Rooster Cogburn would have been proud of the hundreds of participants who saddled up and filled their hands with cyclocross hardware at the Pacifica Crossfest. It was the third stop on the SoCalCross Prestige Series Schedule, held at Casa Pacifica. This is a charming facility near Camarillo, California, dedicated to children and families needing help with their lives.
Not only would Rooster have been tickled to see that a significant portion of the race proceeds were going to support the kids, a twinkle and possibly a tear would have come to his good eye at the true grit shown by the competitors. They had to tackle a flat but rather technical course that included an actual barn-turned-gym as well as two very long, challenging sand pits. These sandy sections deteriorated quickly and got worse throughout the day. By the end only a few were able to ride through even a small portion this deep “California mud.” Many got a very up-close-and-personal inspection. A little sand-wich for lunch perhaps?
Talk about true grit: Most of the athletes are probably still scraping silica out of various body crevices.
The elite Men’s A race came down to a shootout between reigning series champion Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific) and first-round victor Brandon Gritters (Rock n’ Road). Prenzlow seemed to have a better handle on the sand, and in the end used it to his advantage.
“The course suited me well today,” said Prenzlow. “I made my move in the first sand pit before the stairs. I got a little gap there and was able to hold Brent off till the end. I didn’t want to let it come down to a sprint or a tangle in the last corner.”
Gritters had another eventful day, including being involved in a spectacular crash early in the hour-long race. “Someone came up behind me and stuck their front wheel over my shoe. I went down and took him and a couple others with me.”
He would claw his way back to leader Prenzlow several times, each charge thwarted by bobbles in the sand sections. These two were together again all by themselves approaching the bell lap. As Gritters describes the finish, “We kind of mickey moused for the last two laps, then he caught me sleeping before the first sand section on the last lap. I wasn’t ready and lost about five seconds and just couldn’t close it.”
Third place was a duel between early race animator Kyle Gritters (Rock n’ Road) and Antron Petrov (SDG/Felt p/b IRT) — who seemed to come out of nowhere. “I didn’t have a good start and didn’t feel great for most of the race,” Petrov explained. “I just tried to work my way into it and was able to move up to Kyle. We rode together for a couple of laps and then I attacked on the last lap because he’s a really strong roadie and I didn’t want to have to sprint against him. He crashed right behind me in the sand and that was it.”
Carolin Shiff (SDG) had three fingers aloft as she crossed the paved finish line with the elite Women’s A win. This made it three victories in three tries for the German, and once again she made it look uncomplicated. Well, mostly: “I wanted to ride the sand because I had been able to do it in warmup, but I fell on the first lap and decided to run it instead,” she told us.
Shiff did feel a little heat on this atmospherically pleasant day. “Alexis Ryan was on my wheel for over two laps, and I thought she was being tactical. Everyone told me she’s very strong. But then she was gone and I was able to turn it off a little bit and ride my own race.”
Ryan’s reputation is well earned, having captured eight national championships in most forms of competition. Lately the 17-year-old has been racing internationally as a road pro while attending college. But she hadn’t competed since the World Championships in Netherlands in mid September. As she put it, “This is supposed to be my off-season. I haven’t been doing any intensity lately, so Shiff just rode away from me after a couple of laps.”
Ryan, who is backed by TEAM SoCalCross in this discipline, was then joined by Amanda Schaper (Ritte CX Team). “I didn’t have a great start but eventually I caught up to Alexis,” Schaper reported. “I was leading on the last lap but we got tangled up a little bit in the last sand section and I went down and dropped my chain. But at least I stayed on it for third. It was a lot of fun.”
Rooster would surely raise a glass to Newbury Park Bike Shop and race coordinator Dorothy Twitchell, who staged a smooth, compelling and ultimately big-hearted event in support of a valuable community program.
The next stop on the SoCalCross schedule is the infamous Spooky Cross and Krosstober-Fest on October 20-21. This is part of the inaugural L.A. Bikefest, which will be absolutely rocking the Fairplex in Pomona. For details, click here. Rounds six and seven will take place the following weekend, October 27-28, with the San Diego CX Weekend. For additional series info, visit SoCalCross.org.