Brent Prenzlow and Sonya Looney Conquer The Julian Death March
written by: Jens Raz
Since 2007, Southern California’s "Julian Death March has been making a splash on the local Endurance Scene. Accurately described as one of the toughest and hardest one day Mountain Bike races located in beautiful San Diego County, the race has left its mark on each participant. After finishing the 85 miles and 12,000 feet of climbing, pain was followed by a sense of accomplishment!
The dangerous weather that included rain and snow added to the challenge of the Julian Death March held in the back country. Originally planned for Saturday, the fear of hypothermia, dangerous trail conditions and road closures delayed the race to the following day. A forced re-routing of the second loop gave the racers another go at the Banner Grade Single Track Climb too!
Brent Prenzlow (Celo Pacific/B&L Bikes), the defending Champ was joined by local Bryan Taylor (Chains Required) and Coloradan strongman Jeff Kerkove (Ergon Intl) as the top favorites, with 2009 winner Guy Sutton (Cal Coast Cyclery) notably absent. The battle for supremacy of the Flat Landers vs. High Altitude Racer would promise an exciting day.
Brent described the race as follows:
- A lead group of 4 established in the first 12 miles (mainly downhill) to Cedar Creek. Jeff Kerkove (Ergon Intl) lead, followed by myself (Celo Pacific/B&L Bikes), Skyler Bishop (Swami's), and Bryan Taylor (Chains Required).
- The steep climb up out of Cedar Creek split the lead group. I moved into the lead and decided to go for it and try to build a buffer.
- Aid #1/bottom of Engineer's climb, 1:17, 2 min faster than last year. I had a 2 minute lead over Kerkove & Taylor. Lots of snow on the sides of the paved climb.
- Aid #2/Fage's, Cuyamaca/Soapstone was a little soft. I had a 3 min lead here.
- 3 canyons loop: Came upon a huge caravan of around 60 horses coming at me on the Rodriguez Cyn DH. I had to dismount and stop 3 times. I was worried I might be caught, but no one came up.
- Oriflamme Climb: Made it up in 33 mins with no dabs and increased my lead. Kerkove in 2nd still.
- Aid #3/Banner: 9 minute lead over Kerkove, although I didn't know it at the time
- Banner Toll Rd dirt climb: Hurting bad here - not sure of my gap, but made it up with no dabs and into Julian to complete Loop 1/64 miles in ~4:50.
- Loop 2 was rerouted due to the Santa Ysabel preserve being closed. We climbed the hwy back to Fage's and then went back down Chariot Cyn to Banner. Kerkove was passed by Taylor for 2nd place somewhere here. The only issue I had on Chariot Cyn was coming at the same group of horses requiring more dismounts. Maybe this turned out to be ok to get a few short breaks. My lead was now 10+.
- Banner Climb #2: Much better than the first time up knowing I'd be done and would win if I could keep it rolling.
- Julian, Finished! Ride stats: 6:39 (rolling), 6:41 official, 85 miles, 11,930' climbing!
The race for second place was bitterly fought out between the Coloradan Jeff Kerkove and the local Bryan Taylor. After the eventual winner took off on his 6 hour solo breakaway, Bryan saw the events unfold as follows:
"Jeff and I stayed within 30 seconds of each other until the first feed zone, then worked together on the climb up Engineers. Jeff pulled away at the top, and my wife told me I was 2 minutes down at the 2nd feed zone, then it was on towards Oriflame – I knew that this was going to be the hardest part of the ride and it didn’t disappoint. I was still behind at the bottom of Banner Toll road, but fortunately managed to catch Jeff and get a small gap before arriving in Julian. Due to the snow, we were unable to do the normal loop 2, so we headed back out Hwy 79, Sunrise Hwy, rejoined the route at feed 2, descended Chariot Canyon and back up Banner. I thought I still had a gap going through the Banner feed for the last time, so I stopped and lubed my chain – as I was doing so Jeff passed. I put in one final effort up Banner and managed to get into 2nd place by the top.”
While Brent called it "a FUN day on the mtn bike” Jeff Kerkove tweeted his personal experience of the day as riding "in 2nd all day... died 1,000 deaths... dropped to 3rd." Interesting and opposing views and experiences for a couple of hours on the bike!