Posted by Editor on 06/14/03
Hesjedal Continues Streak; Florit Repeats in West Virginia
Snowshoe, WV (June 14, 2003) Ryder Hesjedal (Victoria, BC; Subaru-Gary Fisher) notched his second consecutive victory in a NORBA National Championship Mountain Bike Series Cross Country event today, while Jimena Florit (ARG; RLX Ralph Lauren) defended her title as the returning champ from last year's stop in West Virginia.
After the opening day witnessed unpredictable weather patterns created by the unique location of Snowshoe Mountain Village, today's already technical course was made even more challenging by the rains that consumed the area throughout the past twenty-four hours. Mary Grigson (AUS; Subaru-Gary Fisher) may have put it best in reference to today's conditions, "It was like riding in peanut butter today", she said, referring to the thick mud that blanketed the course.
Prior to the race, the officials decided to shorten the race slightly, leaving the men to duke it out over two laps of a circuit that descended from the top of Snowshoe Mountain to Shavers Lake in the valley below and back up. The women would tackle the same challenge for a total of 22 miles each.
The men's field was without World Champion, Roland Green (Victoria, BC; Trek-Volkswagen) who is recovering from a recent injury and focusing on next week's NORBA stop at Mount Snow, VT. Hesjedal took full advantage of the absence of one of his main rivals, setting a blistering pace down the mountain from the gun.
As the riders approached the feed zone just before the completion of lap one, Hesjedal had opened up a slight advantage over Todd Wells (Vernon Hills, IL; Mongoose Hyundai). Together the two were holding off a chasing group that contained Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Boulder, CO; RLX Ralph Lauren), Seamus McGrath (CAN; Haro-Lee Dungarees), Kashi Leuchs (NZL; Maxxis-Trek), and Paul Rowney (AUS; Sobe-Cannondale).
Throughout the next lap, Wells had dropped off the pace slightly, leaving the door open for Hesjedal to put the hammer down. As the lead riders approached the feed zone for the second time, it was Hesjedal who had a slight gap over a fast chasing Horgan-Kobelski, and in a mirror image of round one, Hesjedal soloed across the line for the hard earned win just twelve seconds ahead of U.S. National Champion, Horgan-Kobelski.
Second place finisher, Horgan-Kobelski, seemed happy with his day in the trenches considering the course conditions, "It was definitely a day of mental toughness, he noted, "it was quite a slog out there."
In the women's event, most of the attention was focused on local favorite, Sue Haywood (Davis, WV; Trek-Volkswagen), Florit, and the NORBA NCMBS points leader, Alison Dunlap (Colorado Springs, CO; Luna Chix).
Wanting to put on a show for the hometown crowd, Haywood quickly opened up a big lead on the rest of the field, but saw it diminish thanks to the pursuit of Dunlap who eventually caught and passed Haywood. True to her recent form, Dunlap opened up a lead of over a minute on her closest chasers Katarina Hanusova (CZE; Luna Chix) Florit, and Haywood as they cruised through the feed zone at the end of lap one. Shortly after, however, Dunlap crashed on the high-speed descent that led to the base of the mountain, suffering a shoulder injury that prevented her from finishing the race.
Dunlap's crash quickly changed the face of the race, as the three chasers were now battling it out for the top spot. As the crowed awaited the arrival of the leaders up the climb from Shavers Lake, a roar of approval erupted when it was defending champ, Florit who crested the hill first, repeating her winning efforts of a year ago. Almost more exciting, however, was the fourth place finish of West Virginia's own, Haywood, who came across the line after Chrissy Redden (CAN; Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Hanusova who grabbed second and third place respectively.
An elated Florit concurred with Horgan-Kobelski's earlier assessment of the race. "It was a mental battle", she said. The course was awesome and really fun though, I was happy to win but bummed at the same time that Alison crashed", she said in reference to her rival's stroke of bad luck.
Hometown favorite, Haywood, explained her early race tactics. "I wanted to get to the downhill section first. Alison and I were battling. I had a pretty good lead at the bottom of the downhill but couldn't hold it. This is a great course for me with a downhill at the start and then once you climb you can feel your legs. I had good climbing legs, but not good running legs, " she said, referring to the section where the riders had to dismount and run with their bikes.
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