Hidden Valley Brings the Mud
4 October 2015
It’s October and nothing of the oft-touted and promised grande El Niño has grasped NorCal Nevada fully by the throat yet. Nevertheless, rain did move through the region this past week and the Sagebrush Cyclocross Series has the first event this season to sport peanut butter mud. Courtesy of a wash, a thick veneer of mucky, gooey sand spread across portions of the Hidden Valley Regional Park to become part of the day’s cyclocross course. The mud belied the weather conditions with the temperature reaching into the mid seventies Fahrenheit under blue skies pocked by a few clouds. It was left to the Cat C race, first of the day, to ride a drier line into the mud and create firm going but this was still happening during the later races.
Sagebrush and Hidden Valley, the venue for this year’s recently announced Nevada State Championship, go together well. The small but burgeoning cyclocross scene out of Reno has seen many atypical venues but today’s locale fits both that mold and the penchant of cyclocross. The park has plenty of natural terrain and elevation changes along with stadium stairs for a run up and city-park woodwork for barriers.
The day’s course also had three single plank barriers. Two were closely spaced either end of two 90° turns and most chose to dismount and carry. The third offered the opportunity for bunny-hopping but the soft ground would catch a few riders. The loam in tight corners, audible under tires, demanded particular attention less racers slide out…and some did. A significant feature for racing at Hidden Valley is the long paved uphill at the end of each lap, a tougher slog as the laps fall away.
The race for Women A saw only three riders take to the field with the mud still soft. Kara LaPoint (Team Luna Pro) came in as the odds-on favorite and she didn’t disappoint. Although Paige Galeoto (Reno Wheelmen) managed to briefly nudge ahead of LaPoint the first time through the plank barriers, courtesy of a skilled remount, the Luna Pro rider went hard in the pedaling sections. Galeoto’s brief tête-à-tête looked to become a promising battle of cyclocross experience and skill against the fitness of the Luna mountain biker; that hope was soon dashed as LaPoint stretched away for the win. Audrey Biehle (Dirt Birds) put in a solid ride for third place.
Max Judelson (Rock Lobster/Voler) started his Men’s A race well grabbing the hole shot and the early first lap lead. He was followed closely by Nick Schaffner (Herbalife p/b Marc Pro-Strava), Justin Thomas (Reno Wheelmen), and Curtis Smith (Real Wheels). The frenetic pace saw many riders kick up dust on the loose terrain or dab a foot to stay upright. By the second lap, Smith, Judelson, Schaffner, and Thomas out front established themselves as the leading group with Scott Hooper (Real Wheels) in fifth leading the rest of the of the eight-racer field. From the lead group, Judelson and Thomas became the battle for the win after gapping Smith and Schaffner by the third lap.
It was on the fourth lap that Judelson put in a charge to take lead for himself for good. His determination was obvious as he resorted to strong bike control to stay upright having slid in many of the soft turns. It would prevent him from getting further ahead although Thomas did keep himself in the game. The white clad racer never let up and never allowed Judelson a comfortable advantage.
Smith was well established behind the leaders and took third place. Schaffner’s position appeared in good shape though behind him later in the race Kailin Waterman (Rock Lobster/Voler) challenged Hooper for fifth and the pair gained ground on fourth. In his first race of the season, Waterman would wrest fifth place from the Real Wheels racer with three laps remaining. Out front Thomas kept up his effort for a stable gap to the leader; on this slippery course, his race could have paid dividends with one mistake from Judelson. The Rock Lobster racer never let that happen and he rolled onto the race win.
“We separated early,” described Judelson, “and then with four or five to go I decided I had to go hard. The altitude is pretty hard. I put a couple of feet down but then I smoothed it out a little bit. The first two laps I felt good, I felt I had a good handle on the course, but then I got a little excited.”
1. Kara LaPoint (Team Luna Pro)
2. Paige Galeoto (Reno Wheelmen)
3. Audrey Biehle (Dirt Birds)
1. Max Judelson (Rock Lobster/Voler)
2. Justin Thomas (Reno Wheelmen)
3. Curtis Smith (Real Wheels)
4. Nick Schaffner (Herbalife p/b Marc Pro-Strava)
5. Kailin Waterman (Rock Lobster/Voler)
6. Scott Hooper (Real Wheels)
7. Timber Weiss (Velo Reno)
8. Bailey Eckles (Team SoCal Cross)