by Philip Beckman
(Chino, CA) – The Velocity Cross has been a part of the SoCal cyclocross scene for years. Last weekend’s version of the event was, however, like none before. Although still staked and ribboned by the Velocity Cycling Team, and still taking place at Prado Regional Park in Chino, this edition had a significantly different look and feel.
This year’s Velocity Cross was not part of the status quo. It was the first round of an all new ‘cross program backed by eyeglass manufacturer SPY Optic. The introduction of the SPYclocross Series now brings a second promoting group to the table in SoCal, further proof of the health and growth of this discipline.
Perhaps the most profound difference between the two is “certification,” for lack of a better word. The six-race SPYclocross Series is being sanctioned by USA Cycling, and includes the Southern California/Nevada district championships taking place early December at Hart Park in Bakersfield. Competitors are required to have a USAC license and in turn are able earn category upgrade points as well as qualification for the National Championships.
So curiosity hung heavily in the early morning haze as the regulars began filing in and gearing up. A lot of questions had been answered by the time the warm sun was dipping rapidly toward for the opposite horizon. The program ran smoothly and professionally, on time, with quick and accurate results leading to slick podium presentations featuring an impressive prize list. The SPYclocross Series is the real deal, and will be a welcome addition to SoCal cyclocross.
There’s no doubt that Elliot Reinecke will remember this inaugural event with fondness. The 33-year-old from Cardiff, Calif., made this year’s Velocity Cross his first win in Elite-level cyclocross. Backed by Focus Bicycles and Velo Hangar, Reinecke found himself among the lead group of seven who had broken away from a strong Elite Men’s field after two laps.
This bunch circulated together for several laps until Reinecke put in a hard dig just past the stair climb at the halfway mark of this one-hour, nine-lap race. His competition—most notably Brandon Gritters (Rock N Road/Big Red Coaching)—was slow to react, and within just one lap Reinecke had escaped with a half-minute lead. Gritters put the throttle to the stop with three to go and for a few moments looked threatening. He got away from the chasers easily and closed to within a handful of seconds of the leader on the penultimate lap.
But that was as close as it would get. Reinecke had left something in the tank for the finish, and Gritters had not. “Just a little too much Octoberfest last night,” the man in orange admitted with a wry grin just beyond the line. Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific) was a miraculous third after apparently being dropped with two to go but then clawing his way back to the box. Brian Gordon (Blackstar) was fourth; Chris Jackson (Castex/Felt) completed the podium. Kyle Gritters (Rock N Road) had been among the leaders throughout but hit a bump wonky on the last lap and rolled a tire; he scrubbed the turf with a hip but still finished sixth, just ahead of John Behrens (Velo Hangar), who had battled to stay with the front group the whole race.
“I was nervous about the Gritters because this is their kind of course: flat and fast,” said Reinecke afterward. “But they weren’t able to make their tactics come together this time. I’ve been chasing UCI points around the country all year, so I know I can ride fast and finally got to prove it. Brandon got close for a second, but I just kept rooting, powering on the straights. I think I was faster on my remounts after the barriers and stairs. That made a difference on this course because there weren’t many other places to take advantage of. This is my third season racing ‘ cross; I was a little overdue.”
Amanda Nauman (SDG/Bellwether/Krema Peanut Butter) had a much easier time winning the Women’s Elite division. Nauman once again secured an immediate lead and never looked back, smoothly pulling away from Christina Probert-Turner (The TEAM SoCalCross/Turner Bikes). Holly Breck (InCycle) and Jennifer Whalen (SPY) skirmished for third, with Breck prevailing. McKenzie Melcher (The TEAM SoCalCross/Jensen USA) rounded out the top five.
Nauman has now led every lap of four CX events this season. Her strongest rival so far, Nicole Brandt, was a no-show at Chino.
Full results can be found at quickndirtymtb.com.
Next on the agenda for the SPYclocross Series is Udo Cross, dedicated to the memory of Udo Heinz, on Sunday, November 9, at Lake Hodges in Escondido, Calif. To stay informed, visit the SPYclocross Series Facebook page.