The men's podium. © Kenneth Hill

GLENDALE, CA – The Southern California Prestige Series presented by Spy Optic held its annual Turkey Trot event this weekend. The race brought its usual fantastic course, one that racers’ were claiming as the best this season, and it hosted the Southern California Nevada Cycling Association’s (SCNCA) District Championships for the second year in a row.  This event was also a Shimano Gold Crown event, giving ranking points for not only National Championships, but the Nor Cal So Cal Showdown coming to Bakersfield at the end of the cyclocross season January 21-22nd 2012.

The holiday weekend did not make much of a difference with attendance as SoCal cross has continued to grow, and the championship event brought a record number of cyclocross racers and made for some awesome competition as riders came ready to take home their Voler California bear championship jerseys.

The fantastic Turkey Trot course brought its usual mixture of terrain and challenges like the Turkey Trot Sand Trap, and tough power grass straights, and added some fun features like the stair steps of Spy Hill, burmed mulch-y turns that built up as the day went on, and more off camber fun than usual through the twisting forest turns.

The races all day long brought out some of the best racing this season. There were exciting sprint finishes and maximum efforts by many racers, who impressed the crowds, from the juniors to the masters age groups. Some really notable battles were between legends Johnny O’Mara (Sho-Air) and two-time National Cyclocross Champ, Mark Noble (Metal Mtn) in the 40+ and 45+ events.

Amanda Schaper takes in the party atmosphere by the barriers. © Corey Keizer Photography

Elite Women:
Allison Mann (Rock N Road) was looking strong, taking the holeshot as Christina Probert-Turner (The TEAM SoCalCross) and U23 Hungarian Nat’l CX Champ, Barbra Benko (Focus-MIG), Junior National Cyclocross Champ, Alexis Ryan  (The TEAM SoCalCross) and Jenna Jammer Kowalski (Cynergy Cycles) hung on for the first one and a half laps. Mann attacked, Turner chased and the two broke away from Benko, which split the front group.

Benko was chasing hard with others trying to counter her effort but Ryan and Jammer got to the backside of the course on the mulch-y right hand u-turn, and Jammer went straight into the inside post, hooked the tape and it slung her across the course. Jammer unwound her bars, hopped on, and then dropped a chain. The mishaps left her in the dust as the riders rode away. Then Jammer’s teammate Julia LaFranchise came through and passed, as she flailed to get back on her bike but looking to move up to Lafranchise so the two could work together.

Amanda Schaper (Ritte Racing) was riding up through the group and chased Jammer around for the next half lap and eventually made her move, passing over the barriers ahead of Jammer. Schaper continued to ride hard and started to battle back and forth with LaFranchise for a couple laps. The battle came to the last lap when LaFranchise got a gap to take fifth. Ryan stayed strong holding her spot to finish fourth and Benko was third. Alexis Ryan took the U23 district title as a licensed SCNCA rider. The front-runners stayed the same with Turner finishing second and Mann taking her second district championship title in a row.

Bunny-hopping the barriers. © Corey Keizer Photography

Elite Men:
It was a tactical race from the start. Defending champion Brian Lopes (Oakley/Ibis) took the hole shot followed by Brandon Gritters (Rock N’ Road) and Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific/Focus). The rest of the field was trying to sort out and line up behind them through the first lap. Gritters went to the front followed by Chris Jackson (Rambuski Law) but the two kept the pace gradual through the lap and front began to look like a line of twelve riders.

Jason Siegle (SDG/Felt p.b. IRT) came through on lap two, pushing the pace that really broke the field apart, and held it through the third lap. The group that held on was waiting for the next move and Prenzlow decided to make things harder. With five laps to go he started making attacks. Nothing was sticking, people were falling off the group but then coming back as the pace slowed again.

With three laps to go, Ryan Cleveland (Fort Lewis College) made an impressive move and attacked the lead group. Lopes and Prenzlow hung on and as the paced slowed again Gritters and John Bailey (Bailey Bikes), who had already won the 35+ championship early, rode themselves back to the front group. The next lap, Prenzlow attacked again on Spy Hill and got a gap up the steps. He drilled it thinking it was his moment to get free and he stayed away the rest of the lap but as he came to the finish Lopes soloed back up to Prenzlow.

The Gritters fans. © Kenneth Hill

With one lap to go, it was Prenzlow and Lopes with Bailey and Cleveland chasing. Prenzlow continued to lead and used the steps again to shake Lopes but he stayed glued to Prenzlow. The two passed the pits one last time which only left a few grassy turns left Prenzlow started his sprint. Together, they came into the second to last straight away and Lopes beat Prenzlow to take the inside line on the left hand turn. Then quickly again into the next right-hander giving him just enough of a lead to set up the final sprint and take his second district championship much similar to his battle with Prenzlow in 2010.

Ryan Cleveland continued to ride hard to out sprint Bailey for third. Morgan Ryan, a TEAM SoCalCross rider, was the best regional U23 rider and took the title. Bailey was fourth on the day but the bronze medalist CX1/2. Brandon Gritters came in to round out the top five.

It was another great sunny warm SoCal weekend and Turkey Trot event with exciting racing as 21 district champions were crowned from juniors to masters and elites. And the season is not over as next week will bring the second round of California Gold Cup events sponsored by Shimano. This UCI event weekend will bring more of North Americas top competitors to the Los Angeles historic park event for some great SoCal action.

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Elite Men Full Results:
1Brian LopesOakley/ibis
2Brent PrenzlowCelo Pacific / Focus
3Ryan ClevelandFort Lewis College
4John BaileyBailey Bikes
5Brandon GrittersRock N Road
6Jason SiegleSDG/Felt p.b. iRT Wheels
7Miguel Ramos2nd Ave Sports
8Gary DouvilleSDG / Felt p.b. IRT Wheels
9John BehrensBailey Bikes
10Chris Jacksonrambuski law
11Morgan RyanThe TEAM SoCalCross
12Casey WilliamsSDG/Felt/IRT
13Ted WillardSDG / Felt p.b. IRT Wheels
14Josh CadyCynergy Cycles - Untouched World
15Dave SheekSDG / Felt p.b. IRT Wheels
16Ben BertigerThe Team
17Cody PhillipsSho-Air
18Alexander Vaughn-RuizThe TEAM SoCalCross
19Amrah HubbardThe TEAM SoCalCross
20Evan StadeSho-Air / Rock N Road
21Edward Kronfli
22Jay KwanThe TEAM SoCalCross
DNFKyle GrittersRock N Road
DNFOliver Hutchinson
DNFJames Walsh
Elite Women Full Results:
1Alison MannRock N' Road
2Christina Probert-TurnerThe TEAM SoCalCross - Turner Bikes
3Barbara BenkoFocus-MIG Team
4Alexis RyanThe TEAM SoCalCross
5Julia LaFranchiseCynergy
6Amanda SchaperRitta Racing
7Jenna KowalaskiCynergy
8Hannah FinchampThe TEAM SoCalCross
9Dorothy WongThe TEAM SoCalCross
10Beth Walsh
11Vanessa HumicCSULB
12Carol Ruckleteam redlands
13Desira Millerteam redlands