Sentinel Staff Report
Article Launched: 01/15/2007 3:00:00 AM PST

Aaron Kereluk made an exciting sprint to the finish to win the elite men's race and a Santa Cruz County Cyclocross Championships title Sunday.

The Soquel racer's victory came by .3 seconds over Berkeley's Lance Doherty in a strong field that included Joe McCall — a racer who placed sixth last year at his native Irish National Championships and happened to be in town for business. Still, Kereluk's win was just one of a handful of events that made the third-annual county championships interesting.

Racers in the first events of the day — Category C men and women and juniors — rode the course at the county fairgrounds in Watsonville with race numbers handwritten on notebook paper pinned to their backs when the real race numbers arrived late. A junior rider who helped set up the course got lost during his race. Plus, one rider brought a bamboo bike so she could test it out before racing it in the final event of the season.

The county championships are the second of three Peak Series cyclocross races put on by the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club. Organizer David Gill said he didn't think the day's quirks took away from the racers' good time, and he expected many of the competitors to return for the season's final race on Jan. 28.

"Everyone had fun," he said. "A couple of times we were laughing at ourselves because we were making it harder on ourselves than it needed to be."

Andy Kobzan of Santa Cruz didn't seem fazed by a few obstacles, like make-shift race numbers. Kobzan earned the title of Santa Cruz County's Cat. C men's champ after winning his race outright.

Others who earned SCC cyclocross titles by winning their races included: Tim Sawyer of Santa Cruz in men's Masters 45+ B, Samantha Sommer of Santa Cruz [women's Cat. C], Ray Mendoza of Santa Cruz [Juniors 14-under], Mary-Anne Hunter of Santa Cruz [women's Cat. B], Kathleen Bortolussi of Aptos [women's Masters 35+] and Marguerite Meyer of Santa Cruz [women's Masters 45+].

A couple of locals successfully defended the king-of-the-county rights they won at last year's championship. Pat Schott of Felton was one of them. He defended his 2006 county title with a win in the single speed division. Larry Hibbard of Santa Cruz and Ron Riley of Aptos also defended their titles in men's Masters 45+ A and Masters 65+ races, respectively.