By Paul McKenzie
In the final Crank Brothers U.S.G.P. - The San Francisco Clark Natwick G.P. - Wendy Simms and Todd Wells both redeemed their second place finishes on the previous day in Watsonville, by winning their respective races in San Francisco on Sunday.
In contrast to Saturday's hot, dry, dusty, conditions in Watsonville, racers were treated to nearly perfect weather in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park on Sunday. The course was fast and relatively flat, but included numerous tricky, soft, corners. Racers with superior handling skills would gain a little in the turns, only to lose it on the straights to riders with more leg speed. In other words, it was a nearly ideal 'cross course where the winner would need a balanced skill set. Much of the course was in the trees, which gave riders relief from the heat and dust of the previous day.
In the women's Elite Race, Wendy Simms (Kona) punched it from the gun, while Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com-Louis Garneau) followed. Simms was on fire today, and in contrast, it appeared Bessette didn't have the same legs that have enabled her to take 13 consecutive cyclocross wins this season. In short order, Barbara Howe (Velo Bella), recovering from being sick the day before, charged into second place. Then Ann Knapp (Kona) passed Bessette and moved into third place, leaving Bessette fourth.
Simms was unstoppable, and gained a lead that would carry her to the finish. Knapp continued to press on, having a spectacular latter half of her race. She finished second behind Simms. Meanwhile, Barbara Howe faded slightly and was passed by Bessette. Bessette finished third, with Howe settling for fourth. Melissa Thomas, riding a solid, steady race rounded out the top five.
Simms, commenting on her race, said, "I felt really good, rode my own race and was just smooth." When asked if she thought she could best Bessette today, she answered, "I thought she'd be in front and I'd be trailing her, but then I saw how tight those first corners were and I had a good start. So I said, 'hey, here's your chance', and I decided to just go for it. When questioned if she felt vulnerable leading, she replied, "No, it's the kind of course where if you just ride your own lines, and you're smooth, I think you end up ahead, instead of trying to follow other peoples' lines. I really liked the course."
Bessette had this to say about her race, "On the first lap, I made a lot of mistakes. I was really nervous today and it played against me. When questioned why she was nervous when she had the series wrapped up, she said candidly, "I'm always nervous but today I was more so. I was hurting really bad yesterday in the heat and I wanted to make it nice and smooth today. But I was really rough on my bike, I unclipped in the sand a few times and lost a lot of time. I guess I was tired today. Wendy (Simms) and Ann (Knapp) had great rides and I can't take anything away from them."
In the men's race, a different set of circumstances were at hand. While Lyne Bessette clinched the U.S.G.P. Series Title the day before in the Watsonville Surf City G.P., the men's title was to be decided in San Francisco at the Clark Natwick G.P.
Tim Johnson led the series on paper, but poised to take his spot were Barry Wicks or Mark McCormack. McCormack was sitting in second, with Wicks in third. The series is scored on the best five of the six race series, and since Wicks had a race in which he earned zero points, he'd essentially already thrown out the points from his worst race. Wicks had earlier stated his goal of winning the series. Johnson had the jersey, but after a tough race in Watsonville, his lead was tenuous. The dark horse was Mark McCormack, who could win the series if he won today's race, or in any number of other complex, point juggling, mumbo-jumbo combinations. The spoiler was Todd Wells. While not in contention for the series win since he'd missed too many races, Wells could win on the day and upset the finishing order in a way that might determine the outcome of the series competition.