Sagebrush Safari kicks off Kenda Cup West series

The Kenda Cup West Series starts this Sunday at the remote Lake Morena in Southern California's Cleveland National Forest. This "old school" course will feature one 24-mile lap for the pros and Cat. 1s, while the other amateurs will ride an 18-mile lap. The weather forecast has been vacillating all week, but it now appears that the rain will end on Saturday, leaving Sunday to be cloudy and chilly with temperatures in the mid 50s (degrees Fahrenheit).

This year's race appears to be up for grabs as last year's winners Sid Taberlay (Sho-Air) and Pua Sawicki will not be racing. Costa Rican National Champion and 2009 La Ruta Champion Manny Prado (Sho-Air Specialized) should now be the favorite. Last year, Prado was behind Vincent Lombardi (Sho-Air) for much of the race until Prado's endurance prowess allowed him to make the pass. This year's event could easily have the same script.

After last year's race Prado said, "I'm a good endurance rider so usually the last 30 minutes of a two-hour race is where I start feeling good. The guy riding fourth was strong on the climbs so every time I would hit a descent I would just pin it."

Prado has spent the entire off-season training in his home country of Costa Rica. He remarked about the transition "from 85-degree weather in the middle of the Costa Rican summer to a very cold 40 degree Fahrenheit day in San Diego is a shock to the system. But, when you are having fun on the Sagebrush Safari singletrack, any weather looks good."

The US Cup organization describes the course as "the most diverse and challenging of the entire series". Total climbing on the 24-mile course is nearly 3,500 feet. Riders start the race with four-mile fireroad climb. Last year, many of the top contenders could be seen making the climb in a group. Sid Taberlay said, "On the first climb I was happy to sit in and ride tempo with everyone else but wanted to get to the singletrack first."

The rocky terrain is challenging due to downhill drop-offs and steep, fireroad climbs. Following the mountain loops, the racers are rewarded with nearly four miles of downhill singletrack to the finish. Jeremiah Bishop, who finished second last year, credited Taberlay's downhill and free-riding skills for giving him the victory. Being able to ride the drop-offs and stay off the brakes turned out to be a huge advantage.

In addition to the pro racing, there is amateur racing at every category from under 10-year-old juniors to singlespeed and tandem categories. Drew's B-B-Q will be on hand again to feed the hundreds of racers. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews from SoCal this weekend to bring you all the action from the Kenda Cup West season opener.

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