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Jeep King of the Mountain #3 - NE
Beaver Creek, Colorado, USA, September 1, 2007
Prokop wins finale and overall
Kintner takes finale; Beerten crowned champion
Heading into the grand finale of the Jeep King of the Mountain series at Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado, one athlete thought capturing the season-long crown was all but improbable, while another was so anxious to hit the track that she couldn't sleep all night. At the end of the day, doubt and nerves were cast aside as the Czech Republic's Michal Prokop and Anneke Beerten of the Netherlands's brought home the coveted overall crowns.
Entering the final race, the men's and women's standings had never been so tight in the five-year history of the series. Five pairs of athletes were tied and seven had a legitimate chance of earning the top prize and driving off the mountain in a new 2008 Jeep Liberty. The action matched the high expectations, as thousands of race fans converged at the race corral to see which contender would fare best on a highly technical Y-cross racecourse developed by top racer Eric Carter.
Prokop, the two-time defending series champion, had won the first race of the season in Park City, Utah, before heading to China to compete in the UCI World Cup BMX Championships during the second race. Arriving in Beaver Creek, the Czech BMX and mountain bike national champion knew there was much ground to be covered and wasted no time trying to reestablish his dominance. He began the day by sweeping past Temecula's Rich Houseman, who was tied for the overall lead, before overcoming open qualifier Cody Warren. Warren had given Prokop a huge gift earlier in the day by ousting co-leader Brian Lopes in an earlier round.
On the other side of the bracket, Australia's Jared Graves, earned a first round bye with news that race course designer and competitor Carter would not race due to an injury suffered in the seeding runs. In the semi-finals, he met up with his coach and fellow Aussie, Wade Bootes. The battle among these friends was epic, with Bootes winning the first run before Graves stormed back to win the second race and advance based on the time differential. That set up a championship heat pitting Prokop against Graves. Prokop captured the first race, but came up short in the second heat. Based on the time differential, he earned the title and a three-peat. Bootes held on for third place by taking out Warren in the consolation geat.
"I honestly didn't think I would be able to win this competition today, but I tried my best and it turned out well for me," said Prokop. "I just tried to be as fast as possible out there, and was careful to watch my turns and cover my inside. Maybe I got lucky with Lopes going down early, but I'm thrilled to win again."
Beerten, who had captured the title at the previous round in California, was forced to start the day with a tough match-up against co-leader Melissa Buhl based on the seeding runs. The world's second-ranked racer with two World Cup wins in 2007 was able to get past her rival and advance to the semi-finals, where she swept Fionn Griffiths to reach the finals.
Meanwhile, Jill Kintner, the world's number-one ranked mountain bike racer and two-time defending series champion was taking care of business on the other side of the bracket. She dispatched open qualifier Lisa Myklak in the first round, setting up a face off against Tara Llanes in the semi-finals. The result was a hard-fought, physical race that saw Llanes go down with an injury that wrapped up her day prematurely, sending her to the hospital and Kintner to the championship heat. Kintner, battling for her second title of the season, swept past Beerten for the win, but the Netherland's phenom earned the necessary points to win the overall season crown. Griffiths earned third place in the consolation heat.
"I really liked this course a lot, but it was hot out there and became slippery in some spots," said Beerten. "It was nearly impossible to have a perfect run, but I knew I had to be smooth and also aggressive if I wanted to win that Jeep. Thankfully it all came together for me."