June 22/02 7:07 am - NORBA #3: Story & Photos from Yesterday's XC
Posted by Editoress on 06/22/02
NORBA #3 -XC Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia
Jimena Florit (RLX PoloSport) bounced back from a disappointing second round ride to win the third round of the Chevy Trucks NORBA National Championship Mountain Bike Series.
In the men's division, World Champion Roland Green (Trek/Volkswagen) continued his dominance, beating second place rider Kashi Leuchs (Volvo/Cannondale) by nearly five minutes on a craggy, technical course. Jeremy Horgan Kobelski (RLX Polo Sport), the top American on the day and in the series, finished just 10 seconds behind Leuchs.
The shock of the day proved to be Florit, an Argentinian living in California. Having opened the series with a victory at Snow Summit, Calif., Florit proved she could win a major cross-country race. Having won two Chevy Trucks NORBA Short Track titles, Florit had never won a major cross-country race until this spring. After she floundered in Wisconsin, finishing fifth, some wondered if her first round ride was a fluke.
Today, just seven days later, she disposed of such talk.
Her secret has not been fitness so much as finesse. Having always possessed amazing top end speed and climbing skills, Florit spent the off-season working on descending. She has routinely donned body armor and learned the skill of downhill riding. And at Snowshoe that skill proved advantageous.
Unlike most mountain-bike venues that start at the base, Snowshoe Mountain Resort is unique in that all the amenities, and in this case the start-finish line, are at the top of the mountain. When Florit attacked at the start, her downhill skills came into play. She dashed down the hill, darting around trees and turns and over logs and rocks with a calculated degree of abandon. So treacherous was this course that the lead motorcycle crashed heavily, its driver taken from the course on a backboard.
But Florit rode clean the entire race. And once at the bottom of the course, she switched over to climbing mode and added to her gap over World Champion Alison Dunlap (Luna Chix). In her first lap she put a minute on Dunlap; after two laps she had doubled that. She would finish with a three-minute advantage over a woman many felt to be unbeatable.
As the Dunlap-Florit dual unfolded, last year's winner, Mary Grigson (Subaru/Gary Fisher) chugged along in third. Having tied the record for consecutive Chevy Trucks NORBA National victories last year, Grigson has finished third in all three races to date. She would finish more than six minutes behind Florit. Her teammate Chrissy Redden (Subaru/Gary Fisher) finished fourth and Shonny Vanlandingham (SoBe) returned to the podium in fifth place.
The men's race saw Roland Green forcefully ride away as expected. The world champion has been unstoppable this season in North America. The race for second, however, provided some amazing fireworks.
Initially Green's training partner, Ryder Hesjedal (Subaru/Gary Fisher) seemed up for the task but faded in the final lap. Up from the middle of the field came New Zealand's Kashi Leuchs, scrapping through traffic in hopes of getting a clear shot at Green. He was on Green's wheel after the first lap of the second round race in Wisconsin, only to suffer a double flat and fail to finish. With poor series standings, Leuchs had to start from way back in the field.
Another expected challenger, Mexico's Ziranda Madrigal (Turbo) had difficulty but not due to poor start position. Having finished second at Snow Summit,` the young Mexican had a front row seat to the start. But he suffered a mechanical breakdown just 200 meters from the start line that left him dead last. He would turn up on the DNF list.
The rising American of the bunch remains Horgan-Kobelski, who - like his teammate Florit - had been pinned solely as a short track star. The national short track champion, Horgan-Kobelsky has shone brightest in the cross-country events this season, hitting the podium at all three Chevy Trucks Nationals to date.
Hesjedal faded to finish fourth followed by Seamus Magrath (Haro/Lee Dungarees) in fifth.
Of special note to the West Virginians were the strong performances of their local heroes. Sue Haywood (Trek/Volkswagen) of Davis, W.Va., scored a seventh place, showing the national short track champion's continued development into a cross country star. Junior National Champion Nick Waite (BALANCE Bar/DEVO) also posted a solid 25th place in the pro race, where he has steadily climbed the ranks in his rookie season in the senior ranks. Maryland's Chris Eatough (Trek/Volkswagen) is best known as a 24-hour racer but he pulled off an amazing ninth place ride today.
With an eye towards youth, Waite was the sixth best "Espoir" or Under-23 rider but the second best American espoir. Hesjedal was tops overall in that age group.