them were Anastasio Flores, Todd Hoefer and Steve Reaney.
Men’s B: High School Musical Chairs
In the men’s B’s race, high school junior Spence Peterson (Above Category) handed high school sophomore Isaiah Rapko (Kaiser Permanente/ Team Oakland Cycling) his first defeat of the series – barely, but a win is a win. Peterson’s results have improved every time out and he’s the one guy who has been able to consistently stay with Rapko. These two guys are still in high school, leaving the field of graduates and legal drinkers in the dust.
Nearly a dozen NorCal district championship titles were awarded on the day and once again Golden Gate Park lived up to it’s legendary status drawing huge fields of racers, enormous raucous crowds of fans, Gary Fisher in a plaid suit, random world class athletes mixed in with single speeders who didn’t register for the single speed race, seventy degree weather with no clouds or wind and more barbeques than a Kansas City cookout. It’s been a while since San Francisco hosted a major cyclocross race. NorCal cyclocross fans may remember the USGP cyclocross series finals in 2005 on largely the same course, or the National Championships just down the street in the Presidio in 1999, but seeing the class of Nash and Jones made fans hungry for more. Big-time ‘cross racing is missed in the Bay.
More photos from the day on CXM’s account on flickr. Full results here.