July 20/07 5:39 am - 2007 Mountain Bike Nationals Preview
Posted by Editoress on 07/20/07
Coverage sponsored by Maxxis
The 2007 Mountain Bike Nationals for the Junior and Senior Elite categories get underway in a few hours with the Downhill championship. The event is being held this year on Vancouver Island at the Mount Washington Alpine Resort, just north and inland from Courtney and Comox.
Unfortunately, the weather has not been cooperating this week, with rain coming down much of the time, and mist and fog the rest. This has made the ground (to say the least) wet - waterlogged would be a more accurate description. For the most part, organizers have coped well, and much of the course is draining, however, a few sections have become mud bogs with ankle deep spots ready to snag shoes and wheels.
Defending men's cross-country champion Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) says "it is definitely going to be a real physical challenge. Most of it is still rideable, but there is nowhere to rest, nowhere to take a breather."
Defending women's champion Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain-Haywood) agrees, saying "it is worse when it dries a little bit, because then the mud on the climb is like peanut butter."
The Elite and Espoir men will do six laps of the 6.4 kilometre circuit, the Elite women five, the Espoir women and Junior men four, and the Junior women three laps. Of course, this is still open to change depending on the weather.
After starting at the Lodge, the riders head along a paved trail to the base of the main climb, which is steep and muddy, and split into two parts. The upper portion of the first part of the climb is the only section which maybe unrideable, especially if you aren't in the first 10-15 riders on the first lap.
At the end of the this first part of the climb the riders go into the woods for a technical and very muddy traverse of a few hundred metres before heading into the open again for the rest of the climb. Once at the top there is another traverse through the woods and then a short fast drop in the open before the course enters the most scenic part of the circuit, through an alpine meadow, around an extremely pretty little lake and back along a ridge from the furthest point out.
All of this section is fast and rolling, and interspersed with short singletrack technical sections, so unfortunately the riders won't have much chance to appreciate the scenery. After a fast fireroad traverse, the riders hit an extended tight singletrack descent through dense forest. The singletrack isn't particularly technical, but long and requiring constant attention. There is no possibility of passing in here, so someone could open a big gap.
At the bottom, the riders come out near the Lodge again before heading past it for a second shorter loop. After dropping down on a fireroad, the course heads back up for the second climb of the lap - shorter, but singletrack and muddy in places. At the top of this section it heads over to a large rock outcrop, which the riders have to climb over and then drop off the other side. The top men are having little problem climbing up the rock, but most others will have to run.
The last obstacle is a muddy chute after the rock drop, but it may be removed if the rain continues to come down, since that makes it a muddy foot slog.
One interesting note: Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain-Haywood) is scheduled to race Elite rather than Espoir.
The downhill is drawing praise from the riders, many of whom rode it a couple of days ago for the Canada Cup Final. It is very steep, dropping nearly 400 vertical metres in 1.6 kilometres. After a fast start it goes into a rocky section before entering singletrack as it criss-crosses under the chairlift. From there they head into the trees and some muddy sections, followed by more twisty singletrack until the final 300 metres, when it spills out to a fast fireroad.
"This is not a pedaling course, it is a 'drop down and hold on' run" commented one rider.
77 riders are scheduled for today's race, starting at 4:00 pm local time (7:00 pm EDT).