A December to Rumble – NorCal versus SoCal
1 June 2014
Race promotor Sam Ames announced recently the date for the upcoming season’s NorCal versus SoCal California State Cyclocross Championships – 7 December 2014. The event moves forward by a month over its previous January runnings. The fifth such State Cyclocross Championships goes again at Hart Park in Bakersfield and forms the second half of a two-day festival of cyclocross racing.
The Story So Far
The intrastate battle, first challenged in 2011, is currently at three-to-one tilted toward SoCal. SoCal had the numbers in years one and two and significantly out-pointed riders from the North. This despite NorCal capturing top race wins. Reducing the depth of point-scoring placings to the top ten, and eliminating junior points, sent the trophy to NorCal for 2013. Last January’s running was particularly exciting with both ends of the State tied after all the racing was said and done. Ultimate victory came down to a bike-sprint with Tobin Ortenblad (Cal Giant) crossing the finish line half-a-wheel’s length behind Gareth Feldstein (Ritte CX Team). SoCal took back the spoils and again hold the State’s Cyclocross Championship.
“That was crazy,” recalls Ames. “People were laughing. There was quite a bit of totally fun heckling. I sat there with the kid most of the day who added the numbers. We just started at each other blankly. He pored through them three or more times and said this is exactly a tie. I didn’t know what else to do and thought perhaps we better arm wrestle. We had a good time with that.”
The new date for this season’s Championship will ask NorCal racers to decide between local racing and wrenching back the trophy. BASP already announced its CCCP Cyclocross at Coyote Point for the same day whilst other NorCal promotors continue to prepare their calendars.
Sharing his thoughts about the change, as well as his vision for the event itself, Sam Ames explained “I want to get it moved out of January and more into the prime season. That has been the request of a lot of the riders that have come through the last couple of years. They really thought it was a great event and would like to see it in an intermediate part of the season.”
“I started the date campaign at the end of January,” described Ames. “By late February, I had contacted by e-mail all the Northern and Southern California promotors. I gave them my date saying I desperately need to move the event. Recognizing some of the other venues and promotors may feel the same way about their long-standing events there’s not much I can do about it. It’s a very expensive and challenging event and really is created by the masses. Part of me thinks that, after this long, there’s either plenty to go around, there’s always going to be competition, and there’s never a perfect weekend.
“I think bringing [NorCal v SoCal] into the better part of the season and getting an early start on the marketing campaign will be helpful. I don’t want to jade any other promotors. I want us all to work together but I haven’t had a lot of luck with that in the past few years. This year I wanted to get a super early start. I respect other promotors want to hold onto their dates so we’ll do the very best job we can and get as many racers as we can.”
Meat and Potatoes
“For sure, the biggest thing we’re going to do is get a flyer out early to give people an opportunity to plan and understand what we’re trying to accomplish,” continued Ames. “By now the race has enough of a legacy that people are interested. We’ve always had a tremendous turn-out from some of the NorCal crew and we always put quite a bit of money on the line. We’ll continue with a pretty good prize list. We’re looking at bringing in a fair amount of cash which is always a nice incentive. But, the biggest thing is to try to bring everyone together and have a really fun race for the California riders. We’re going to do some guerrilla marketing and have some folks in Northern California advertise and continue to get the word out as organically as possible.
“The race has been consistent in ridership. Some aspects have grown, if you consider awareness as a factor. The other impetus for changing the date was there were so many people that felt if there was a December or earlier date it gives many more people a better opportunity to make it. So we’ve been pretty level and that has become my inside joke. I tell people all the time ‘it can’t get worse’! If we only end up with one or two hundred people then the opportunity to grow is absolutely there. There’s probably enough people to go around to get whatever they want.
“The event was created in my mind a long, long time ago. I used to drive almost every other weekend to Santa Cruz because it was the only cyclocross around. I always thought it would be so much fun to have just a ton of people, the meat and potatoes crowd, at a race they could do and say here’s kind of a cool State Championship thing. We can all come together, have a bit of a throw down, heckle each other, and show off what we have. Getting a prime date is key. B category riders are willing to make the trip and be a part of it but when it get’s too late in the season it becomes a little more challenging.”
A Festival Atmosphere
Ever since the inaugural year, NorCal versus SoCal has had a great course including challenging run ups, a total of three in one year. There is also a huge festive side with bagpipers, European-style ‘cross food, and, one year, a portion of the course running through a beer tent. “The goal is to continue the revelry of all the other events,” assured Ames. “We’ve talked to a couple of the drumline places here in town. They have a travel fund and we make a donation into that. The bagpipe player is unavailable but, yeah, anything fun like that we can get we’ll look to do it again.
“The Saturday race is a standard cross race, a warm up for Sunday. We’ll run the course in opposite direction and Sunday will be the actual [State Championship]. We have a couple of fun points ideas for the Saturday racing to liven it up a bit but nothing too taxing.
“We’re going to do a few different things [with the course]. We’re working with the County Parks department. The long term plan is to help them; it’s a tough year with the dry weather. We want to beautify that area of the park depending on the weather between now and December. We’ll use the same immediate venue because it just works so well for a ‘cross race. There is always some modification but by and large most of it will be a similar combination of the same [course].”