Southridge Park, nestled in an industrial area in LA’s San Bernardino County may seem like an unlikely place for a high-level UCI mountain bike race but this has been a staple venue in the US Cup Series for years. This season the race was upgraded to an HC level race which meant a strong international field showed up to race for those valuable UCI points. The 2018 Fontana XC course was 8.3 km long with around 200 m of elevation gain per lap.
Sean and Andrew flew to Los Angeles on Wednesday morning from Vancouver and headed to the race venue for a parking lot bike build and a rip on the course. They finished up the day just before the sun went down, stoked on a productive day and to be riding bikes on the dry, loose California dirt.
This weekends racing included the main event on Saturday afternoon, the cross county, and a short track race on Sunday. Norco had two very strong teams present with Forward Racing-Norco and Norco Factory Team. All 4 athletes chose to ride their Revolver HT’s for this race.
On Saturday, the Norco athletes took charge of the race from the beginning. Norco Factory Team’s Quinton Disera had an amazing start and strung the field out in the opening minutes of the race with Lespy glued to his wheel. Just before the first single-track on course, Peter Disera made his way to the front of the race and Lespy slotted in second with Sean not far behind. In that first single-track section Pete and Lespy opened the gap on the field quickly and went with it. Two other athletes, Blevins of USA and Rohrbach of Switzerland bridged up and that was the lead group. To add to the first lap excitement, a large snake was scared off a rock above the course by Pete rolling by quickly and Lespy could not avoid running it over, “Pete heard me yell something, I was a bit scared at first, but I just kept it rolling like nothing happened,” said Lespy.
Not far behind, Sean was racing with a Danish rider for the first 2 laps and rode very strong before fading back in the field and still earning his best US Cup result to date. Here is what Sean had to say about the race.
“I started on the third row and had a good start sitting in the top 15. I moved up into 5th place on the open road climb and managed to stay there for the remainder of the lap. However, the lead group of four broke away causing myself and a Danish rider to chase for two laps. We worked together to try and catch the leaders but couldn't quite make it. The large chase group behind us caught us at the end of lap 2. I tried to hold onto this group, but I was suffering from the heat and intensity. Unfortunately, I began to fade more each lap and trickled into the line for 14th. Not a result I’m super proud of but I got a few UCI points and I know what is possible on a better day.”
Back at the front, the group of 4 were testing each other each lap and heading out with one-to-go it was anyone’s race. On the final lap, Blevins attacked from third wheel on a double track climb and went for it. Lespy was the only one that was able to respond and stay in range and went over the next descent 5-10 seconds down. Lespy gave his all for the remainder of the lap until it was clear that Blevins would not be caught.
“I fought hard in the final 10 minutes of the race to try to catch Blevins. I kept telling myself that anything can happen and just to keep pushing as hard as you can. In the end, the effort I could give was not enough for the win but it was my best and huge congrats to Chris for such a solid ride,” said Lespy.
Twenty minutes, all-out, that’s that short track is all about. Without many features on the course to really separate the riders it was all about positioning in this race. Off the start Lespy and Sean made it close to the front and worked hard to stay there. On the last lap Lespy made a small mistake on a key corner that affected his chance to contend for a podium spot, he finished 6th. Sean finished a solid 12th place after making an appearance on the front mid-race.
Overall it was a very successful weekend for the team complete with solid performances and great lessons to take to the next races. Next weekend will bring the athletes to Frank G. Bonelli Park for the second US Cup where they get to do the whole thing over again. Thanks to Norco Bicycles, Sram, Kenda, DT Swiss and all the sponsors of Forward Racing-Norco for the support.
Results – Cross Country
Andrew L’Esperance – 2nd
Sean Fincham – 14th
Results – Short Track
Andrew L’Esperance – 6th
Sean Fincham – 12th
Photos by Kenny Wehn and Caroline Gautier