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USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships - CN
Mt. Snow, Vermont, USA, July 17-22, 2008
By Dave McElwaine in West Dover, Vermont
One thousand mountain bikers will compete in various categories for a stars-and-stripes jersey this coming weekend at Mount Snow in West Dover, Vermont. Categories that will be competed include cross country, short track, dual slalom, downhill, observed trials, and super D.
Always a favorite with the racers, Mount Snow offers some of the most challenging East Coast singletrack that the riders face all year. Typically, conditions include deep mud, but this year, trail maintenance crews are reporting that the trails are relatively dry. Roots, rocks, and steep climbs are the norm on the demanding five-mile cross country course.The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the 80s [degrees Fahrenheit] with possible scattered showers. As many racers know, overnight rains can dramatically change the course conditions.
This will be the last domestic competition for the newly named US Olympic Mountain Biking Team before the Olympic race in Beijing, China. Adam Craig (Giant), Todd Wells (GT/Pacific), Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven), and Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB) will all be on hand to compete this weekend.
The Olympians face a special challenge in that they must be at peak performance about a month from now, making it hard to be at top form this weekend also. Craig and McConneloug each will be defending two national championship titles at Mount Snow.
USA Cycling has planned a special ceremony to award the Olympic Team their jerseys at 5:30 pm on Saturday, July 19. It is hoped that there will be a large turn-out of race fans to celebrate the occasion.
This weekend will also mark the retirement from active cross country and World Cup racing by Sue Haywood (Trek/VW). A former national champion, she has competed at a high level domestically and at World Cup races for many years.
This year, Haywood won both the Super D race at the Santa Ynez NMBS and the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo. She also finished second in the Absa Cape Epic with team-mate Jenny Smith. Haywood will continue to keep her hand in stage racing and endurance events and perhaps make an appearance at the final NMBS round in Utah.
Defending champion Mary McConneloug will have a rematch with the powerful Georgia Gould at Mount Snow. While both are among the top ten UCI ranked racers in the world, McConneloug has yet to beat Gould this year at any of the European races in which they went head-to head. McConneloug; however, has proven especially adept at handling the technical conditions at Mount Snow and has won there many times.
Also on hand to compete for the championship will be Lea Davison (Trek / VW), who bested McConneloug at the World Championships. Team-mates Heather Irmiger and Willow Koerber (Gary Fisher/Subaru) each have skills that make them a threat at Mount Snow. Koerber won the NORBA National race there in 2004.
Finally, a dark horse in the race is Katie Compton (Spike), the current US National Cyclo-cross Champion. Compton has just competed the seven-day BC Bike Race and is reported to have excellent form.
Adam Craig, also talented in muddy technical conditions, will face challenges from several riders this year. Jeremiah Bishop finished second last year and has been on form for several weeks. He recently won the US National Marathon Championship in Breckenridge, Colorado. Craig's Olympic team-mate Todd Wells has had the best World Cup and World Championship results of any American this season. Wells is also in good form, having won the short track in Windham, New York, last weekend.
Always a threat is former US National Cross Country champion Ryan Trebon (Kona) who won the NMBS cross country two weeks ago at Deer Valley, Utah. In addition, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Gary Fisher/Subaru), a great climber, is well suited to the Mount Snow course.
Ryan Trebon proved he is one of the country's most powerful short track racers last year by winning the championship at Mount Snow. The majority of Trebon's wins stem from him attacking other riders early, then time-trialing to victory alone.
Former US National Champion Barry Wicks (Kona) will be on hand to try to get his jersey back. He and his team-mate Trebon are often instrumental in each other's successes, as they work very well together at the front of the race.
Also in the running for the championship are Giant's tag team of Adam Craig and Carl Decker (third and fifth last weekend at the Windham NMBS), Jeremiah Bishop, and Todd Wells (who got his first short track win of the year last weekend).
On the women's side Mary McConneloug will have her hands full with Georgia Gould, who has won every start this year, and usually bolts to an early lead. Without team-mate Katerina Nash (a Czech citizen) in the race, others will have to share the challenge of hunting down Gould.
A serious threat to win the championship is Katie Compton. The Mount Snow course, with only one short climb, is not unlike the many cyclo-cross courses on which Compton has dominated. Compton's horsepower is impressive and can match that of Georgia Gould.
Defending champion Adam Craig is certainly the man to beat in Super D. Craig, who grew up in Maine, is phenomenally fast on steep, technical East Coast courses. Giving him a run for his money will be team-mate Carl Decker, Barry Wicks (Kona), and Sam Koerber (Gary Fisher).
Rachael Lloyd (Proman) shocked everyone last year with a convincing win over Marla Streb (Luna) and Kelli Emmett (Giant). Emmett is a very strong contender for the title this year and has had a great all-around racing season so far, including a win two weeks ago at the BC Bike race.
Cole Bangert will defend his downhill title against NMBS series leader Brad Benedict (X-Fusion), Brad Oien (Odi Southridge), and Ryan Condrashoff (X-Fusion). Pro racers will be on a different course than the amateurs, one considerably more technical and with more drop-offs.
Kathy Pruitt (Jamis) will defend her stars-and-stripes jersey this weekend. She placed highest of all American women at the World Championships in Val di Sole several weeks ago, edging out Melissa Buhl (KHS) who has dominated most of the domestic races she has entered this year.
World 4X Champion Buhl has crushed her competition in dual slalom (and mountain cross) this season. It will be up to Darian Harvey (Sobe/Cannondale) and Leana Gerrard (Mona Vie) to try to upset Buhl. Gerrard suffered contusions to her leg last weekend at Windham Mountain. It may be a last minute decision as to whether she can race.
Finally, Petr Hanak (Totally Wired), Eric Carter (Mongoose), and Mike Haderer (Fox/Yeti) have been quite close in results this year, and any of them could pull out a win. It is uncertain whether Christopher Herndon will be defending his title.
Chloe Forsman (Luna Women's MTB) and Sam Jurekovic (U-23 National Team) are the heavy favorites to repeat as U-23 Champions. Forsman has cracked the top ten in the NMBS elite women's races this season. Jurekovic has made it onto three podiums in the elite men's NMBS series. Jurekovic may face a challenge from Jamey Driscoll (Fiordfrutta), who at racing age 22, has also proven himself a contender in cyclo-cross, finishing second in the U23 National Cyclo-cross Championships.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for results, race reports, and photos all weekend.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Dave McElwaine/www.trailwatch.net