Posted by Editor on 04/2/07
Nova National Cross-country
Three weeks ago, Georgia Gould and Geoff Kabush won the Pan Am Mountain Bike titles in Argentina, and on Sunday they once again were the champions at the first round of the U.S. national mountain bike series. The results were extremely similar to Argentina, with Gould - racing for Luna Chix - once again beating Mary McConneloug, and Canada's Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) battling American Todd Wells (GT). Wells finished third in Argentina (behind Canada's Seamus McGrath), but spent the day at the front of the race, just like this weekend. In the women's race, Wendy Simms (Kona) was the top Canadian finisher in 6th after coming back from a flat.
Held at the McDowell Mountain Regional Park northeast of Phoenix, the competitions were expected to be ones of attrition. Technically demanding terrain, cacti, lots of sharp rocks and temperatures in the high 80s (low 30s Celcius) meant that if you weren't on your game you likely wouldn't finish. The women did 3 laps of the 16 kilometre loop, and the men 4; both very long for the time of year.
Gould, already the winner of both the time trial and the short track over the past two days of racing took an early lead after a gap opened on the first singletrack climb.
"Kathy Sherwin was second to Georgia and she couldn't hold the pace" explained McConneloug. "After I got by I was able to get back up to Georgia and was feeling pretty good, sitting on her wheel."
Unfortunately for McConneloug, a rut had her name on it. "I was right on her wheel and didn't see it in time, so I went down pretty hard and lost a bunch of time."
Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain-Haywood) had been sitting third and moved into second, but then had her own problems with a flat. "It was so rocky, you just couldn't avoid all the rocks, and I hit one pretty hard. I tried to air it, but it wouldn't hold (air) so I had to change the tube and then get a wheel change at the tech zone."
This left Sydor in the 30s, but she had one of the most impressive rides of the race to eventually finish 10th.
Meanwhile, McConneloug moved back into second but couldn't make much headway on Gould's 40 second cushion. Behind the front two, Sue Haywood (Trek), Shonny Vanlandingham (Luna Chix), and Katerina Nash (Luna Chix) filled the remaining podium spots and were riding within sight of each other for most of the race until Nash flatted on the last lap and Vanlandingham succumbed to the heat and had to allow Haywood to open a gap. Kelli Emmett, sporting her new Giant colours, moved up to fifth to take the final podium spot.
The plus-100 rider strong men's field got off to a fast start, with a lead group of 15 established after a few kilometres. Todd wells was the main animator in the early going, closely marked by Kabush. Also in the group were Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher), his team mate Sam Schultz, Jeremiah Bishop (Trek), Seamus McGrath (Rocky Mountain-Haywood), U.S. champion Ryan Trebon and his Kona team mate Barry Wicks, and Adam Craig (Giant) all present. Missing was Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain-Haywood), who had a poor start after pulling his foot out. Plaxton would catch the group by the second lap and then break his chain, ending his race.
"I knew no one would get away early" commented Kabush. "Wells got the holeshot into the singletrack, but we had a big train going there. He (Wells) kept the pace high on the first lap, and I took over on the second. It just whittled down as people made mistakes, and then we were down to five."
By the second lap the lead group was down to five - Wells, Kabush, Bishop, Trebon and Wicks. Horgan-Kobelski was yet another rider to flat (as was his team mate Schultz) and had to chase after a wheel change in the tech zone. Craig was chasing alone and McGrath had faded to 7th, followed by Michael Broderick (Kenda-Seven) and Carl Decker (Giant).
A lap later it was down to Kabush and Wells at the front; both looking very strong. Trebon was at 30 seconds - holding his own but not making any headway - and Horgan-Kobelski had made an impressive recovery to join Bishop in the final podium spots as Craig and Wicks started to fade.
The final podium was set - except for Craig moving into fifth after Bishop (you guessed it) flatted on the final lap. However it was still undecided who would get to stand on the top step of the podium, as Kabush and Wells continued to ride head to head into the final lap.
In the end it was Kabush who would solo in for the win, after dropping Wells in the second half of the final lap.
"I felt really comfortable on the third lap, and then I took over the pace on the fourth and kept winding it up. He stuck with me, though, and I was getting a bit worried, but the back side of the course was pretty rough, and I got a gap on a step up before a steep climb. I knew that I would be at an advantage there on my full suspension Litespeed."
Wells admitted to being frustrated after losing again to his rival, but "there was nothing I could do on the last lap; I blew up a bit and then he attacked. At that point it was all I could do to finish the race."
- Prior to the race McGrath had talked of contesting for the victory after his strong silver medal performance in Argentina, however, "I just had a bad day today; no energy, no go. I was pretty close to the limit on the first lap, so I knew that I couldn't hold it and had to back off a bit. At that point all I could do was just suffer through it and try to salvage a few (UCI) points."
- Horgan-Kobelski, while disappointed, was pleased with his performance. "The flat happened on the first lap at the far end of the course. I got a new wheel in the tech zone, but it (the flat) happened right when Todd (Wells), Geoff (Kabush) and I were getting a split. At that point it was impossible to make it back up to them, so I'm really happy that I was able to ride back up to fourth.
- Other notable strong Canadian performances included Mat Toulouse (Maxxis), who overcame a poor start position to finish 11th, Matt Hadley (Rocky Mountain-Haywood) who had a consistent ride for 15th and Roddi Lega in 16th. On the women's side, Catherine Pendrel (Norco) took 13th and Mical Dyck (Trek) was 15th after fading from 12th in the final lap.
- Alison Sydor revealed after the race that she was coming back from a broken wrist - broken seven weeks ago while playing hockey. "I'm a little slower starting the season this year after breaking my wrist. So this was a good course for training, and I did better than I expected in this heat."
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