2011 Southern California Prestige Series ©Kenneth Hill

Griffith Park hosted the two-day ’cross-centric-bicycle festival, the Southern California Prestige Series (SCPS) called Santa Cross. With many years of Santa ’Cross events, nothing came close to this two-day weekend of fantastic racing, advocacy, family (pets included), fun and friends.

The course was a challenge, bringing the longest climb the series has ever seen. It was a one-minute plus pulse-pounding grind from the road of the start/finish to the top of the park where racers made a long sweeping left back down through the winding grass/dirt sections of the park. And, along this path, racers twisted back up punchy climbs that included multiple small six-inch barriers, risky twisting woodchip sections, and the man made Spy Optic, SPY Pit.

Day 1, Saturday, brought early morning rains but it dried out for some perfect ’cross racing. The grass seemed to have some slick sections that challenged riders but the Hero Dirt was so gripping riders were carving turns like super bike racers, or maybe that was just the Bostrom brothers. The competitors’ battles were exciting all day but, especially the Fixed Gear Championship of SoCal, with the expected winner tattoo on the line. This was a special race brought by Orange 20 and Team Cadence who came out in force to help set up a fun course full of obstacles.

Fixed Gear Championships:
Brian Comer (Acua AL2/SDBC) could have raced the some super master’s event but instead brought out his fixed machine to brave the hilly Griffith Park course, showing the crowds and competitors that we are never too old to have fun. While Comer was off the start first with his senior head start discount, it was Austin Horse (Redbull/Oakley) and Hernan Montenegro (Mash) who crushed the first climb ahead of the field to descend into the park.

There was a lot of fantastic riding going on from all competitors whether they decided to ride with or without brakes and actual ’cross tires or other forms of fixed specialties. Regardless, the skids on course were enough to make people cheer, along with the spring loaded pedal dismounts.

By the second lap, Horse had shown who was going to win as he rode himself away from the competition. In second, it was Montenegro who controlled the course without brakes and third was Peter Brandenburg.

Elite Women:
Turner, Turner, Turner! Christine Probert-Turner (The Team SoCalCross) crushed the race from the start, showing her form as she continues to get stronger this season. The chase was the Cynergy Bicycles women Julia LaFranchise and Jenna Jammer Kowalski. The two worked hard and separated themselves with Turner away from the field but by the end of lap two it was obvious Turner was going to ride away with the win.

LaFranchise and Jammer went back and forth but towards the end some mistakes allowed LaFranchise to ride in for second. Jammer was a solid third, with Nicole Brandt (LA Velocity) in fourth, and Kate Wilson (Connie Cycling) to grab the final podium spot.

Elite Men:
The men shot up the hill with Ted Willard (SGD-Felt p.b. iRT) taking the holeshot and leading into the descent. Three turns in Willard crashed in the slick grass where his teammate Jason Siegle took the lead for the remainder of the descent and into the small barrier section. There, Siegle bobbled hopping the barriers and riders instantly shot ahead. Gary Douville (SGD-Felt p.b. iRT)  and Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific-Focus) came around Siegle to take the lead. Douville was quick to snap around the corner and continued the teams control through lap one.

Southern California Prestige Series ©Kenneth Hill

Siegle had to work his way back to the front group with Gareth Feldstein (Ritte Racing) and others in the chase. The pace was hard and riders were falling apart quickly with the crushing climb. On the third lap, Douville went down on the slick grass descent and Prenzlow was away solo with a small gap back to the chase. He was riding strong and the chase was changing riders as they were getting closer to the leader.

Then with three to go Ben Bostrom (Sho-Air) started to close the gap leaving the chase group and continuing to gain on Prenzlow. Douville and teammate Anton Petrov were close to Bostrom and rode themselves away from others, also looking for the leader.

With two laps to go, Bostrom was on Prenzlow’s wheel and still riding hard. Douville and Petrov were back about 15 seconds, then the leaders attacked the climbs again to open more ground. After the Spy Pit, Prenzlow lead into the mulchy woodchip section but then Bostrom came around with his two wheel handling skills sneaking by to lead into the final lap.

The last lap the Prenzlow and Bostrom punished each other up the climb and through the lap and it was Bostrom who rode to his first win of the season. Third was Douville, with Petrov fourth, and the winner’s brother Eric Bostrom (Sho-Air) who continued to move up in the group all day for fifth.

Day 2, Sunday, brought more overnight showers and then the skies took a break to present nothing but sun. It was another perfectly cool SoCal winter race with more epic course conditions. The fixed gear championships were done which left the team gift relay race, K9 costume extravaganza, along with a lot more fantastic Santa ’Cross racing, thanks to the help of Universal Cycles.

Elite women:
The women flew up the start and were eying each other for position as the previous days top winner was not in the field. And, leading down the descent it was the birthday girl Hannah Rae Finchamp (The Team SoCalCross) with Amanda Schaper (Ritte Racing) and the rest of the chase in tow.

Southern California Prestige Series ©Kenneth Hill

Finchamp looked strong was excited about her lead because the girl was not slowing down. Schaper worked hard but the junior having her sweet sixteen was dancing up the hills away from the women. As Schaper and Nicole Brandt (The Team SoCalCross) could not close the gap Finchamp continued to open they faded back. Then, Dorothy Wong (The Team SoCalCross) moved her way up in the group to eventually take control of the chase.

Finchamp in the end rolled in for her best birthday ever and first elite win. Her teammates Wong and Brandt were second and third, with Schaper just behind in fourth. Fifth was Mandy Melcher who took the final podium spot.

Elite men:
The men finally hit the course for the last race of the weekend. The fresh legs of the Gritter’s brothers Brandon and Kyle (Rock N’ Road) took a commanding lead around the top of the course and into lap one. Quickly, the brothers and Jason Siegle gapped themselves off the chase leading into lap two.

It was John Bailey (Bailey Bikes) and Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific-Focus) who controlled the chase. On lap two, the brothers lead through the descent and a small mistake by Brandon Gritters allowed Siegle to sneak up to second wheel. Then by the time the riders hit the small barriers, Siegle pulled the move used on him the day before and he attacked hopping past Kyle Gritters to take the lead. Coming through the start/finish and into the climb of lap three he held a eight-second gap on the brothers.

Southern California Prestige Series ©Kenneth Hill

The whole field was chasing hard and it seemed like a matter of time until things would reform and settle in for different tactics later in the race. However, Siegle was holding his gap and in some sections of the course continuing to gain room. Halfway through it was the same, the brothers charging hard after Siegle and Bailey leading the chase of Prenzlow and now Anton Petrov (SDG-Felt p.b. iRT) as others had faded back from the pace.

With one to go Siegle was still off the front with a gap that was between 15-20 seconds most of the lap as he happily took his second win of the season and an early gift from Santa. Second was Brandon Gritters with his work horse Kyle Gritters third. Prenzlow and Petrov eventually came around Bailey to take fourth and fifth and finish another strong day of racing.

It was a fun weekend for rounds 17 and 18 of the SoCal Prestige Series with lots of action and shenanigans. The series takes a break with the approaching holidays and will resume December 31, New Years Eve for round 19 in Irvine, California.

For more information go to:

Day One – Elite Men’s Results

1Ben Bostrom55:09.2
2Brent PrenzlowCelo Pacific / Focus55:17.9
3Gary Douville56:06.7
4Anton Petrov56:22.9
5Eric Bostrom56:53.5
6Gareth Feldstein57:11.0
7Oliver Hutchison57:52.9
8Josh CadyCynergy Cycles - Untouched World58:03.0
9John Parson58:18.4
10Andre Sutton58:35.7
11Peter Smith59:15.7
12Tyler Schwartz00:30.7
13Ted WillardSDG Felt pb.iRT56:46.7
14Alexander Vaughn-Ruiz57:41.2
15George Barthel58:55.9
16Jay KwanThe TEAM SoCalCross00:07.5
17Michael RoeckleinStage 17 Racing57:31.0
18Tommy Aquino00:30.9
DNFJason SiegleSDG/Felt p.b. iRT Wheels31:24.3
DNFJonny WeirShimano/Pearl Izumi31:36.6
DNFJohn BehrensBailey Bikes20:42.2
DNFCliff Kenyon21:15.4
DNFBen BertigerThe Team06:30.5
DNSDave SheekSDG / Felt p.b. IRT Wheels
DNSMatthew McGee2 Cross Racing

Day One – Elite Women’s Results

1Christina ProbertSoCalCross/Turner36:02.4
2Julia LaFranchise37:49.1
3Jenna Kowalski38:24.3
4Nicole Brandt39:54.8
5Kate Wilsonconnie cycling43:16.3
6Madelaine Melcher36:48.9
7Hannah EckvahlTeam SoCal Cross37:42.3
DNSDorothy WongThe TEAM SoCalCross
DNSAmanda Schaper

Day Two – Elite Men’s Results

1Jason SiegleSDG/Felt p.b. iRT Wheels59:07.6
2Brandon GrittersRock N' Road59:30.6
3Kyle GrittersRock N' Road59:31.1
4Brent PrenzlowCelo Pacific / Focus59:41.6
5Anton PetrovSDG / Felt p.b. IRT Wheels00:00.6
6John Bailey01:03.0
7Andre Sutton01:16.6
8Jonny WeirShimano/Pearl Izumi01:43.6
9Ben BertigerThe Team02:23.5
10John BehrensBailey Bikes02:37.6
11Ted WillardSDG Felt pb.iRT59:26.7
12David McNeal59:51.5
13Jordan Haggard04:42.2
14Jay KwanThe TEAM SoCalCross00:05.8
15Michael RoeckleinStage 17 Racing02:56.6
DNFJustin Williams30:44.6
DNFJosh CadyCynergy Cycles - Untouched World05:25.9
DNFShawn DaurelioLaguna Beach Cyclery05:33.3

Day Two – Elite Women’s Results

1Hannah Rae FinchampTEAM socalcross39:48.4
2Dorothy WongThe TEAM SoCalCross40:06.4
3Nicole Brandt40:15.5
4Amanda Schaper40:54.5
5Maddie Melcher41:43.4
6Susan ThompsonPAA Remax44:21.7
DNFLaurie Winter0.503