The Cup Rolls On
15 November 2015
At the Santa Rosa Cup CX, Caroline Dezendorf (Rock Lobster) continues to dominate her races and racked up another win yesterday in Women A. The second day of the three-day series also saw Walton Brush (MashSF) fend off all challengers in the race for Men A. In Master Men A 45+, Robert Meighan (Cal Giant/Specialized) relied on tactics to take the win, after holding back in the bottom half of the eight-racer field for a good portion of the race. All three racers added to their wins at Friday’s Night Race and stand in a strong position to take the Cup in their respective categories.
Saturday’s course at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds ran in the opposite direction to Friday night. The right-angled fly-over remained although the smoke and laser-lights did not return. The kegs became a “guard of honour” lined up either side leading to the approach of the fly-over. The course extended into the hill on the back side using steep changes in elevation as run-ups/ride-ups. This did lengthen lap times but the pace remained fast on the grass and the now slightly downward sloping start-finish and paved straight-away.
Speed and Momentum
Eric Bustos (Cal Giant/Specialized) struck out early and with intent and led the Master Men 45+ race with a four to 5-second gap. The rest of the small field held together until Rob Pitchford bridged up to Bustos on the second lap. The pair threatened to pull away all the while Meighan sat last in the race.
On the third lap, Meighan picked off several racers and moved up to fourth. This spurred another change in the race as the field caught Bustos and Pitchford, though Meighan still remained in the fourth and fifth slots. On the fifth lap, Matt Shelton joined Meighan and they took the lead after hitting the steep elevation changes. Together the pair eased away as the rest of the field splintered apart.
Behind Shelton and Meighan, Bustos and Pitchford tusseled over third place and took that battle all the way to a sprint finish. Pitchford took the last step of the podium. On the final lap, Meighan attacked again at the hill and came out ahead of Shelton. Taking the win, Meighan’s effort had all the marks of a calculated race.
“For me it was just sit and ride and watch where the race went,” described Meighan. “I was watching the Dfl guys Patrick Myall and Matt Shelton just to take it easy, not get too excited, and race smart. I did give a couple efforts on the first descent. The chicanes were big sweeping turns and I saw I could carry more momentum through the turns and take an alternative line.
“When Matt Shelton and I got away, I said to myself ‘relax, sit in, and try to make it happen there’. I was sitting on [Shelton] and we had a pretty decent gap. I made a decision to get up that hill first and just let the bike roll down the hill and pedal hard in a big gear. I let the bike carry its speed with myself on it. I was riding on chicane file-tread and they were just like velcro.”
“It’s a great venue, a fantastic course,” continued Meighan. “The grass is tight and the course is flowing. Quite a bit different than Lange Twins and Sierra Point. You can really carry your speed and momentum so its definitely a pedaling course. Not quick, short accelerations but just let the bike roll. It’s really a fantastic venue and Carlos Perez does a great job.”
Dezendorf wasted very little time in the race for Women A; she avoided any mishaps at the start and grabbed the hole-shot into the first corner. From there she simply bested the field by five to 10 seconds a lap and avoided any costly mistakes. Although her riding is a treat to watch, the race for second place was still to be decided.
Kelly Chang (Rock Lobster) raced close behind Dezendorf in the first lap and held second place early. She was chased by Chelsea Weidinger (MashSF) in third and Kristin Drumm (CX Nation) in fourth. Weidinger was four to 5 seconds back for the first three laps. Drumm had gotten off to a slow start, 7 seconds off the first lap pace, and uncharacteristic of her previous few races. Drumm usually challenges the leaders in the first lap or two and had done so on the previous day.
The fast course and long, straight-away suited the crit racer and Drumm began to recover from the second lap onwards. Turning around the initial deficit, Drumm put in solid and steady laps to take second place by 21 seconds. Weidinger looked threatening for the first three laps but, after Drumm took over second place for good on lap three, Chang would solidify her hold onto the third step of the podium.
“I didn’t hold back on purpose,” said Drumm, “because at the start I didn’t get my pedal in fast enough. The other girls were just faster at the start. Then I figured I would sit in on a wheel and try to ride my pace and not go overboard on the first lap, as I did yesterday.
“Gaps started to form and I saw Caroline [Dezendorf] ride off. I put myself into a mode of ‘oh well, I’m in fourth now’. I decided to ride steady and not make mistakes nor let my mistakes cost me time. I started to ride better and gradually caught up to [Weidinger]. I passed her on a corner and got both of them [Weidinger and Chang] on the hill. They both had to dismount. So I dismounted and passed them right there. I could coast down as I’m bigger than they are so I have more momentum.
“I used to ride a lot of stage races when I was a roadie but I don’t do that anymore. So the multi day effect is going to be interesting to see how I recover and come back tomorrow. But I also noticed it in some of the other riders too. Tomorrow will come down more to fitness and how you’re able to recover. Spring Lake tomorrow is going to be an endurance and more fitness based course.”
The pace for Men A was fast and on this circuit the leaders managed 14 times around the course for their hour. Glenn Fant, Ryann Rinn (Vive La Tarte), and Ryan Grenier were toward the sharp end of the race but it was Gavin Haley, Brush, and Gareth Feldstein (Real Wheels) as the main protagonists, although Feldstein was off the early pace and had to bridge up. As the field broke apart, these three contested the lead as they did the day before.
Sitting in the middle of the follow group some 20 seconds off the pace set by Brush, Levi Leipheimer set about the expected chase to reach the leaders. After 8 laps, Leipheimer was now challenging for the win, inserting himself into a four-racer lead group. The pace quickened on the next lap as the four increased the gap to 35 seconds over Rinn racing in fifth place. Rinn had taken a grip over that position on the previous lap.
A couple of laps later, Feldstien faltered and fell 5 seconds back. Next, Haley dropped off and eventually fell behind Feldstein into fourth place. Meanwhile, Brush and Leipheimer kept up the pace to consolidate their claims for the win. Perhaps ominously, Brush appeared extremely calm and collected sitting on Leipheimer’s wheel.
“When the race started and it was [Haley, Feldstein] and I,” said Brush, “we knew [Leipheimer] wasn’t the best starter so we all were working pretty equally trying to keep the pace fast. Eventually we started getting tired. As soon as he caught on he went straight to the front and started upping the pace more.
“I was able to stay relaxed and stay with Levi. He was definitely in charge of the pace and going harder than I wanted to be going. I think I’m a little more comfortable on my ‘cross bike after racing the last couple of months. I was faster through the corners which is a world of difference when you do fourteen laps at a corner every few seconds.
“We were coming through some traffic and Levi hesitated. I was able to take the lead which I had wanted going into the sprint. I felt that I’m better leading long sprints from the front so it worked out.”
The final two laps were the fastest for the entire race from the Leipheimer and Brush but it was Brush rounding the final corner onto the straight-away. The MashSF racer secured a 3 second win after so many challenges throughout the race. Feldstein maintained his grip on third place with fourth going to Gavin Haley and the fifth spot to Ryan Rinn.
Full race results appear at the Santa Rosa Cup CX webpage.
1. Walton Brush
2. Levi Leipheimer
3. Gareth Feldstein
4. Gavin Haley
5. Ryann Rinn
6. Glenn Fant
7. Ryan Grenier
1. Caroline Dezendorf
2. Kristin Drumm
3. Kelly Chang
4. Chelsea Weidinger
5. Michelle Morrill
6. Erin Stone
Men A 45+
1. Robert Meighan
2. Matt Shelton
3. Rob Pitchford
4. Eric Bustos
5. Patrick Myall
6. Matt Rolandson
7. Mike Warren
8. David Traficamo