Friday, November 18, 2005

GP Clark Natwick - San Francisco, CA Golden Gate Park + classic photos!

GP Clark Natwick - San Francisco, CA Golden Gate Park
Final Event in 2005 Crank Bros. US GP of CycloCross

(scroll down for photos)

On Sunday Clark Natwick gets to take a rare trip in a time machine when he arrives in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for the final round of the Crank Bros. US Grand Prix of Cyclocross. It was 30 years ago when Natwick entered his final tune up event in Golden Gate Park before the first ever US Cyclocross Championships, held later in December across the bay in Berkeley’s Tilden Park in the pre-carbon era - toe straps, soccer cleats, bar end shifters – it was pioneer cyclocross days. Although only a few bits of that Polo Field course are still recognizable they will all be included in Sunday’s circuit. Starting with his first Nationals podium in 1975 behind Champ Jim Gentes, Natwick became one of the most decorated US racers in history, with 5 National titles and 11 medals in his bag. And on Sunday, he’ll be presenting medals for his own event, the GP Clark Natwick.

An homage to one of Northern California’s pioneers in the sport, as well as US National ‘cross coach, the GP Clark Natwick is a far cry from the 70’s and 80’s when the majority of events had minimal infrastructure and maximum enthusiasm. When he walks inside Golden Gate Park’s famous Polo Fields, he’ll see the sport as it has evolved in the 21st century, much of it thanks to his early efforts to create a National series of events to annually attract the best US talent, the original “SuperCup Series”. The top US series is now structured according to UCI regulations as the Crank Bros. US GP of Cyclocross presents the US version in a manner every bit as sophisticated as some European events.

Natwick will host a couple of current US stars at the start line for the Elite Junior event. With a berth on the US World Championship team on the line, Natwick will introduce a couple of his protégés with a story of their own to inspire the field. 1999 Natwick took the US team to Poprad, Czech Republic and came home with the first ever medals for the US – and 1999 Junior World Champ Matt Kelly will let these kids know the medals in Holland can be theirs, too. Tim Johnson, 3rd in Poprad in the U-23 behind Belgian Superstar Bart Wellens, will add his 2 cents worth before he and Kelly start their warm-ups for their 2:30 Elite Men’s final round.

Natwick’s first exposure to World Championships came in 1977 when he, Laurence Malone, Joe Ryan, and team mechanic Ralph Kornahrens arrived in Hannover, Germany for a Worlds most noticeable for Malone’s acrobatic bunny-hopping of the barricades on the course – Germany was electrified with the flying American. No flights were possible in 1978 when the Worlds landed in Spain in Basque country. Ralph Kornahrens remembers rain, rain, rain and mud. In the pre-power wash days, mud meant a bucket and brush to get equipment clean for the next lap. And meanwhile back home in Northern California Natwick started a career on the road in ’78 with a podium finish in the “Contienda de las Colinas” - at the time the 10-stage event in Santa Cruz was the longest in the country.

Post-Cyclocross Natwick enjoyed a Pro Mountain Bike career as one of Thomas Frischknecht’s team mates on the Ritchey Team in the early 90’s before his current passion, training/teaching/coaching athletes at Mill Valley’s Endurance Sports took center stage.
Natwicks career coaching palmares match up very well against his competitive career with stints as:
Coach for USA Olympic training center development cycling training camps.
Coach for USA Olympic training center world team preparation cycling training camps.
Coach for USA Olympic training center elite cycling training camps.
USA Cycling National Cyclo Cross team coach 1991- 1999, 2001.
USA Cycling National Mt. Bike team assistant coach 1991 & 1998.
Head coach for Peninsula Velo Cycling Club, San Mateo.

USA Cycling Team Member of 7 UCI Cyclo Cross World Championships.
USA Cycling team Member of 2 UCI Mt. Bike World Championships.
11 National Championship Medals (5G, 5S & 1B)

Sunday’s weather forecast still predicts sunny clear skies with a course that’s dry except for shaded corners and temperatures in the 60’s. And to make sure Clark Natwick really feels at home in the 1975-era Golden Gate Park for his race, the hottest sounds of San Francisco from that era will get featured air time on the race PA system. The course is just a few feet away from the meadows where Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Chambers Brothers, The Doors, and Santana once played outdoor concerts – and they’ll get tickets to the GP Clark Natwick time machine, too. Far out, man!

Tom Simpson
Pilarcitos Cyclesports


December, 1977 at the Northern California Championships, Pacifica, California – photo by Ray Stafford

Start line of the 1st National Cyclocross championships, Tilden Park, Berkeley, California. Natwick is wearing #12, just to the right of eventual winner Jim Gentes #11


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