Santa Rosa Cup CX • 23 November 2013
The Santa Rosa Cup CX, with it’s vaunted prize, held the second event of their series at the First Baptist Church of Windsor. The course, stuffed into a remarkably small area, had very little flow, plenty of turns, and a one-step plank barriers – more than a few racers took just one step between the planks. Many racers were unable to get into any rhythm particularly on an embankment that riders rode down and up four times, each u-turn with differing lines of attack. Race winners would need to manage their pace through turns and through all the challenging interruptions on the course.
Brian Finnerty (California Giant/Specialized), racing the 60-minute Elite Men’s race in preparation for Master’s Worlds and Nats, set a storming pace early in the first lap. Unlike the hard charging effort of Tsering Alleyne’s (Marin Bikes) to stay in touch with Finnerty, the body language of the red clad Berry was smooth. Finnerty kept up the pressure early and simply rode away from the competition as the rest of the field fought over second place.
“I was trying to keep an even cadence and keep the rpms high through the grass,” remarked Finnerty, “instead of trying to push a bigger gear. Most people start fast and if [they] rode that same pace the whole way they certainly should beat me.
“That was pretty much the objective. I would just ride my race and go from there.”
Finnerty was first to hit the embankment u-turns and had a small gap going in. But several racers quickly bunched up behind Finnerty and the race looked competitive at that point.
“On the last little left uphill section you almost have to come to a complete stop because its as tight it gets,” continued Finnerty. “The first two or three you can roll and keep your momentum the whole way but to line up that last little uphill took a little while to figure out. I only rode a couple laps ahead before I actually raced at speed.”
Finnerty credits his handling of the course to his training, saying “I carried momentum through the corners with good line selection and not allowing my momentum to stop and carry that speed. Then accelerate as quickly as possible to stay on top of the gear. That’s pretty much what I did the whole time – worked each corner of the course.
“I was riding consistent lap times and keeping an eye on [the competition]. Once I got it to a certain point I just managed that. If it looked like they were coming closer then I would ride another lap a little bit harder. The training I’ve been doing has allowed me to ride consistently lap after lap. It would of been nice to have them come up and torture me a little bit.”
Behind Finnerty, Alleyne began to fall back. Mitch Trux (Sterling Sports) eventually took control of second place but not before Keith Hillier (Team Rambuski Law) pressed hard to grab the second step of the podium. After holding off an onslaught, Trux was then able to increase the gap to third as the race drew to its close. Kurt Wolfgang was in they fray early before settling into fourth place ahead of Alleyne.
The earlier Elite Women’s race saw Kristin Drumm (CX Nation) in charge as the first lap got underway. Drumm won this race at the first event of the series and was on hand to stake a claim on the Santa Rosa Cup. By the second lap, however, Karen Brems (Team Rambuski Law) took over out front. With BASP coming up the following day, Brems acknowledged she rarely races twice on weekends but was here in support of a series that provides equal support and prize monies for both genders.
With Drumm in close contact with Brems, the race had the look of becoming a two-way battle. However, after failing to grab her hole-shot, Katie Jay Melena (Bicycle Bluebook/HRS/Rock Lobster) put on a marvelous display of technical riding from fifth place. Negotiating the turns with seeming ease, Melena rapidly moved up to second and closed in on Brems. By lap four, Melena was well on her way to her first Elite Women’s win.
“My goal was to be in front from the get-go,” described Melena, “but I started in too hard of a gear. I was fourth or fifth through the hole shot.
“Once we got half the way through the course, there is a little wood-chip section with a bunny hop into it. I noticed I was the only person bunny-hopping. I got onto Karen Brem’s wheel. Going into lap three I knew I might be able to corner faster than Karen [Brems] and I wanted to get ahead of her.
“I did a lot of mountain bike racing this summer. I definitely learned how to let it get loose on the corners and try to be comfortable with that. I knew this race was going to be won by cornering and not by pedaling. So that favours me.
“With a course with so many corners you can see each lap if your losing or gaining time on a competitor. I just wanted to have a nice comfortable gap so I could maintain it. You have just try to stay focused; this is the first Elite Women’s race I’ve ever won so I was wondering ‘oh, am I going to win?’
“I was afraid Brems was going to turn it on on some of these flats and eat into my lead. I was afraid I would just tire and she would get close. I was also concerned about rolling a tubular on these corners just because I glued up these wheels last week and I’m not totally confident with my job. They stayed on so I’m happy with my mechanic-skills.”
With Melena well out in front mid-way through the race, the battle for second came down to Brems and Drumm but it was the current World Master’s Champion that began to pull away for the second step of the podium. Behind Drumm, Carolina Dezendorf (Cycles Fanatics) overcame an early slip on the embankment to secure fourth place. Vicky Sama (Adventure’s Edge) rewarded her long drive to the race, from Arcata, with a fifth-place finish.
To their credit, the organizers of the Santa Rosa Cup CX, paid out good and equal prize money, for both the Elite races, along with the metal ware for medals.
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