I had never been to Southern California before, but I assumed it was all about Tribal Tatoos and Sublime. So, when I had the opportunity to go to SpookyCross in Irvine, CA, I loaded “40 Oz. to Freedom” onto my iPod and booked my flight. I landed at John Wayne airport in Orange County and went directly to Rock – N – Road Cyclery to do a little socializing and pick up my race numbers for the weekend. I was psyched to find I was bib number 8, which meant I had a front row start. I wasn’t positive who exactly was going to show up for this UCI C2 weekend, but due the fact that Saturday’s night race was the finale to the Cross After Dark (CxAD) series there would be some big fire power at the front.
My race wasn’t until 8:30 p.m. on Saturday but I wanted to get to the venue a little early, not only to re-con the course but to check out the scene. I have heard a little about the SoCalCross scene and I knew they had it going on, but I wanted to check it out first hand. When you think of ‘cross hot beds in the U.S. you probably think of the PacNW, the North East and maybe the Colorado Front Range. But, come on Southern California? Where the average temperature is 73 degrees and the annual rainfall is barely in the double digits. But one thing is for sure, Dorothy Wong and all the folks at SoCalCross know how to put on a party.
The fact that the race is called Spooky Cross combined with it’s being a night race, racers and spectators were encouraged to wear costumes and get into the Halloween Spirit. There was plenty of beer drinking and good natured fun being had, but with UCI points on the line and the CxAD series title up for grabs the Elite races were shaping up to be some serious battles.
SoCal natives and longtime cyclocross supporters, CrankBrothers had an athletes lounge complete with a changing area and trainers for warm up. After a thorough course inspection and getting all cylinders firing, I headed toward the starting grid. A dew had set in on the course making what was a dry dusty track a little slick in the grassy corners. I think this added to the anxiousness of the peloton. I was not surprised that Multi Time World Mtn Bike Champion and SoCal local Brian Lopes got the “Hole Shot”, but I didn’t realize until after the race that he had done it from a 3rd row start position.
I got tangled up with another rider going into a loose, off camber chicane. I went down and my bike hit the deck really hard. The front wheel was really out of shape. I lost quite a few spots while getting over to the pits. Once I got onto my “B bike”, I was able to make it back in to the top 20. With less than three laps to go I realized my rear tire was going soft. I came into the pits and grabbed a rear wheel from Shimano Neutral Support, but at that point I was barely in the top 30. Some bad luck and somewhat of a squandered front row start, but my legs felt better than they had in a while.
Knowing that the UCI points that I had acquired from last season would be wiped clean after this weekend I approached the next day’s racing with a little different game plan. I got a great start, fourth wheel at the first corner, and was able to ride a clean and consistent race for the next 10 laps. I ended up 7th on the day and was able to salvage the weekend.
Next up is the Boulder Cup weekend in Boulder, CO.