Don’t you just hate it when your Thanksgiving guests stomp your turkey, fling sweet potatoes against the wall and use cranberry sauce to give Fido a fauxhawk? The SoCalCross Prestige Series had some visitors like that at the 10th edition of the Turkey Trot CX. And they seemed like such nice boys.
Barry Wicks, Spencer Paxson and Tim Allen gave their hosts something to be very thankful for: they were only in town for the holiday. These three did some metaphorical pumpkin busting at Round 12 of the 2013-14 SoCalCross Prestige Series, held on a gorgeous day at one of the most popular courses on the schedule at Verdugo Park in Glendale, California.
Local hero Kyle Gritters (Blackstar/Rock ‘n’ Road) launched off the line and led a strong Men’s Elite A field early in this hour-long, nine-lap event. After two laps he found himself in a breakaway with Wicks and Paxson, both riding for Kona/Easton/SRAM, and Allen (Feedback Sports/Foundry Cycles/Shimano/Fizik).
Two laps later Gritters was dropped, and that was all she wrote for the home crowd. Wicks, the lanky CX veteran from Bend, Oregon, rotated through with teammate Paxson, a top mountain biker from Bellingham, Washington, and Allen, who flew in from Golden, Colorado, to visit relatives, and they soon had an unassailable gap.
Wicks made a couple of menacing attacks that strung out the trio slightly, but then paid for the effort with three to go. Soon he too was losing contact. Only Allen and Paxson were left to fight for the first slice of apple pie.
Paxson had the biggest knife, however, and on the final circuit, with darkness quickly falling, he dug in with the fastest lap of the entire day – a scorching 6:07 - to decisively shed Allen and win by over seven seconds. Wicks held on for third at 23 seconds, Gritters was best among the SoCal crew at 1:20 for fourth place, and Gareth Feldstein (Ritte CX) rounded out the podium following an impressive comeback after getting pinched into the fencing at the start.
Winner Paxson wrapped it up by stating, “It’s a fast course and there’s not a lot of selection unless you make a mistake. I wanted to be a little tactical and see if my teammate could get back on. I waited until the last lap and then gave it. I let Tim lead as much as I could then kept it super hot through the sand and into the steep, mountainbikey stuff on the back side of the course. It was a really fun race and a cool scene. We’ve been here all day, doing some clinics and hanging out with the guys from Montrose Bike Shop. They’ve been super nice, putting us up for the weekend. It was nice to be back in dry, warm weather. I live in Bellingham these days, and it’s been a mud bath up there.”
Allen was thankful for the SoCal climate as well. “It’s beautiful, riding in shorts and short sleeves, green grass…we left about three inches of snow behind. This is awesome. I knew when I saw Barry and Spencer here it was going to be a tough day, and I was just trying to stay with them the whole time, trying to keep contact. I made it all the way to the last lap and then Spencer put in a huge attack on the climb and I just didn’t have it. It was a good effort.”
A small but strong Elite A Women’s field featured all of the contenders for this season’s SoCalCross title. Four of them were in an early break, including Hannah Rae Finchamp (Luna Chix), Nicole Brandt (LaGrange/Michelob Ultra), Christina Probert-Turner (The TEAM SoCalCross) and Amanda Nauman (SDG/Felt/IRT/SPY).
Finchamp looked menacing at the halfway point, building a slight gap ahead of a duel between Brandt and Nauman. Probert-Turner circulated alone in fourth.
Nauman, fresh off a three-day weekend of UCI racing in Iowa, was able to drop Brandt and claw her way back up to Finchamp with two to go. Nauman slipped past and stretched out a few seconds in front, but Finchamp closed it up again to make it one of the more entertaining races of the season in this class.
By the last lap though, Nauman had snapped the rubber band and ultimately rode across the finish line with a modest one-handed wave and a comfortable margin. Finchamp was runner-up, Brandt third, Probert-Turner fourth and Sasha Perry (Squareone) fifth.
“Hannah definitely had a lot of leg,” Nauman stated. “She really pushed it on the second lap; I didn’t think I was going to be able to catch her. Each of us was trading spots on the second and third laps. Then on that third lap I knew which sections I was going to push really hard and try to get a gap. I did and it worked. There was a small hill just after the run-up where everyone was taking it easy, and that’s where I passed Hannah. It was a good race. It was fun. I like this one.”
Finchamp was a gracious as ever: “It was a great race out there today. It was really exciting having the women all so close. The last few races we’ve really spread out, but today it was a very tight race. I’ve never beaten Amanda in ‘cross before, so I had a lot of motivation. On the back side she had this one section that she really drilled every time and she was able to get a gap on me. So in the front part I had to drill it because I knew she’d pull away again. We were within ten seconds most of the race. I’m thrilled, it was really fun. I love this course.”