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Jeep King of the Mountain #2 - NE
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, USA, August 12, 2006
Prokop and Kintner continue to dominate Jeep KOM
A phenomenal display of racing prowess by the top racer in the U.S., Eric Carter, and an inspiring comeback from injury by Dutch competitor Anneke Beerten were the stories of the day at the Jeep® King of the Mountain (www.jeepsports.com) 2006 Mountain Biking World Professional Championships in Elkhart Lake, Wis., but in the end, the world's top-ranked male and female racers, Michal Prokop and Jill Kintner, were able to fight off adversity and bring home titles for the second time in as many events.
The race day atmosphere was as exquisite as the racing itself, with several thousand Jeep enthusiasts lining the Y-cross racecourse at Road America to witness the athletes battling one another while also navigating a layout that featured parallel giant slalom and downhill disciplines with a multitude of bumps, jumps, banked turns, tabletops, step-downs and rollers thrown in for good measure.
From the number of bike-to-bike collisions and over-the-handlebar crashes beginning in the first round and lasting through the Championship Heat, it was evident that the invited athletes were eager to not only bring home the lion's share of the series' record $100,000 cash purse, but to position themselves for the overall title of World Professional Champion and drive away with the keys to a new 2007 Jeep Compass.
Prokop, who has won four of the first five races of the 2006 UCI World Cup season as well as a World Championship, European Championship and National Championship, started the day with a win over Jon Watt of Broomfield, Colo., a former National Collegiate Champion and Colorado State Champion. He then faced off against archrival Brian Lopes of San Clemente, Calif., a three-time World Champion, five-time World Cup Champion and nine-time National Champion, where a hard-fought win earned him a place in the Championship Heat.
On the other side of the bracket, Eric Carter of Temecula, Calif., the 2005 and 2006 USA Cycling Mountain-Cross National Champion, offered one of his finest Jeep King of the Mountain performances ever. Following a victory over former World Champion Mike King of San Diego in the first round, he found himself up against Wade Bootes of Australia, the 2004 Jeep King of the Mountain World Professional Champion and runner-up in 2005.
Carter outlasted the savvy veteran in two straight races to gain a shot against Prokop in the finals. Carter came out aggressively, but Prokop had too much speed and was able to bring home the title. In the Consolation Heat, Lopes out-dueled Bootes to capture third place.
"The combination of a good bike and my hitting the gates well, plus a bit of luck, was the difference today," said Prokop. "I'd really like to try and win all three races this season, so I have to make it happen in Beaver Creek."
In the women's competition, the action was equally intense. Kintner, who has proven nearly unstoppable with four out of five World Cup wins, a BMX Australian National Championship and an Australian Mountain Bike National Championship under her belt, knew that her challengers would not back down. After receiving a bye in the first round, she squared off against Corona, Calif.'s Tara Llanes, the 2006 USA Cycling Downhill National Champion, in the semi-finals.
A bad spill by Llanes in the first race gave Kintner a sizeable time advantage, which she never relinquished before moving into the Championship Heat. There, she would face off against Beerten of the Netherlands, who had suffered a serious injury earlier in the year during a UCI World Cup event in Brazil. In her first appearance of the Jeep King of the Mountain 2006 season, Beerten looked in peak form as she knocked out Bobbi Kae Watt of Broomfield, Colo., a former Sea Otter Classic Champion, and Melissa Buhl of Chandler, Ariz., a former NORBA Downhill Champion ranked fifth in the current UCI World Cup standings, to reach the finals.
Kintner, who had been able to conserve energy throughout the day, was simply too much for Beerten as she stormed to a second straight title. Llanes, showing incredible grit, overcame the injuries from the earlier crash to nab third place with a win over Buhl in the Consolation Heat.
"This was a physically demanding racecourse, and it was important to be first to the Y all day and protect your inside on the turns," said Kintner. "The day went great, and I was fortunate to have the most energy at the end based on the bye I received in the first round. I'm happy with where I stand heading into the final race of the season."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by courtesy of Jeep KOM
Men 1 Michal Prokop, Czech Republic 2 Brian Lopes, San Clemente, Calif. 3 Eric Carter, Temecula, Calif. 4 Wade Bootes, Australia 5 Chris Powell, Carmel Valley, Calif. 6 Mike King, San Diego, Calif. 7 Travis Collins, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 8 Brian Schmith, Lancaster, Calif. Women 1 Jill Kintner, Seattle, Wash. 2 Melissa Buhl, Chandler, Ariz. 3 Tara Llanes, Corona, Calif. 4 Katrina Miller, Australia 5 Fionn Griffiths, Great Britain 6 Marla Streb, Los Osos, Calif. 7 Bobbi Kae, Watt Broomfield, Colo. 8 Arielle Martin, Provo, Utah