Posted by Editoress on 05/6/06
NORBA XC #1 Fontana CA
Courtesy USA Cycling
The 2006 National Mountain Bike Series returned to Southern California after a two-year absence as 2005 overall series champions Shonny Vanlandingham and Geoff Kabush of Canada each captured wins in the cross country event on Saturday.
After the traditional season opener at Snow Summit Resort in Big Bear, Calif. was removed from the schedule following the 2004 season, Southridge Park in nearby Fontana hosted the return of the nation's off-road cycling series to the region.
In the men's race, Kabush benefited from a late-race mishap that claimed the hopes of 2004 Olympic Team members Todd Wells (GT-Hyundai) and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) after the American duo crashed in final corner.
With four laps of a seven-mile circuit on the agenda for the men, Kabush, Wells, Horgan-Kobelski and Barry Wicks (Kona) clearly established themselves as the strongest of the 89 pro men competitors, separating themselves from the rest of the pack after two laps. Once the significant gap was created, the foursome continued to endure dry, dusty conditions and nearly 1,500 feet of climbing per lap until Wicks was eventually shed from contention.
The remaining trio stuck together until the final corner where Horgan-Kobelski and Wells tangled and went down, leaving Kabush to cross the line alone and uncontested.
"It was a tight course," explained Horgan-Kobelski, the reigning U.S. National Champion after the race. "There weren't many places to get on the gas out there, so I tried to make the most of that last corner. I definitely laid it out there man. It was looking like a sprint between the three of us. We were pretty evenly matched all day and it all depended on who got into that last corner first."
Kabush, the current Canadian National Champion, takes the early lead in the seven-race, season-long series after his win on Saturday after riding a tactically sound race and avoiding the eleventh-hour crash.
"It was a bit of a cluster with all the traffic on the course," said Kabush. "That played a pretty big role. There wasn't much point in attacking because you were just going to run into someone and the three of us would have regrouped anyway. "Going into the last section we were all attacking trying to get into the last part of singletrack first and Todd kind of faded into Jeremy. Luckily I had a meter or two gap and was able to avoid them. It looked like they went down pretty hard."
Horgan-Kobelski managed to remount and place second, but Wells, who suffered most from the crash, was passed by Wicks and eventually placed fourth.
Wicks, whose best National Mountain Bike Series finish was a fourth-place effort at Snowshoe Mountain Resort in 2005, earned a career-best bronze medal on the national scene Saturday.
After keeping pace with his more experienced counterparts, Wicks lost contact with the leaders midway through the third lap.
"I was just trying to ride my own pace and halfway into the third lap, I popped," explained Wicks. "It was just one of those things. They got away on the downhill and I just kind of kept the same pace. I definitely rode a strong race. The form is a lot better than it's been and I'm learning to race my bike a lot better."
Vanlandingham captured her first win on the 2006 National Mountain Bike Series circuit in convincing fashion, leading from start to finish throughout the 21-mile, three-lap race.
Vanlandingham took the win ahead of perennial powerhouse Alison Sydor of Canada and teammate Jimena Florit of Argentina.
"I went into the singletrack section in second with my teammate Katerina and we got a few seconds on the field and she had a little bobble," explained Vanlandingham. "I got around her, got a gap on the field and just gradually built on that. I think I had about a minute gap and I was just trying to keep it steady and tried to maintain that lead."
Subaru-Gary Fisher teammates Willow Koerber and Heather Irmiger rounded out the women's podium.
Endurance riders conclude their weekend with the short track event on Sunday.
The opening round of the 2006 National Mountain Bike Series continues on Saturday night with the pro men's and women's mountain cross event.
1. Geoff Kabush (Can) Maxxis
2. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher
3. Barry Wicks (USA) Kona
4. Todd Wells (USA) GT-Hyundai
1. Shonny Vanlandingham (USA) Luna Women's MTB
2. Alison Sydor (Can) Rocky Mountain Business Objects
3. Jimena Florit (Arg) Luna Women's MTB
4. Willow Koerber (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher
5. Heather Irmiger (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher
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