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Jeep 48Straight #3 - NE

San Luis Obispo, California, USA, October 25-26, 2008

2007 Results   Results    

Series winners crowned

By Al Sommers in San Luis Obispo

The men's championship heat of the Jeep 48Straight Mountain Bike Series at The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, CA, featured two of the most acclaimed racers in the history of the sport - Eric Carter and Brian Lopes - with over 60 years of experience between them. Lopes, with four world championships and nine national championships, outlasted his friend and rival to win the individual event title, but Carter, with a world championship, two national championships and over 30 career victories under his belt, earned the season championship based on this race and previous stops in New Jersey and Utah.

In what was labeled one of the deepest fields in the history of Jeep mountain bike racing, Carter would need every ounce of experience accrued during his career to maneouver through a bracket loaded with the world's top-ranked riders. And as one of the longest-tenured Jeep racers (having competed in just about every race over the past six years), Carter knew it would take clean runs, some good breaks and the ability to avoid injury to capture the prize that had eluded him for so long.

"It's funny because I didn't feel so good on the course, and never really felt I had my rhythm, but I guess I was riding a lot faster than I thought because I had some good runs and knocked off some great competitors," said Carter. "I had to bust tail to get this done and am kind of blown away that I was able to execute like I know how. I'm somewhat speechless because I've been trying to get this title for six years now."

The first two rounds saw him get past open qualifiers Logan Binggeli, and Mike Haderer, who pulled the day's biggest upset by taking down Cody Warren, a national champion and winner of the first Jeep race of the season in New Jersey. In the semi-finals, Carter would have to contend with three-time world cup champion Greg Minnaar of South Africa, who won the second Jeep race in Utah.

After losing the first heat, Carter stormed back to top Minnaar and earn a spot in the finals. Lopes' day was equally brilliant, with wins over open qualifier Joey Backus, national champion Rich Houseman and four-time Australian national champion Jared Rando. With the season championship in hand, Carter fought off injury to give Lopes a run for his money, but couldn't get the win. In the consolation heat Minnaar outlasted Rando to capture the final spot on the podium.

"I felt really strong at practice on Friday and came in first in the qualifier, which gave me a lot of confidence heading into today's race," said Lopes, who was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame earlier this year and will soon be accepted into the BMX Hall of Fame. "I have really high expectations for myself, and was disappointed with how I did in the first race of the season. I wanted to redeem myself, and coming out here today against this caliber of athletes and getting the win feels really good."

In the women's competition, Melissa Buhl put an exclamation mark on a brilliant Jeep season that saw her finish second in New Jersey and first in Utah, not to mention earning the U.S. National Championship and the World Championship. Her second place finish in San Luis Obispo earned her the season championship, and further solidified her standing as one of the most dominant racers in the sport. Buhl earned victories over Leslie Slagle, and Lisa Myklak, before reaching the Championship Heat against Fionn Griffiths.

Griffiths, a three-time World Cup winner who has never missed a Jeep race during the event's six-year history, was dominant throughout the day, beginning with a win over Joanna Peterson and a subsequent stunner over season points leader and national champion Kathy Pruitt, to reach the finals. Griffiths pulled out the victory over Buhl to earn the individual event title. Pruitt topped Myklak in the consolation heat to earn third place.

"I felt confident today because I really liked the speed and layout of the course, which matches my race style," said Buhl. "This whole season has been amazing for me, and is by far the best I've ever ridden. I am having a great time, and I know that I'll now have a target on my back and I'll have to work harder and harder to stay at this level."


Men's finals
1 Brian Lopes (USA)         
2 Eric Carter (USA)         
3 Greg Minnaar (RSA)        
4 Jared Rando (Aus)         
5 Kyle Strait (USA)         
6 Rich Houseman (USA)       
7 J.D. Swanguen (USA)       
8 Mike Haderer (USA)        
9 Cody Warren (USA)         
10 Peter Hanak (USA)        
11 Mitch Ropelato (USA)     
12 Logan Binggeli (USA)     
13 Neko Mulally (USA)       
14 Amiel Cavalier (USA)     
15 Brad Oien (USA)          
16 Joey Backus (USA)        
Women's finals
1 Fionn Griffiths (GBr)     
2 Melissa Buhl (USA)        
3 Kathy Pruitt (USA)        
4 Lisa Myklak (USA)         
5 Michelle Rivera (USA)     
6 Stephanie Nychka (USA)    
7 Joanna Peterson (USA)     
8 Leslie Slagle (USA)       
Final series standings
1 Eric Carter (USA)         
1 Melissa Buhl