Udo Cross presented by SPY Optic was a day to remember. Mostly, it was a day dedicated to the memory of a fallen comrade, tragically taken from his family and the cycling community in a traffic accident in early August. This race was a tribute to Udo Heinz, who was killed while riding at nearby Camp Pendleton. Heinz was a longtime cycling advocate in this region as well as a dedicated husband and father. He was also an active member of the host club, Ranchos Cycling Team.
Throughout this, the ninth round of the 2013-14 SoCalCross Prestige Series, tributes “For Udo!” could be seen and heard around San Diegito River Park at Lake Hodges in Escondido. This event benefitted Udo’s family as well as the park in which it was staged. Bike Bling, a race sponsor, helped the cause by auctioning a new Specialized Crux CX bike. Proceeds of the sale are going to the Udo Heinz Memorial Fund.
Many thanks too for the support provided by key sponsors Spy Optic, Bike Bling, WD40, Bonk Breaker, Kool ‘N Fit Sport, TRP Brakes and Voler Team Apparel. Without you this touching event would not have been possible.
Udo Cross 2013 will also be remembered for its challenging layout – both natural and man-made. A considerable amount of sand and some seriously demanding ascents had many competitors breaking out their mountain bikes instead of skinny-knobbed steeds.
And then there were the mud pits, sculpted near the lakeshore. These slimy side-by-side excavations created substantial discussion throughout the day. Competitors would ride the first one going out, the second coming back half a minute later. The entry to the first hole was mostly blind, exiting a section of sand followed by a left-hander directly into the chasm. When doused with water, as CX fans are wont to do, they became quite technically tricky, especially for riders much more attuned to hot and dry conditions. Pre-race warmups and the first few races of the day were messy and controversial, to say the least. It was decided to let them dry. By the time the Women’s A class rolled onto the course just after lunchtime, the muck was mostly an afterthought.
Christina Probert-Turner (The TEAM SoCalCross) was the dominant victor in that race, in a field of just five riders. This 42-year-old former series champion won by 42 seconds in a four-lap race and stated later via Facebook, “I did a road ride up Palomar Mountain on Saturday, so I wasn’t sure how my legs were going to feel. It was great that the ‘super fast’ girls were doing secret training this weekend so I could just race my race. Haha. The course was a little bit CX and a little bit XC MTB, so it fit my riding style of being a mountain biker. I had a slow start but when we hit the first sandy section heading down to the beach I had to go. I like the sandy, techie sections, so I wanted to get ahead of the ladies. From there I was able to keep my lead to the end. It was a beautiful day and wonderful to ride for Udo and his family.”
Laura Morris (Troupe Racing) finished runner-up to Turner in only her third race in the A class. “It required a lot of technical skills today,” she felt. “It was nice they had a climb in there for me; I’m a climber. It was definitely geared toward mountain bikers. It was a lot of fun, despite a disastrous start to my day. I locked my keys in the car, then got lost getting here.” Rounding out the podium were Amy Benner (B4T9), Maddie Melcher (The TEAM SoCalCross) and Carol Ruckle (Team Redlands).
Sticking firmly to this season’s Men’s A script, Kyle Gritters (Blackstar/Rock ‘n’ Road) rocketed away from the starting grid to lead through the first few turns, with older brother and teammate Brandon locked firmly to his rear wheel. Team SDG/Felt’s Jason Siegle slotted into third. Through eight rounds of the 2013-14 SoCalCross season, defending series champion Brandon Gritters and Siegle have been the riders to beat: Gritters 5, Siegle 3.
After two of seven laps, the Gritters brothers and Siegle had established a decisive gap in front of the relatively strong field, with Elliot Reinecke (Velo Hangar) making his first appearance of the CX year in fourth. Anton Petrov (SDG/Felt/IRT/SPY) trailed by a few seconds in fifth, as Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific/Focus) chased hard in sixth after suffering a rear flat only 20 seconds into the race.
The top three were untouchable, stretching out a minute’s lead by the time the bell rang for the last lap. As in most fights when it’s two against one, the Gritters worked Siegle over as if in a back-alley mugging. When Kyle Gritters attacked on the sandy beach section, Brandon’s elbows got very wide. Siegle was thwarted in every pass attempt the rest of the way, as Kyle Gritters’ lead grew to over seven seconds.
In the final paved straight, Kyle had enough time to sit up, acknowledge his young daughter and wife, straighten his jersey and roll across the line for his first CX win in two seasons. Brandon then outpowered a highly frustrated Siegle to make it yet another Gritters 1-2. Prenzlow completed his comeback in fourth place, having overhauled Reinecke in the waning moments.
Brandon Gritters offered no apologies for the application of teamwork. “It’s tough to pass here,” he explained. “There are only a few chances, and you can kind of dictate what’s going on behind you when you’re on the front. When Kyle got away on the last lap, Jason was behind me and I could kind of slow down in the corners and give Kyle a gap. Then up the hill I just kept him behind me. He tried to come by a bunch but I could dictate the pace when my handlebars were in front of [Siegle's].”
According to Kyle Gritters, “Siegle was riding steady and keeping us on our limit. We definitely weren’t comfortable. It’s a tough course no matter what, and it played to team tactics. Brandon and I could let each other in on the corners, whereas Siegle, we could close the door on him. Once I got a gap after the climb I could really enjoy the downhill coast to the finish. It’s nice to get one.”
Siegle was torqued about what he felt was excessive blocking and “negative racing” on the part of the Gritters, but remained professional at the podium ceremonies.
The Gritters finished the day by making the classy move of donating their winnings to the family of Udo Heinz.
We’ll miss you Udo. As wife and fellow CX racer Antje Heinz stated when the day was done, “I would like to thank everybody for coming today and all the great people who put this race together. I hope we can keep this race, Udo’s baby, going for a long time. He rode with me today and I heard him cheering me on in every turn. You all are so amazing and I am truly happy to have you all in my life.”
Next Up: Long Beach CX Weekend hosted by Cal State University Long Beach Cycling!
The SoCalCross PRESTIGE SERIES heads to Eldorado Park in Long Beach this weekend, 11/16-17, for rounds 10 and 11. That’s right: it’s a double-header of cyclocross excitement.
Details for Long Beach CX Weekend can be found at SoCalCross.org
Registration is now open for both Saturday’s and Sunday’s events. Click right here!