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Southern California is the heart of the entertainment industry. Hollywood. Heroes of screens big and small. The Oscars and Emmys. Enough theme parks to keep thousands of cartoon characters gainfully employed. When ol’ Jed Clampett was shootin’ at some food and up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude (oil that is, black gold, Texas tea), the kinfolk said, “Californy is the place you ought to be.” So they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly…Hills, that is. Swimmin’ pools, movie stars. That was one of the most-watched TV shows in America for nine years.
Anyway, perhaps it’s the proximity to Beverly Hills that’s affecting the elite Men’s A class in this season’s SoCalCross Prestige Series. Round 8 on the 2012-13 schedule took place on a bumpy, flat, relatively tame course at Prado Regional Park in Chino, California (just down the road from Disneyland, FYI). And as with every other Men’s A event that’s been run this year, Velocity Cross was jammed with enough drama to easily fill a prime time slot. Is it a coincidence that this class runs for 60 minutes, the exact same length as “Survivor”?
The spotlight in this race was once again focused on longtime rivals Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific) and Brandon Gritters (Rock N Road). Just as they did the weekend before in San Diego, at Velocity Cross these two had separated themselves from the rest of the field by the halfway mark to set up yet another late-race brawl. The spectators knew the score and were on their feet waiting for the fireworks.
They were launched on the final long straightaway leading to the finish line. Prenzlow dashed onto the pavement first, with Gritters on his wheel. Fans were not treated to an elbow-to-elbow bike throw or big victory salute under the banner, however. A subdued Prenzlow crossed first, with Gritters freewheeling in and gesticulating to the race officials. Gritters contended that Prenzlow had cut him off during the sprint. The officials conferred and within moments concurred. Gritters was named the winner while Prenzlow was relegated to second place.
As Gritters described the last lap, “I felt pretty good. We started the sprint and I started coming by on his right side, which was clearly wide open. As soon as I got next to him and had more momentum he moved over on me. I was not happy when I crossed the finish line. I thought it was pretty obvious and the officials did too. So it was good in the end. It seems like there’s a little bit of controversy every weekend. It keeps it exciting.”
Prenzlow contended that there was no intentional impediment. “The finish straight is not straight,” he said. “I took a straight line and tried to make him go into the wind to pass me but the finish curves a bit to the right and he was trying to pass me on the right side so it looked like I impeded him. I don’t think it’s a good call. It’s not like I went to both sides of the course trying to run him into the barriers. I went to the fastest line and I was in the lead, so I get to choose my line. It’s okay, there are plenty more races to go. It’s a good battle.”
Chris Jackson (Castex Racing p/b Felt) rolled in by himself nearly a minute and a half later for third. He had been among the leading group then dropped a chain during an awkward remount and was never able to get back up front despite a determined chase. Kyle Gritters (Rock N Road) had taken the holeshot but then had to deal with a leaky tire and eventually finished fourth. Doug Hall (The TEAM SoCalCross) rounded out the podium and claimed Under 23 class honors.
The drama in the elite Women’s A class apparently existed only in winner Carolin Schiff’s head. This German riding for Felt, SDG, IRT and SPY had some unusual fire in her eyes at Velocity Cross. Normally cool, calm and smiling, this runaway points leader had taken offense to some scuttlebutt going around earlier in the week concerning her form.
So she simply laid waste to the race. “My plan was to go very fast on the first lap and to be alone,” she stated. “It worked. I had a lonely race but I pushed myself very good. It was exhausting with the heat and the bumps and I had a very high heart rate, so it was good training.”
Then she added with a laugh, “Some people are learning German! They’re cheering in German — that’s so cool!”
There was a bit of theatre behind the long-gone Schiff. Emily Georgeson (Helen’s/Cannondale) and Amanda Schaper (Ritte CX Team) were fighting for the runner-up spot when Schaper went down and possibly bent her derailleur hanger. A short time later the derailleur ripped loose and Schaper had to make a long run to the pits for her spare bike. She still managed to snare third place by a comfortable margin, then went out and won the Single Speed Women’s class on the same bike.
For full results and more, visit the SoCalCross Prestige Series website. And y’all come back now, y’hear?[Gallery not found]