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Sunday, Jan 20 2013 10:18 PM

Cyclocross event attracts world champion Myrah

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    During the Cyclocross races Saturday at Hart Park Courtney Comer of San Marcos peddles up hill in during a time trial in her division.

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  2. 2 of 4

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Cyclist Courtney Comer, of San Marcos makes her way up the picturesque hills in Hart Memorial Park during a portion of the Cyclocross events Saturday.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Craig Chaney makes it to the top of this hill during a time trial for charity Saturday at Hart Park at the California State Cyclocross Championships.

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  4. 4 of 4

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Cheyenne Comer carries her bike up the steep terrain during a Saturday afternoon time trial in Hart Park during the California State CycloCross Championships.

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BY STEPHEN LYNCH Special to The Californian

Don Myrah sat with his legs hanging out the hatchback of his car and methodically wiped down the tires of his cyclocross bike.

The 47-year-old legend had prep work to do before competing in the Third Annual NorCal vs. SoCal California State Cyclocross Championship at Hart Park on Sunday.

Unfortunately for Myrah, those same tires would end up causing him problems as he finished in sixth place in the Elite Men 1-4 division race.

The two-time world champion had to switch a wheel during the race, costing him valuable time.

Even before that setback, the San Jose native was struggling to keep up with the lead pack.

"I had too much air pressure in my tires," Myrah said. "They were too hard and I was washing out in the corners."

Despite all of his tire issues, Myrah gamely picked up two positions over the final two laps on the tough 1.60mile course.

The race, the final one of 13 in the event, came down to a tight two-way battle between Santa Cruz riders Tobin Ortenblad and Aaron Bradford.

Ortenblad ultimately won the back-and-forth duel, passing Bradford for a final time just a couple of hundred yards away from the finish line.

The 18-year-old's winning time for the nine-lap race was five seconds faster than that of Bradford (1:02:28 to 1:02:33).

Eric Bostrom took third place. Anton Petrov was fourth.

Bakersfield's Gareth Feldstein came in fifth place.

"It was a really fun race," Ortenblad said. "Aaron and I were right there until the very end. I put down a little attack on the backside. I had a tiny gap on him and it looked like he didn't have anything to come back."

Ortenblad's victory capped off a big day for Northern California, which beat Southern California, 310-233.

Not all the big races went in favor of Northern California, though.

Amanda Nauman of Mission Viejo claimed a victory for SoCal in the Elite Women's 1-3 race.

The 23-year-old bested runner-up Elicia Hildebrand by 10 seconds.

Katie Melena was third, followed by Robin Kaminsky and Lyndsay McKeever.

"I just had a lot of fun," Nauman said. "This is actually only my third cross race ever. The last couple I did were this last month and I was borrowing somebody's bike. I actually got this bike two days ago and built it up yesterday. So I think it kind of helped that I had a bike that fit me."

Nauman took the lead at the end of the second lap and then pulled away. Her closest competition at the finish was Category 4 winner Carolina GomezVillafane, whose race started one minute after the Women Elite 1-3 competition began.

For her victory, Nauman earned $200. More than $3,000 in total prize money was handed out Sunday.

While the possibility of earning cash was an incentive for some to attend the event, Myrah saw it more as an opportunity to face some new competition and get in a tune-up race prior the upcoming UCI CycloCross World Championships in Louisville, Ky.

Myrah will be there attempting to defend his Masters 45-49 World title.

It's one of many impressive achievements by Myrah during his more than two-decade racing career.

He's won seven United States National Cyclocross Championship gold medals (four elite and three masters), and earned a spot in the 1996 Olympics as a member of the United States Men's Mountainbike contingent.

Seven years prior to the Atlanta Olympics, Myrah won the inaugural MTB XC World Championships.

Myrah began his career on bikes in 1983 as a road-racer and was successful doing that, too.

But cyclocross is what he likes best.

"It's definitely my favorite discipline of cycling," Myrah said. "I think what I like about it is it really has that feel of racing more so than other races because you're pretty much going shoulder-to-shoulder for every corner and it's really intense the entire time. It takes a lot of bike-handling skills as well as physical ability."

NorCal vs. SoCal. race director Sam Ames said he's been trying to get Myrah to come to Bakersfield and race for a long time.

The two men used to race against each other in the late '80s and early '90s.

This year Ames finally got his wish.

"Don heard about the race through some fellow riders in Northern California and wanted to fill in some training a racing time in between the World championships. This worked out perfectly since it's in California so he was able to make the trip down," Ames said.

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