At the start of Men’s A, Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific/Focus) leads the Gritters brothers (Rock n’ Road) into turn one. © Phil Beckman/PB Creative

At the start of Men’s A, Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific/Focus) leads the Gritters brothers (Rock n’ Road) into turn one. © Phil Beckman/PB Creative

by Phil Beckman/PB Creative

WOODLAND HILLS, CALIFORNIA — The SoCalCross Series Finale had more ups and downs than Six Flags. More twists and turns than an M. Night Shyamalan flick. More thrills of victory and agonies of defeat than a season of Wide World of Sports openers.

Pierce College in Woodland Hills, a decade-long fixture on the SoCal cyclocross scene, served up a corker of a course for the 18th and final round of the 2012-13 Prestige Series. Straight, flat terrain was nearly nonexistent. The Finale was the hilliest, most technical layout of the season. Even though it was mercifully dry for the majority of the day, virtually every competitor in attendance tagged it as the toughest they’d experienced all year — maybe ever.

In other words, it was perfect for a race of this import. The Series Finale offered bonus points and called for mandatory participation in order to collect series prizes. Anyone with championship aspirations had to toe the starting line here, equipped every weapon in their arsenal.

Individual performances on the day did indeed shake up the point standings in a number of classes. Perhaps most significant was the way the Series Finale affected the elite Women’s A division.

At the end of November it appeared that Carolin Schiff (SDG/Felt/IRT/SPY) had locked up the title with nine straight victories (a rider’s nine best events are scored for final points). But Hannah Rae Finchamp (Cynergy Cycles) went on a winning streak of her own after Schiff returned to her native Germany due to visa limitations. Finchamp then leveraged the Finale’s bonus points to end up winning the title by just 1.5 points: 190.5 for Finchamp to Schiff’s 189.

Finchamp, a high school junior and rising star triathlete, locked up the Under 23 Women’s and Junior Women’s 15-18 classes at Pierce College as well. As this unpretentious young athlete described her trifecta, “I’m a climber, so this course really played to my strengths. I was just having fun out there. It’s been a great season so I had a lot of motivation to finish strong and be ready for Nationals in Wisconsin next weekend. I feel like God has really blessed me this year.”

Unlike Finchamp, Chris Jackson has had a year he’d like to forget. But his last two races have certainly erased some bad memories of freak mechanicals, untimely crashes and a highly publicized finish line faux pas. The Castex/Felt-backed rider dominated the Series Finale for his second elite Men’s A victory in a row.

Jackson attacked fellow breakaway partners Brandon Gritters (Rock n’ Road) and Eric Bostrom (Sho-Air/Cannondale) on the sixth of nine laps, and no one could respond. Jackson was gone. Bostrom dropped a physically deflated Gritters a lap and a half later to claim second place, over half a minute behind Jackson. Gritters rolled in alone for third, while Anton Petrov (SDG/Felt/IRT) and Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific/Focus) both moved up a position late in the last lap after Gareth Feldstein (Ritte CX Team) rolled a tire while running fourth.

According to Jackson, “Brandon did the majority of the work and then Eric pulled for a couple of laps. I decided to put in a feeler dig on a climb, got a little gap and then throttled it on and kept it building. I just stayed smooth and relaxed and drilled it when I needed to. I’ve been in shape all season, but I think now I’m more confident and comfortable with a lot more races under my belt. This is where I should be on the last week of the season — peaking for Nationals and hoping to carry it into this coming weekend.”

Former motorcycle road racing champion Bostrom was pleased with his best SoCalCross result to date. “This course had a lot of S curves and really challenged your bike handling,” he stated. “I wasn’t as fast as I needed to be in the corners, and Chris was doing it best by far. He was on fire. I’m really happy with second. We got our bikes late this year so unfortunately I missed most of the ‘cross season. I’m looking forward to getting an earlier start next year and trying to win one of these things.”

Finishing in third place — and ahead of Prenzlow — was more than enough for Gritters to clinch the Men’s A season championship. It was a goal he had vocalized at Round 1 in late September. “It all worked out. It was a good year; by far my best cyclocross season,” he confirmed, then added, “but I’m tired, and today was the hardest race of the series. I was just hanging on for this last race. There was no faking it on this course today.”

For full results, final standings and more, visit the SoCalCross Prestige Series website.

Proceeds from this event are helping to send a number of Junior and Under 23 class riders to the USA Cycling Cyclocross Nationals in Madison, Wisconsin, this week. This support for the future of the sport is much appreciated.

A special thanks for making the Series Finale a reality goes out to host club The TEAM SoCalCross; key series sponsors Shimano, SPY Optic and Voler; event sponsors Art of Cross, H20 Overdrive, IRT Wheels: Inertia Racing Technology, Kool ‘N Fit Sport, Planet Bike, Pump Cold Brewed Coffee; event partners Aids Life Cycle and American Bicycle Racing; and bike shops Jenson USA and Montrose Bike Shop.

One more CX event remains on the calendar for SoCal riders, that being the 3rd Annual NorCal vs. SoCal State Cyclocross Championship. This will go off at Hart Park in Bakersfield on Sunday, January 20th. For more info, visit the SCNCA website.