IRVINE, CALIFORNIA—The Cross After Dark series has been dominated by riders either based in Europe or traveling this weekend to the first World Cup in the Czech Republic. That vacuum stands to be filled by other racers looking to take over the Cross After Dark crown at Spooky Cross, the final race of the race series that opened at CrossVegas just over a month ago. Racers high in the overall standings like Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea), Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus), Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) and CrossVegas winner Lars van der Haar (Rabo-Giant) wouldn’t be contesting Spooky Cross, leaving the door open for many other US-based cyclocross racers.
Throughout the series, a variety of faces have graced the podium. At CrossVegas, Van der Haar took a convincing win shutting out the American contingent. At StarCrossed, the next stop in the series, Wellens won over Americans Ryan Trebon (LTS-Felt) and Jonathan Page (Planet Bike). And at September’s Gateway Cup, Powers took the win over Ben Berden (Ops Ale-Stoemper).
On the Women’s side, Katerina Nash and Amy Dombroski made for the conspicuous absences, leaving room for Caroline Mani and Teal Stetson-Lee, who stood in 5th and 2nd place, respectively, in the series standings.
While the final outcome wasn’t truly in the bag till the last lap, the race was over when Mani grabbed the hole shot. The reigning French National Champion jumped out to a seven second lead and never relinquished it. That small gap stayed consistent until late in the race when it expanded to nearly 20 seconds over closest rival Sue Butler (River City Bicycles/Ridley). Mani had enough of a cushion to seemingly enjoy the festivities as she zipped around the course to the roars of the crowd.
Mani got into the Spooky Cross spirit by wearing glasses that could best be described as Coco Chanel night vision goggles. And those dramatically oversized glasses were just the tip of the ice pick when it came to embracing her dark side. After the race Mani admitted her winning strategy consisted of telling Butler she was going to murder her “At the start I said, I’m going to kill you,” explained Mani with a sweet, slightly devilish grin. Luckily, that threat turned out to be an inside joke going back to last weekend’s New Belgium Cup in Fort Collins, CO.
Behind Mani, the battle between Butler and Stetson-Lee kept things interesting. Stetson-Lee fought her way up to third and got within a handful of seconds but couldn’t fully close in on Butler.
On the men’s side, the race played out just like the women’s- three contenders, everybody else, and a must-win situation.
Trebon got to the front on the opening straight but didn’t have much time to enjoy the view. Local boy and California Elite State CX Champion Brian Lopes (Ibis) utilized a few of the skills that won him four world titles in gravity mountain biking to overcome a bad starting position and take the lead by the first turn.
Much to the surprise and awe of the crowd Lopes continued to mix it up through the first few laps until a mechanical hiccup caused him to lose contact with Trebon and Belgian import Ben Berden (Stoemper Bikes). Almost right on cue, current US National Champion Todd Wells (Specialized Racing) took Lopes’ spot and the race for the podium had begun. For the next 40 minutes, Trebon, Berden, and Wells were never more than a couple of bike lengths apart. While predominately flat and fast, the 3.5k course had enough technical sections sprinkled throughout to keep everyone honest.
The trio eventually found a spot for launching attacks in the form of a 75 yard long sand pit that felt just as deep. Leading up to it was a wide-open stretch of table flat pavement that bottlenecked right where things got sandy. Whoever hit the sand first and could stay on their bike the longest would open up a temporary a gap on the others.
Inside of one lap to go Wells blinked and it was game on between Berden and Trebon. Going into the Spooky Cross, Berden held a scant 11 point lead over Trebon in the Cross After Dark overall standings. Whoever got to the finish line first would take the crown.
The duo remained dead even until the final turn where Trebon shot around the outside. 60 minutes of racing would come down to the last 10 meters. With one final surge Trebon managed to put half a wheel between himself and Berden. A well-timed bike throw increased that margin to a half a bike length giving Trebon the win and the Cross After Dark title with room to spare.
2 62 BUTLER Susan USA19710912 Team River City Bicycles/Ridley Portland, Oregon :42:29.075 3 63 STETSON-LEE Teal USA19860524 Cal Giant Cycling Team Durango, Colorado :42:33.158 4 68 GORRY (HASKELL) Devon USA19810103 Rambuski Law Santa Cruz, California :43.29.003 5 86 FORSMAN Chloe USA19870721 Race Club 11 Tuscon, Arizona :43:56.406 6 67 MANN Allison USA19801111 Rock N' Road Cyclery Murrieta, California :44:20.866 7 95 GAERTNER Jennifer USA19751008 Raleigh America Coeur D'Alene, Idaho :44:58.460 8 64 MAILE Sarah USA19780927 Ventana Mountain Bikes Sacramento, California :45:15.672 9 65 DIMPEL Courtney USA19830111 Team Rambuski Law Aptos, California :45:25.772 10 66 THURSTON Emily USA19770518 STEVENS San Pablo, California :46:13.592 11 73 PROBERT-TURNER Chistina USA19670419 The TEAM SoCalCross - Turner Bikes Murrieta, California :46:16.418 12 96 FINCHAMP Hannah USA19951218 The TEAM SoCalCross Altadena, California :46:30.714 13 99 FORTNER Anna USA19800513 The TEAM SoCalCross Carpenteria, California :46:45.286 14 75 RYAN Alexis USA19940818 The TEAM SoCalCross Ventura, California :47:15.699 15 100 JAMES-KLINGER Nancy USA19770517 The TEAM SoCalCross Valencia, California :47:59.699 16 72 MELKA Michelle USA19800606 Red Racing San Francisco, California :48:29.161 17 71 SCHAPER Amanda USA19831005 Ritte Racing Laguna Beach, California :49:08.051 18 89 BRANDT Nicole USA19820330 LA Velocity Marina del Rey, California :49:39.780 19 79 HUMIC Vanessa USA19800805 Long Beach State University Long Beach, California -2 laps DNF 69 HORNER (ELLIOT) Megan USA19820426 Black Mountain Bicycles San Diego, California DNS 88 WONG Dorothy USA19651113 The TEAM SoCalCross Altadena, California 2 6 BERDEN Ben BEL19750929 Ops Ale - Stoemper Riemst, Belgium 1:03:53.000 3 2 WELLS Todd USA19751225 Specialized Durango, Colorado 1:04:09.000 4 10 KRUGHOFF Allen USA19840219 Boulder Cycle Sport Boulder, Colorado 1:04:43.000 5 3 JONES Christopher USA19790806 Rapha Focus Auburn, California 1:04:56.000 6 9 KAISER Cody USA19920527 Cal Giant Cycling Team California 1:05:00.000 7 26 LOPES Brian USA19710906 Oakley/ibis Laguna Beach, California 1:05:05.000 8 5 KNAPP Ryan USA19840513 Bob's Red Mill Cyclocross Bloomington, Indiana 1:05:06.000 9 12 NOILES Kevin CAN19800313 Sportique Vancouver, BC, Canada 1:05:06.000 10 4 PARBO Joachim DEN19741118 Leopard Cycles Denmark 1:05:43.000 11 7 SCHOOLER Aaron CAN19850620 Team H&R Block - Sri Importing Edmonton, Canada 1:06:05.000 12 52 GRITTERS Brandon USA19790816 Rock N' Road Cyclery Mission Viejo, California 1:06:17.000 13 58 GRITTERS Kyle USA19830503 Rock n Road Cyclery Corona, California 1:06:50.000 14 35 ORENBLAND Tobin USA19940929 California Giant Cycling/ California Giant Santa Cruz, California 1:06:50.000 15 41 JACKSON Chris USA19880814 Team Rambuski Law Burbank, California 1:06:50.000 16 31 DOUVILLLE Gary USA19750625 SDG/Felt p.b. IRT Wheels Santa Barbara, California 1:06:51.000 17 17 BEHRENS John USA19710723 Bailey Bikes San Diego, California 1:06:55.000 18 21 WODTLI Brennan USA19880113 Hutch's Bicycles All Access Promotions Bend, Oregon 1:07:24.000 19 39 SIEGLE Jason USA19790702 SDG/Felt p.b. IRT Wheels Solvang, California 1:07:33.000 20 11 CHAPIN Scott USA19830409 Bay101/HRS/Rocklobster Santa Cruz, California 1:07:33.000 21 34 PRENZLOW Brent USA19680901 Celo Pacific / Focus Carlsbad, California 1:07:37.000 22 40 CARROLL Donny USA19690203 Donny's Cafe / SpyOptics.com Bonita, California 1:08:03.000 23 53 BRADFORD Aaron USA19840909 Bay101/HRS/RockLobster Santa Cruz, California 1:08:13.000 24 42 FORKNER David USA19850607 SDG Felt p/b IRT Wheels Solvang, California 1:08:18.000 25 22 PREBLE Kolby USA19931108 Clif Bar Development Cyclocross Team Forest Grove, Oregon 1:08:32.000 26 49 WOODRUFF Travis USA19830131 Trek Store Boulder Tuscon, Arizona 1:08:36.000 27 15 ROTSTEIN Abe USA19880906 Team Bicycle Trip/Symantec Watsonville, CA 1:08:39.000 28 32 MCNEAL David USA19740202 Birmingham Bicycle Company North Hollywood, California 1:09:02.000 29 18 COLTON Eric USA19830609 The TEAM SoCalCross Santa Cruz, California 1:09:18.000 30 8 WELLS Jake USA19780628 Stan'sNoTubes Avon, Colorado 1:09:21.000 31 24 BAILEY John USA19730526 Bailey Bikes San Diego, California 1:09:30.000 32 48 BOTTGER Frederick USA19750512 SDG/Felt pb IRT South Pasadena, California 1:09:51.000 33 33 TIETZEL Scott USA19840328 Peaks To Plains Racing Boulder, Colorado 1:09:55.000 34 25 BERTIGER Ben USA19931130 The TEAM SoCalCross Altadena, California -1 laps 35 37 SHEEK David USA19760520 SDG Felt p/b IRT Wheels Huntington Beach, California -1 laps 36 60 CODY Gerry USA19780706 Cynergy Cycles Los Angeles, California -2 laps 37 43 WILLARD Ted USA19810227 SDG/Felt p.b. IRT Wheels Costa Mesa, California -2 laps 38 20 YARRA Derek USA19870603 IBIS/Buy-Cell San Francisco, California -2 laps 39 16 WEBER Dana USA19810418 Jax Bicycle Center Aliso Viejo, California -2 laps 40 51 ANTON Blake USA19880614 Team Clif Bar Arroyo Grande, California -2 laps 41 54 KWAN Jay USA19800806 The TEAM SoCalCross Carlsbad, California -2 laps 42 56 VERTICAN Garnet USA19711124 Giant Crestline, California -3 laps 43 44 VAUGH-RUIZ Alexander USA19920803 The TEAM SoCalCross Los Angeles, California -3 laps 44 50 WARREN Ben USA19881130 Virginia Polytechnic University Laguna Hills, California -4 laps DNF 38 RYAN Morgan USA19910612 VRC, NOW-MS Society Ventura, California DNS 59 McGEE Matthew USA19720606 2Cross Racing/Bikes + North Las Vegas, Nevada