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NORBA National Series #2 - NE

Sugar Mountian, NC, USA, June 10-June 11, 2006

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First-time venue hosts NORBA #2

By Steve Medcroft in Sugar Mountain

For the first time in series history, the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) heads to the Sugar Mountain Resort outside of Banner Elk, North Carolina on June 10-11, 2006, and the locals are all fired up. "We're super stoked to have the National Mountain Bike Series come to Sugar Mountain. It brings a whole new level of competition to the region,” says local bike store owner Shaw Brown of Boone Bike and Touring who will be on hand to help run the Kid's Rodeo and kid's races.

Longtime USA Cycling official and local Sandy White is proud to see the Sugar Mountain venue take the spotlight at the elite level -- and while remaining neutral like a good official -- he references his experience at numerous national events by saying, “there's always somebody back in the woods ready to come out and shine.”

To this end, Mr. White touches upon the story of Subaru-Gary Fisher pro female XC rider Willow Koerber and her entire bicycle racing family – which includes her expert XC racing mother and father, her sister and her two brothers – all of whom are from nearby Asheville, N.C.

Despite now living in Whistler, B.C., Willow herself proclaims “Watch out for the Koerbers!” when asked about “locals” to keep an eye on.

“Having the NMBS at Sugar Mountain brings the highest level of racing close to the cities in the South. And riders, like myself, who are from the Southeast are excited that we get to have a national race close to home this year,” says Pro four-cross and downhill racer Chris Herndon of nearby Brevard, N.C., who finished 1st in the Sugar Mountain event last year.

Though he's been racing at Sugar Mountain for about 10 years, Herndon points out that the various courses for the 2006 NMBS will be almost completely new from previous races. “I know the downhill won't be the traditional course. There will be new trail sections and a lot different terrain than on the West Coast,” says Herndon.

Mr. White lights up when he talks about the new downhill and cross-country courses. “For the first time in the event's history, the downhill starts all the way at the top of the mountain and it goes down past the parking lots, past where the skiers stop. The cross country course will have a big grind to the top, technical zig zags down the ski slope, and the famous local slick, sloppy, black bog that lies on the ground under the perennial canopy. There are some awesome spectator spots and the woods just come alive out there.”.

“The climbers will enjoy the opening run up Little Nell and Main Street Trail but the better descenders will get their revenge later through the technical Cakewalk and Tunnel sections on the harrowing front side descent. The full loop is 6.6 miles of exciting terrain,” reads race director Kim Jochl's cross-country course description.

Kim Jochl, who is also the marketing director for Sugar Mountain Resort, literally helped build the ‘Showdown' starting in 1994 by blazing trails with help from the local bike community.

The ‘Showdown' and the local series which the race is part of have survived with the help of Mr. White who was instrumental in bringing Cane Creek on board a few years ago as the title sponsor for the series which is now called the Cane Creek Cup.

While there will be a lot of new faces thanks to the NMBS designation, the ‘Showdown at Sugar Mountain' heads into its 13th year as a NORBA sanctioned event which usually draws racers from up and down the east coast and as far west as Texas.

Sugar Mountain Resort is located only a few minutes from Banner Elk, North Carolina, a small town nestled in the Appalachian range which has an array of lodging, food and supplies. In close proximity to the event site, The Village of Sugar Mountain has numerous lodging and shopping opportunities as well as grocery stores and dining.