2 December 2015
NorCal Nevada crowned its District’s Champions this past Sunday with plenty of top notch racing. Ryan Rinn (Vive La Tarte) overcame a bad start and took the win in Singlespeed A from deep in the field. After racing some 15 seconds adrift midway through, Michael Larson (Velo Reno) took the race for second place in Men’s A to the final corner only to succumb to a battling finish by Max Judelson (Rock Lobster).
Tanya Grossman (Los Gatos Women’s Elite Team) became a District Champion for Women 35+ to add to her season of impressive results elsewhere in NorCal Nevada. Caroline Gomez-Villafañe (Muscle Milk/Specialized) and Tobin Ortenblad (Cal Giant/Specialized) respectively took the prize for Women A and Men A in dominating performances.
The well-built Surf City Cal Fire course smartly used every good inch of available land for a punchy course. Although kidney-smacking bumpy, it even had a handful of pump track-like undulations, there were plenty of changes in elevation and variations in terrain. The latter saw gravel along the stretch for start-finish, a concrete slab, soft dead-vegetation in the wooded section, and compacted dirt.
The course meandered along an embankment to give the racers changes in elevation with run-up/ride-up options. The wooded section had the majority of descents and climbs with rangy single-track. A triple-plank barrier forced all but the most-accomplished rider off their bike, arranged as it was in a tight 180° turn.
Although early that morning the temperatures dropped well below freezing in the surrounding valleys, the Empire Grade locale saw temperatures in the sun typical of a cool autumn day across the region. The early morning frosty crust never posed a problem in traction whilst the day remained dry and even dusty along portions of the course.
The well-attended event draw racers from across the district with a notably good turnout from the Nevada side of the region. Several racers from the Reno Wheelmen and Velo Reno teams contributed to competitive racing along with adding to the numbers. Nevada had many riders at the sharp end of races.
Grossman goes Fred, Gomez-Villfañe goes “a Las Chapas”
The field for Women A saw National Champion and World Champion-emeritus Karen Brems (Alto Velo/Sun Power) line up against Gomez-Villafañe and Ellen Sherrill (Rock Lobster), a Women’s Singlespeed podium-finisher the past two seasons at Nationals. Adding to the caliber were Chelsea Weidinger (MashSF) and Janie Dalton (Lulu’s Cycling). Immediately after the start riders head out along the gravel toward the up and down of the embankment and to the wooded section.
Dalton grabbed the hole-shot on the gravel section but upon their return to the view of spectators around start-finish, going over the plank barriers, Gomez-Villafañe had command of the race and a 12 second gap. Battling over second place were Sherrill and Brems, both racers looking serious about their race. Dalton took the barriers a further 14 seconds adrift with Courtney van Dimpel (Foundry) 5 seconds further back in fifth place and leading a group of seven racers.
On the second lap, Gomez-Villafañe held a similar lead and looked smooth over the bumpy course. Brems managed a 2-second advantage over Sherrill as the Sun Power racer consolidated second place. The field spread out a little with Dalton holding command over fourth place, adrift of Sherrill but 5 seconds ahead of fifth.
By the third lap, Gomez-Villafañe’s effort ballooned her lead beyond the 30-second mark as she raced full tilt toward the win. Other racers held their positions: Brems in second followed by Sherrill and then Dalton.
Campbell Steers (Rock Lobster) raced in fifth place after moving up three positions from the first lap. But the battle for that position changed again. Having fallen behind the Rock Lobster racer, Jessica Culnane (Vive La Tarte) moved back ahead late in the race. By the final lap, Culnane chased down a seemingly unaware Dalton for fourth but missed the position by the length of a bike.
The Gomez-Villafañe family are some of the best racers in cyclocross in the region and this District win adds to the many seen so far and expected again in the future. “It’s awesome,” said a well-pleased Caro Gomez-Villafañe, “I been trying to be District Champion for a while, I feel like. Every year I can’t do it. So I’m pretty happy. I think I’ve grown a lot and I’ve [become] stronger and smoother. It was a matter of catching up with fitness. It was a good course for me too. It was technical, even though it was kind of flat, so your handling today was key out of the corners.”
Regarding the bumpy course, Gomez-Villafañe was pragmatic saying “You just had to ride faster and plough through [the bumps] and then it wouldn’t hurt as much. My back definitely feels it and my ribs locked a little bit today; it was hard to breathe a little.”
For the Women 35+ race, Grossman raced extremely well from the first lap onwards, backing up her racing for the season-to-date. At one point, however, she became her own worst enemy crashing in front of the plank barriers. Audibly berating herself as she recovered, the Los Gatos racer resumed her race for the win.
Describing her day, Grossman remarked “I was worried because it was total Fred move. I couldn’t get my foot out of the cleat and I had a yard sale right around there. I thought something was wrong with my bike but then thought it was me being paranoid. When I finished the race I realized my front wheel was wedged up against the brakes. Still, I did well and it turned out OK. I rode hard and tried not to mess it up again.”
More Excitement in the Day’s Final Race
In the race for Men A, Justin Robinson (Santa Cruz Factory Racing), Justin Thomas (Reno Wheelmen), and Jonathan Baker (Chico Masters) took to the field after having battled each other hard in Master Men 35+. Also in the race, Scott Chapin (Santa Cruz Factory Racing) definitely had a stake for the win.
The first two laps saw Max Judelson and Tobin Ortenblad head Michael Larson, Robinson, Baker, Thomas, and Justin Abbott (Rock Lobster) in a lead group. Ortenblad and Judelson then managed a gap on the third lap even looking decidedly calm racing out front.
Ortenblad attacked on the fifth circuit around the course leaving Judelson in between first and a hard-charging battle for third. The Rock Lobster racer appeared very uncomfortable and struggling. The racers vying for the last step of the podium were Chapin, Larson, Robinson, and Baker. Further back by 10 seconds, Gareth Feldstein (Real Wheels) led Abbott (Rock Lobster) for a sixth-place battle.
Another of the regions homegrown talent, Ortenblad’s lead grew as he raced away for the win.
“It wasn’t easy,” described Ortenblad. “Max was there for a while and the same with Justin. There was a decent group for 2 laps. It wasn’t a punch out at every turn [when Max and I got away] but more of a steady tempo. I could hear Max breathing hard behind me so I tried to wear him down and then just punch it.”
Judelson’s day became more difficult as the battle for third crept ever closer. The first to strike out after Judelson was Chapin. But it was Larson with a later move that brought him up to Judelson’s wheel on the penultimate lap. The pair raced wheel-to-wheel for two laps with excitement growing for an anticipated sprint finish.
About 100m before the finish line, however, is a left-hand corner on gravel. Getting around in a sprint for the win is extremely difficult at this point on the course. So it was Judelson drawing upon every last Joule of energy to hold off Larson and reach that last corner first. Never standing on his pedals for the sprint, the Rock Lobster racer took the podium’s second step with Larson earning third for his part in an exciting race.
Rinn Notches Another Goal
It was a race brewing all season to see Ryan Rinn match up against Alex Kramer (Quadzilla). The pair are seemingly never off the podium this year. Others also with a say in the race for Singlespeed Men included Brendon Lehman (Rock Lobster) and Emery Wedel (Caletti Cycles).
The race started poorly for Rinn and he lapped out of contention early. As those laps fell away, the Vive La Tarte racer clearly had the bit between one’s teeth and he edged closer to the leaders. Once Rinn caught up to racing on Kramer’s wheel, the question was whether he expended all there was to overcome his first lap mistake.
“I had a really bad start,” retorted Rinn. “I started stupidly on the side, spun out, and everybody else went.
“I knew that Alex was up front and watched where he was at. Despite having having a bad start I just stayed calm, kept my heart rate down, and pulled him in slowly. In the past I would have gone all out and I would have been dead. It took a couple of laps but I caught him.
“I decided to do a little double attack. I went hard and then I went harder.” The race was decided there as Rinn continued racing hard for the win. Lagging behind early in the race, Wedel made up ground late to eventually take third in the race, 4 seconds ahead of Lehman. Cesar Chavez (Ibis/Buy-cell.com) also finished on the lead lap in fifth.
“It feels really good [to be District Champion] despite having such a sloppy, chaotic race,” continued Rinn. “It was a big goal of mine and now I can move on to Nationals. I am happy with my performance so far.”