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National Mountain Bike Series #5 (NMBS) - NE
East Coast National, Windham, New York, USA, July 11-13, 2008
By Dave McElwaine in Windham, New York
Round five of America's National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) will take place this coming weekend at Windham Mountain in the Catskills just 140 miles north of New York City. With the US National Championships at Mt. Snow, Vermont only a week away, it is expected that all the top ranked racers will use Windham to test their fitness. Many Canadians will be on hand also to prepare for their national championships in Mont-Saint-Anne, Quebec the following week.
Windham Mountain is new to the mountain biking scene, but they have been preparing new trails for over a year in anticipation of this NMBS race. They have built a 4.8 mile cross country course, complete with man-made bridges, roots, rocks, and short steep climbs. It reportedly has about 1,100 feet of climbing per lap.
Windham Communications Director, Joan Oldknow, said to Cyclingnews, "Everyone who comes down the new cross country course seems to have a smile on their face at the bottom."
Racing will take place on Windham's 730 acres and make good use of the mountain's 1,500 vertical feet of drop. With the summit only at 3,100 feet, it will level the playing field for many of the endurance cross country racers who do not live at altitude. It is expected that the terrain at Windham Mountain will be very similar to Mount Snow. At the time of this writing, the trails are reported to be relatively dry.
Three newly named US Olympians will compete at Windham, including Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB), Todd Wells (GT/Pacific Bikes), and Adam Craig (Giant). Canadian Olympians Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) and Catherine Pendrel (Luna Women's MTB) will also be in attendance. Newly crowned 4X World Champion Melissa Buhl is expected to compete as long as her thumb injury is healing properly.
The current US National short track and cross country champion Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven) will not attend Windham to focus on her training. It is widely expected that McConneloug will be named to the final discretionary spot on the US Olympic Mountain Bike Team.
Katerina Nash (Luna Women's MTB) currently leads the cross country series by 97 points over Heather Irmiger (Subaru/Gary Fisher) who is having a consistent season. However, when one race is dropped per the NMBS rule book, Georgia Gould is well positioned to win the series again by virtue of her two wins and one second place.
It is quite likely that the women's cross country race will again be a battle among the Luna Women. Two weeks ago, Katerina Nash got her first NMBS cross country victory at Deer Valley, Utah. Team-mate Catherine Pendrel won the race at Santa Ynez, so it will be interesting to see which Luna woman brings the best form to Windham. Together they are the number one ranked women's team in the world.
Lea Davison (Trek/VW) returns to action this weekend after taking a short rest break. She finished 18th at the World Championships at Val di Sole, Italy and generally has been showing improvement for several races.
Wendy Simms (Kona) and Sue Butler (Mona Vie) who finished first an second in the mixed open category of the BC Bike Race are expected to be on hand at Windham.. Kelli Emmett (Giant) who won the women's race (with Sara Bresnick-Zocci) will be taking the week off to prepare for the National Championships.
A dark horse pick for this weekend could be Willow Koerber (Subaru/Gary Fisher). She took a rest break after a somewhat disheartening European campaign, but rides well on East Coast courses. She won at Mount Snow in 2004. Despite her earlier season setbacks, Koerber is maintaining a positive attitude, some of which she credits to her new coach.
The men's race is wide open. Ryan Trebon (Kona) showed that he is a force to be reckoned with as he won his first cross country of the year at Deer Valley in convincing style.
Geoff Kabush has a commanding 124 point lead over Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru/Gary Fisher) who has yet to win an NMBS cross country race this season. Kabush, who was ill for much of the World Cup season, has been home for three weeks now and should be at full strength.
Barry Wicks (Kona), who has been riding exceptionally well this year, will also be racing at Windham. Last weekend he and team-mate Kris Sneddon won the BC Bike race after a week during which several teams wore the yellow jerseys. Sneddon will pass up Windham to rest and prepare for the Canadian National Championships.
Perhaps the most improved racer of the past few weeks is Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW). After a disappointing World Cup season, he came back to battle valiantly in both the cross country and short track races at Deer Valley. In addition, he just won the US National Marathon championship this past weekend at the Firecracker 50 in Breckinridge, Colorado. Bishop races exceedingly well on East Coast courses, as demonstrated by his second place finish at Mount Snow in 2007.
Series leader Geoff Kabush has only been beaten once this season in short track due to brilliant tactics and his uphill attacks. He credits his 310 gram Maxxis tires for his ability to accelerate on the climbs. Barry Wicks, winner of the Fontana short track, will be returning to action this weekend. Kabush recently said, "Because Barry can drop a race (result), things can still be quite close in short track."
The short track course at Windham will include the usual mix of pavement and dirt, but will also include a short climb up a ski trail, followed by a technical singletrack descent. This course may have Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, and excellent climber, licking his chops. Jeremy (JHK) currently sits in second place in the series.
Carl Decker (Giant) has been a bit of a short track revelation this year. While he sometimes starts slowly, his fitness allows him to later slice through the field and make it onto the podium. Had he not gotten tangled up with a first lap crash at Deer Valley, he may have been able to compete with Trebon and Kabush for the race win.
Perhaps the best short track racer ever Katerina Nash has now put together three consecutive wins on the NMBS circuit. While not the strongest starter, she has the ability to pull herself back to the leaders, and then blow by them when she feels the time is right. Everyone in the field tries to follow her wheel but cannot match her accelerations.
Nash's most likely competition is from her own team-mates. Only the powerful Georgia Gould has beaten Nash this season, while Catherine Pendrel was second to Nash at Deer Valley, making that her best short track outing ever.
Heather Irmiger, also a great climber, may do well on the Windham course. She is currently in third place in the series. Mical Dyck, fresh off another Canada Cup victory, has also been frequently seen on the podium this year. Finally, Wendy Simms has not been afraid to challenge the Luna women and may be a factor in the race.
The new downhill course at Windham Mountain was designed by the Plattkill Riders to make a classic East Coast course. Race promoters feel that this course may be "the most difficult East Coast downhill course in the history of the series". Obviously that is saying a lot with courses like Mt. Snow and Snowshoe Mountain with which to compete.
Darien Harvey (Sobe/Cannondale) leads the women's series by just 65 points over Melissa Buhl (KHS). Buhl had to sit out the race at Deer Valley due to a thumb injury but is likely to race this weekend.
Joanna Petterson will certainly be one of the favorites this weekend. In Deer Valley she won the downhill by 13 seconds despite a mid-course crash.
The men's downhill series is led by Brad Benedict (X-Fusion/Santa Cruz) by 91 points. The race behind him is being hotly contested by Brad Oien (Odi/Southridged) with 498 points, Ryan Condrashoff (X-Fusion/Santa Cruz) with 437 points, and Waylon Smith with 413 points.
Unlike most seasons where the endurance cross country men seem to best the downhillers, this year is shaping up differently. At Deer Valley most of the top finishers were gravity guys, while Decker and Kabush could only mange 13th and 19th place finishes respectively due to the steep technical terrain and the lack of any serious pedaling.
Carl Decker leads the series it is by a scant 36 points over Ken Burt (Jamis/ Hayes). US National Champion Adam Craig has been riding some fairly gnarly courses in Europe and should be in top form at Windham.
The women's series is led by downhillers Michelle Rivera (StevenKSD) who has a 215 point lead over Heather Ranoa (Intense) in second place, and Connie Misket (Velo Bella) in third place.
Sue Butler and Kathy Sherwin (Sobe/Cannondale) appear to be the only endurance racers with chances to break into the top spots currently held by their downhill counterparts.
World 4X Champion Melissa Buhl appears to be in a different league when it comes to NMBS Dual Slalom. She is currently undefeated and leads the series by nearly 300 points. Darien Harvey and Joanna Petterson currently sit in second and third places.
Petr Hanak (Totally Wired) is having an impressive season, including a win at Santa Ynez, and a second at Deer Valley. He leads Mike Haderer (Fox Shox/Yeti) by 79 points. Logan Bingelli (KHS) is not far behind in third place.
Deer Valley is the only NMBS race that Cameron Cole (Maxxis) entered this year, but he won there. Should he decide to make Windham his second race, he certainly will be considered a favorite.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage from Windham Mountain all weekend.
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Images by Dave McElwaine/www.trailwatch.net
Images by Windham Mountain Resort