Posted by Editor on 04/1/07
Nova National Short Track - Arizona
Tonight the North American off road season opened with large fields and aggressive racing at the Nova National short track in Arizona. Georgia Gould (Luna Chix) took her second win in two days in the women's race, while Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) proved once again that he is the king of men's short track racing.
The circuit, measuring just under a mile, took the riders along a false flat paved climb before a sharp left onto dusty and loose gravel. Two sizable dirt berms and a 180 degree turn forced riders to constantly slam on the brakes and then sprint up to speed again before a final pair of left turns put them back on the pavement for a 300 metre slight uphill run to the finish line. Both men and women did 20 minutes plus three laps, under the glare of portable stadium lights.
The women's race saw Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain-Haywood) get off to her usual fast start, and she opened up a 10 metre gap on the chase group, led by Katerina Nash (Luna Chix). Gould had a poor start "I had some trouble clipping my foot in", but once she joined the chase, Sydor was pulled back in after two laps.
By that point the lead group was down to four - Sydor, Gould, Nash and unheralded Kathy Sherwin. Shonny Vanlandingham (Luna Chix), Kelli Emmett (Giant), Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Gary Fisher), led the chase, and for a short while began to pull back time, until Gould took charge.
"I noticed that I was getting a gap before the last turn in the gravel, so I started to push it when I got onto the pavement."
Sherwin was dangling off the back of the lead quartet, and Nash was Gould's team mate, so any chasing was up to Sydor.
"It may have looked like I was drafting (Georgia)" Sydor commented wryly, "but I was just barely hanging on, and it was just a matter of time until she got away."
Gould increased her lead over the final three laps to cruise in for the victory, while Sydor did the majority of work behind to avoid getting caught by the chasers. Starting the last lap, Sydor jumped to make sure she led into the gravel and then just held off Nash's final bike throw to take second. Sherwin hung on for fourth, while Irmiger took the small chase group sprint for fifth.
The men's race had a huge field of nearly a hundred riders, which meant a good start was essential, to avoid getting hung up in traffic and choking on dust. Kabush, fresh from his victory at the Pan Am championships in Argentina, and counted among the winningest short track racers in history, leapt off the line to grab the holeshot onto the gravel and opened up a slight gap by the end of the lap.
He was quickly joined by a group containing the previous day's time trial winner Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher), Todd Wells (GT), Adam Craig (Giant), Sam Schultz (Subaru-Gary Fisher), Jeremiah Bishop (Trek), Ryan Trebon (Kona) and Ross Schnell (Trek). This group worked together to build up a gap on the rest of the field, and soon started to catch the tail end of the field (which was being steadily pulled from the race).
Craig then took a flyer at the halfway mark, and opened up a substantial 20 second gap as the rest of the leaders hesitated. Finally, Trebon, Wells and Kabush took the initiative to hunt down Craig, and he was caught (and quickly dropped) just before the 20 minutes elapsed and the final three laps began.
The lead group was splintering, with Kabush and Wells trading off at the front and clearly the strongest riders. However, Kabush pointed to Trebon as the rider he was worried about.
"I was trying to see how strong he was, because I was concerned that he might try something. But I knew that it was important to be at the front going into the gravel the last time, so I attacked on the pavement and Wells went with me."
"It was a drag race up to the turn, but I forced him to go to the left, on the inside and he had to slow down while I went wide and was able to carry some momentum."
This proved to be the critical factor, and Kabush was able to open a maintain a gap all the way to the finish line.
- The main event of the weekend gets underway tomorrow - the cross-country. While the circuit has no major climbs or descents, it is unrelenting, with tight, twisty and loose gravel turns, and lots of short climbs. The top men are estimating 40 minute lap times, which would put their 4 lap (and the women's 3 lap) race at close to the 3 hour mark. The weather forecast also calls for temperatures approaching the 90 degree mark, so there has been some campaigning to shorten the races by a lap, since it is early season for most riders. The organizers have said that they will consider the request, biut for now the distances are unchanged.
1. Geoff Kabush (Can) Maxxis
2. Todd Wells (USA) GT-Hyundai
3. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher
4. Sam Schultz (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher
5. Ross Schnell (USA) Trek-VW
1. Georgia Gould (USA) Luna
2. Alison Sydor (Can) Rocky Mountain-Haywood
3. Katerina Nash (USA) Luna
4. Kathy Sherwin (USA)
5. Heather Irmiger (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher
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