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1st Subaru Nova Desert Classic - NE
Phoenix, Arizona, March 21-23, 2003
Stage 1 - March 21: Fountain Hills ITT, 13.7 km
Fast, flat and furious start
By Stephen W. Medcroft in Fountain Hills, Arizona
The Inaugural Subaru Nova Desert Classic kicked off the U.S. professional mountain-bike racing scene with a hot time trial in Fountain Hills, Arizona today. Chris Sheppard posted the fastest time for the professional men and Susan Haywood proved her early season form with a win in a tightly contested pro women's division.
Temperatures peaked at almost 80 degrees Fahrenheit and only the odd and sparse cloud provided any protection from the bright desert sun as the world's top mountain bikers turned the pedals against each other for the first time this year. The time trial was fought on an 8 1/2 mile dry-desert singletrack that features no significant elevation gain but some intense and short descents and climbs in and out of washes. "This was not really a fitness course," said current UCI mountain bike world champion Roland Green. "It was flat and fast." But, he added, he felt it was a good test of his current level of fitness and a great opportunity to tune-in all the new gear the Trek-sponsored racer has been issued in recent weeks.
Another seasoned Trek/VW pro, Alison Sydor sees the Subaru Nova Desert Classic as a good early test for her as well. "It was good to get the first race out of the way," she said after coming off the course adding that she felt good but may have made the wrong bike choice. Trek racers have the option between racing their Trek Fuel 100 full suspension bikes and Trek XC 98 hardtails. Alison chose the latter and said, "there were places on the course that were a little rocky, where there were opportunities to pedal. I found myself handling the bike where full-suspension may have helped me."
One of the best times for women went to Mary Grigson of Subaru/Gary Fisher. Grigson is coming off a tough 2002 season during which she battled over training and fatigue and had to take four months completely off the bike to recover in winter. She is optimistic about her form this year though and will be watching these early results carefully for signs that her previous woes are behind her. She feels that she owed some of today's success to the equipment though, opting to ride her 292, the 29" wheeled, full-suspension offering from Gary Fisher. "This bike rocks," she glowed, listing design features such as a lower center of gravity and the sturdiness of 29-inch wheels as advantages in her cross-country racing.
One highlight today was Wade Bootes' entry into the cross-country stage race. Primarily a downhill and 4-cross racer, the Trek/VW pro brought a lift to fans when he pulled and held an extended wheelie out of the time-trial starting hut while departing for his respectable 34 minute plus run of the TT course.
One setback to the day was the confusion over posted results, with many pro teams needing corrections to the times of their finishers before results could be made official. To the organizers credit though, all issues were worked out immediately and pro team managers seemed happy after all was said and done.
A three-day stage race combining a time trial today, a dirt criterium/short track race tomorrow and concluding with a cross country battle on Sunday, the Subaru Nova Desert Classic hopes to fill a space left when the Arizona-based Cactus Cup died out at the end of the 1990s. Race sponsor and namesake, Nova Youth Cycling Federation (NYCF), a non-profit organization whose mission it is to provide support in beginning a systematic search for world-class mountain bikers at the junior level, hopes the event will be popular among the mountain biking community and will bring attention to their cause.
Pro men and women race short track tomorrow at about 2:30pm Arizona time and expect temperatures to climb into the mid-80s.
Sheppard and Haywood dominate
By Jonathan Devich in Fountain Hills, Arizona
Clear skies and mid-70 degree weather greeted riders Friday at the NOVA Desert Classic in Fountain Hills, AZ. The first event of the 3-day stage race was a time trial through the rolling single-track of McDowell Mountain Park. Coming out on top in the women's race was Sue Haywood of the Trek/VW Team. Haywood beat out Mary Grigson (Gary Fisher/Subaru) by a mere 3 seconds. Behind her was Lanie Mason riding for Cane Creek. Canadian National champion Alison Sydor who was held up because of front derailleur troubles, was pushed back to 6th place.
In the men's race, Chris Sheppard (Haro-Lee Dungarees) dominated with a time of 28:42 over Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain) at 28:55. Rolling in third was reining World Champ Roland Green (Trek/VW), 13 seconds behind the leader.
The race brings back a long missed event that was the Cactus Cup, which was last run in 1999. Race promoter Jerry Sieve felt the absence of the race and thought now was the time to bring a fun spring event back to Arizona. "Arizona has missed the Cactus Cup since it went under in '99 and I could tell there was a lot of interest in it. We have got about 1,000 registered for the whole weekend. The industry has been very supportive. I think it will be a cumulative thing and it will grow again."
Eric Wallace, team manager for Trek/VW echoed Sieve's thoughts. "We planned training camp around this race. As soon as I found out about this race and what he wanted to do with it I called him and said I would commit the full team."
The full Trek/VW Team is racing this weekend after driving straight down from their training camp in Sedona. For many riders it was their first race of the year and Wallace feels a great way to get things started.
"Sue Haywood had a blistering day, just a perfect ride Roland turned in a good result; it looks like he was 3rd. Alison had a good ride but with chain problems. Travis rode really well too." Wallace explained, "For most people this is their first MTB race of the season. Travis raced cyclocross all last fall so he did not take much time off at all. This is Alison's first race, Sue's first race and they are just on fire. This is in line with Wayde, he did the first track World Cup in Moscow and a bunch of BMX races the last month." (Note: Roland Green raced last month in Langkawi and Wallace confirmed that he would be taking a full team to Redlands in support of Green. He also commented that Green would be doing some racing for the USPS team in future, specifically at the Tour de Georgia. Green hopes to mix in more road racing with the USPS team and Wallace also stated that a statement will be made shortly regarding Greens future on the road.)
Saturday brings the short track race and one concern on everyone's mind is the timing mishaps from the previous day. Jason Jablonski, racing semi-pro out of Wenatchee, Washington for Bola Wines/Bianchi, was frustrated at the start of today's race.
"It's a mess out there! They were supposed to have results up from yesterday but they do not have them yet. Then at the start of the short track, they were supposed to have brought the top five riders to the front for the start but since they did not have results, they could not do that. I got put in the back and had a terrible start." Jablonski however is keeping a positive attitude, "I'm just enjoying the weather though. It's so nice outside right now and the course is great."
Images by Stephen W. Medcroft
Images by Jonathan Devich/thefastrack.com
Men 1 Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA) RLX 0.28.26 2 Chris Sheppard (USA) Haro 0.16 3 Andreas Hestler (USA) Rocky Mountain 0.29 4 Roland Green (Can) Trek/VW 0.33 5 Travis Brown (USA) Trek/VW 0.38 6 Derek Wilkerson (USA) Hillenbrand 0.47 7 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Gary Fisher 0.55 8 Ryan Trebon (USA) 1.00 9 Jay Henry (USA) Specialized 1.11 10 Liam Killeen (GBr) Gary Fisher 1.21 11 Jason Tullous (USA) 1.38 12 Christian Navarrete (USA) 1.43 13 Jason Sager (USA) 1.48 14 Nick Gould (USA) 1.50 15 Anthony Colby (USA) 1.51 16 Charles Jenkins (USA) 1.54 17 Nicholas Waite (USA) 1.55 18 Neil Shirley (USA) 1.57 19 Brian Matter (USA) 1.59 20 Derek Prechtl (USA) 2.01 21 Scott Keller (USA) 2.18 22 Duncan Meyers (USA) 2.27 23 Brad Van Orden (USA) Ritchey/Nova 2.27 24 Todd Tanner (USA) 2.52 25 Barton Bowen (USA) 3.00 26 John Salskov (USA) 3.28 27 Dave Wiens (USA) RLX 4.05 28 Wade Bootes (USA) Trek/VW 5.39 29 Joel Hennings (USA) 5.46 30 Walker Ferguson (USA) Gary Fisher 6.22 31 Nathan Phillips (USA) 6.30 32 Josh Bezecny (USA) 6.32 33 James Van Toever (USA) 8.26 34 Jimi Mortenson (USA) 8.41 35 Nat Ross (USA) 25.09 36 Amon Pease (USA) 44.29 Women 1 Susan Haywood (USA) Trek/VW 0.32.36 2 Mary Grigson (Aus) Gary Fisher 0.03 3 Lanie Mason (USA) Cane Creek 0.22 4 Kelli Emmett (USA) Hillenbrand 1.05 5 Jimena Florit (Arg) RLX 1.13 6 Alison Sydor (Can) Trek/VW 1.17 7 Chrissy Redden (Can) Gary Fisher 1.19 8 Melanie McQuaid (Can) Ford Outfitters 1.21 9 Rhonda Quick (USA) 1.24 10 Willow Koerber (USA) RLX 1.49 11 Dara Marks (USA) 1.50 12 Kathy Sherwin (USA) 2.38 13 Shannon Gibson (USA) 2.55 14 Alexandra Robinette (USA) 2.56 15 Jennifer Todd (USA) 3.35 16 Jennie Wilson (USA) 3.40 17 Alicia Mayer (USA) 3.40 18 Joan Orgeldinger (USA) 3.50 19 Lisa Matlock (USA) Ford Outfitters 4.03 20 Tonya Laffey (USA) MTB Chicks 4.04 21 Tiffany Kenny (USA) Ford Outfitters 4.22 22 Molly Hummel (USA) 4.34 23 Nicole Habay (USA) 4.48 24 Leah Trapp (USA) 4.55 25 Shari Hausbeck (USA) 5.37 26 Jody Koch (USA) Ford Outfitters 5.45 27 Leslie Gilmore (USA) Soulcraft 5.47 28 Rachel Massey (USA) Ford Outfitters 6.03 29 Mio Suemasa (Jpn) Trek/VW 6.30 30 Sonia Lopez (USA) 6.31 31 Kimberly Anderson (USA) 26.39 32 Shonny Vanlandingham (USA) Luna Chix 30.40