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1st Subaru Nova Desert Classic - NE

Phoenix, Arizona, March 21-23, 2003

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Day 3 - March 23: Cross-country

Grigson & Green take final day's XC

Grigson claims GC but Horgan-Kobelski takes men's

By Stephen Medcroft

The Subaru Nova Desert Classic ended today with two fierce cross-country events. Mary Grigson (Subaru / Gary Fisher) used experience, preparation, and aggressive racing tactics to prevail for a stage win and to nip the overall general classification out from under Susan Haywood (Trek / VW). Roland Green (Trek / VW) rode impressively hard to win the stage and shook off every contender but the one that mattered; Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (RLX / Polo Sport), who took complete advantage of his 17 second lead in the overall classification to take the men's title as the first Subaru Nova Desert Classic champion.

Temperatures continued to create implications for the performance of racers, hovering in the mid 80s. The cross-country course was a challenging six mile loop, that started off a shute of a mere 70 yards before hitting fast singletrack. Featuring numerous twists and turns, the course favored speed but punished those who impatiently sought passing lanes off the sides of the trails with cactus burs and thorns. The crux of the loop came just after its halfway mark. Riders first found air under their wheels as they rolled off a small ledge and into a steep and deep wash then were immediately faced with an extended, red-zone switchback climb into and over the top of T-bone ridge. By the day's end, this crux would play into the results of both races. Women were to race four 6-mile laps and men were to race five.

The excitement of world-class cross-country brought out more fans for today's event than had been seen the previous two days. A gaggle of rambunctious well wishers graced prime real-estate on a climb on the course and, with New Belgium beer spilling from plastic cups, gave the women a cheering-on reminiscent of the final mile of Mont Ventoux during a Tour de France.

The prelude to the day was all about results though. Plagued by timing and results glitches throughout the three-day event, general classification scoring was still under contention until just a couple of hours before the pro women were set to launch (at 1pm). As a correction to yesterday's posting of results, here's how the top five men and women stacked up in the GC at the start of today's racing:


1 Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (RLX / Polo Sport)
2 Chris Sheppard (Haro)                       0.16
3 Roland Green (Trek / VW)                    0.17
4 Derek Wilkerson (Hillenbrand Racing)        0.41
5 Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain)            0.44
1 Susan Haywood (Trek / VW)
2 Mary Grigson (Subaru / Gary Fisher)
3 Lanie Mason (Cane Creek)
4 Jimena Florit (RLX / Polo Sport)
5 Alison Sydor (Trek / VW)

Women: preparation pays off for Grigson

The pressure was on Trek / VW to protect Susan Haywood's lead in the overall. Straight off the start Alison Sydor (Trek / VW), Jimena Florit (RLX / Polo Sport) and Mary Grigson (some 25 seconds back in the GC) fought for hole position into the singletrack setting up a repeat of yesterday's short-track race. As the racers came around to the crux climb, positions had shifted (Grigson had temporarily put herself in the dirt and slipped back to 5th place), but not by much. Florit, Lanie Mason (Cane Creek), and Haywood led a tight pack of fifteen or so leaders into the dip. But Grigson pulled an aggressive pass into the drop to inch forward then shot off the side of the trail and passed everyone ahead of her to lead up the climb. "I previewed the course yesterday," she explained after her day of work was done. "I knew where I could put my bike, between which cactus and which cactus I could run outside the trail."

The pack split further and after the second of four laps, less than ten women clung to Grigson's pace making. By the third lap, the lead pack had sorted itself into Grigson, Kelli Emmett (Hillenbrand Racing), Alison Sydor, Jimena Florit, Susan Haywood, and Melanie McQuaid (Ford Outfitters). Grigson held her lead for the entire race, trying every trick and tactic to build and retain gaps over her challengers. "I kept testing the line, leaning the bike as far as I could, pushing it to the limit to put a gap between me and Sue." Grigson tried bump and run tactics, slowing on small rises to force riders behind to downshift then sprinting away to build a gap.

Grigson also favors hot weather and had planned for the race by overhydrating before the start. The tactics worked and Grigson crossed the line with a victorious two-handed salute. All that was left was to count the clicks until Haywood came through to see if she had opened enough of a gap on the final lap push to steal away the overall win as well. A smiling Kelli Emmett came across second. Haywood then rounded the final curve, gritted her teeth, and sprinted for the line. But Grigson had done it. Happy for the win and with last year's overtraining and fatigue seemingly behind her, she is encouraged for the Sea Otter Classic, her next major race. "I don't consider myself in my best form yet. I got an early morning surprise today. I asked my body to go and it went."

Second-place finisher Kelli Emmett said she couldn't have asked for a better race out of herself. "It was fun, a blast. I just stayed with Mary as best I could, tried to keep her in my sights and ride my own race."

Men: The Green vs JH-K show

The men's competition had racers with similar aspirations; win the stage and overcome time deficits and take the overall win off Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski's shoulders. Top on the list of challengers was Roland Green, reportedly not happy with his results so far and intensely focused on making a statement in this final day. Which he did. But for everything thrown at him, Horgan-Kobelski had an answer.

Wade Bootes (Trek / VW) again provided comic relief but this time off the start. The bunch sprint for the hole shot into singletrack started in earnest with Green, Horgan-Kobelski, Ryder Hesjedal (Subaru / Gary Fisher), and Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain) all prominent at the top of the pile. But off the right, with a huge power spurt and a grin to match, Bootes swept around the entire field and beat everyone, much to the delight of the fans lining the opening meters. Bootes was quickly either consumed or pulled out of the top running and let the race proceed though because when racers came into view for the climb up T-Bone hill, the entire field was together without him.

As with the women, the men's race thinned at the front over the next couple of laps and an elite group stuck to each other. Present was Green, Horgan-Kobelski, Travis Brown (Trek / VW), and Derek Wilkerson (Hillenbrand Racing). Through much of it Brown sat at the front and set the pace. Seems Trek / VW was intent on cracking Horgan-Kobelski. "Travis helped by making Jeremy chase," said Green. "The race got progressively harder," Hogan Kobelski said. "Roland attacked on every little rise a twisty section. I was happy to just stay on his wheel."

Relative newcomer to mountain biking Derek Wilkerson hung in that final group of the world best mountain bikers through the entire race as well. "There is such a learning curve," he said at the end. "I'm amazed watch the lines they choose, where they go with their bikes." Looking for any advantage, Wilkerson tested his strength through the final feed zone, opting to sprint ahead of Green and Horgan-Kobelski into the final lap. "I'm still learning to know when I've got bullets left," he said of the effort it took to make the move. He didn't hold the advantage long.

The race came down to that last lap. Hestler led Horgan-Kobelski, Green, and Wilkerson into the dip. Travis Brown, having spent himself on the 3-lap pull, had fallen off the back by a few seconds. As soon as the trail turned upwards, Horgan-Kobelski made a move on Hestler. Green countered, moving on Hestler then sweeping past Horgan-Kobelski. He then set a blistering pace up T-Bone hill that could only be matched by Horgan-Kobelski. The next rider (Derek Wilkerson) fell 50-yards off the back as the two leaders crested the climb and shot off for the last 3-miles of singletrack to the finish.

Green still held the advantage into the final straightaway and crossed the finish line with a two-handed salute a mere half bike-length ahead of Horgan-Kobelski. "I have a ton of respect for Jeremy," Green said at the finish. "I hope he puts a priority on the World cups."

"I am," said Horgan-Kobelski in response. "I plan to do the whole World-Cup series," adding that he'll be riding both road (Tour of the Gila) and mountain bike races (Sea Otter Classic) in the next month or so to peak for the NORBA opener at Big Bear (May 15-18). "Then it's off to Germany and Scotland (for the first World Cup events)."

After an exciting weekend of racing venue sponsor and Nova Youth Cycling Foundation director Jerry Sieve hopes that he created an event that will have legs for future years, that all who participated found enough to like about the event to come back. Subaru / Gary Fisher Team Manager Travis Pilger commented that "I understand there's a learning curve with an event like this. I'd like to see what they learned, how they grow, but we'd definitely be committed to coming back." Trek / VW's manager Eric Wallace agreed, saying that his team need an early-season, warm-weather event like this to set the tone for their year. He even went so far as to suggest that there's room on the calendar for a Texas or New Mexico event as early as January or February to complement the Subaru Nova Desert Classic. With pro team support like this and lessons learned, it seems a repeat of the Subaru Nova Desert Classic is assured.


Images by Jonathan Devich/thefastrack.com

Images by Jeff Horen/mountainbikeaz.com



1 Roland Green (Can) Trek / VW                  1.44.28
2 Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA) RLX / Polo Sport    0.01
3 Derek Wilkerson (USA) Hillenbrand Racing         0.28
4 Andreas Hestler (Can) Rocky Mountain             0.40
5 Travis Brown (USA) Trek / VW                     1.05
6 James Van Toever (USA)                           2.51
7 Brian Matter (USA)                               3.02
8 Christian Navarrete (USA)                        3.48
9 Jay Henry (USA) Specialized                      3.49
10 Josh Bezenay (USA)                              5.15
11 Derek Prechtl (USA)                             5.38
12 Jimi Mortenson (USA)                            5.59
13 Nicholas Waite (USA)                            6.14
14 Charles Jenkins (USA)                           6.34
15 Anthony Colby (USA)                             6.40
16 Nathan Phillips (USA)                           7.06
17 Nick Gould (USA)                                9.28
18 Brad Van Orden (USA Ritchey/Nova               11.39
19 Barton Bowen (USA)                             13.09
20 Duncan Meyers (USA)                            13.17
21 Amon Pease (USA)                               13.18
22 Dave Wiens (USA) RLX                           14.09
23 John Salskov (USA)                             15.31
24 Todd Tanner (USA)                              16.00
25 Neil Shirley (USA)                             17.28
26 Nat Ross (USA)                                 17.38

1 Mary Grigson (Aus) Subaru / Gary Fisher       1.34.33
2 Kelli Emmett (USA) Hillenbrand Racing            0.12
3 Susan Haywood (USA) Trek / VW                    1.06
4 Alison Sydor (Can) Trek / VW                     1.27
5 Jimena Florit (Arg) RLX / Polo Sport             1.28
6 Melanie McQuaid (Can) Ford Outfitters            2.39
7 Kim Anderson (USA) T-Mobile                      3.28
8 Shonny Vanlandingham (USA) Luna Chix             3.43
9 Dara Marks (USA)                                 4.13
10 Chrissy Redden (Can) Subaru / Gary Fisher       5.46
11 Rhonda Quick (USA)                              6.34
12 Lanie Mason (USA)                               6.52
13 Willow Koerber (USA) RLX                        7.23
14 Kathy Sherwin (USA)                            10.11
15 Shannon Gibson (USA)                           10.55
16 Tonya Laffey (USA) MTB Chicks                  11.12
17 Alicia Mayer (USA)                             11.19
18 Joan Orgeldinger (USA)                         11.30
19 Lisa Matlock (USA) Ford Outfitters             12.27
20 Jennifer Todd (USA)                            12.46
21 Tiffany Kenny (USA) Ford Outfitters            13.46
22 Leah Trapp (USA)                               14.10
23 Jennie Wilson (USA)                            14.48
24 Shari Hausbeck (USA)                           15.28
25 Molly Hummel (USA)                             15.51
26 Nicole Habay (USA)                             16.02
27 Rachel Massey (USA) Ford Outfitters            16.30
28 Mio Suemasa (Jpn) Trek/VW                      16.37
29 Sonia Lopez (USA)                              18.41
30 Leslie Gilmore (USA) Soulcraft                 24.04
31 Jody Koch (USA) Ford Outfitters               3 laps
Men's General Classification
1 Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA) RLX / Polo Sport 2.42.30
2 Roland Green (Can) Trek / VW                     0.16
3 Derek Wilkerson (USA) Hillenbrand Racing         1.08
4 Andreas Hestler (Can) Rocky Mountain             1.23
5 Travis Brown (USA) Trek / VW                     2.20
6 Brian Matter (USA)                               6.16
7 Jay Henry (USA) Specialized                      7.10
8 Derek Prechtl (USA)                              9.20
9 Nicholas Waite (USA)                             9.50
10 Anthony Colby (USA)                             9.59
11 Charles Jenkins (USA)                          10.09
12 James Van Toever (USA)                         12.32
13 Nick Gould (USA)                               12.59
14 Josh Bezecny (USA)                             13.02
15 Nathan Phillips (USA)                          16.12
16 Brad Van Orden (USA) Ritchey/Nova              16.42
17 Jimi Mortenson (USA)                           16.50
18 Barton Bowen (USA)                             18.45
19 Dave Wiens (USA) RLX                           19.55
20 Todd Tanner (USA)                              21.16
21 John Salskov (USA)                             22.11
22 Neil Shirley (USA)                             22.32
23 Nat Ross (USA)                                 46.29
24 Amon Pease (USA)                             1.00.37
Women's General Classification
1 Mary Grigson (Aus) Subaru / Gary Fisher       2.35.17
2 Susan Haywood (USA) Trek / VW                    0.53
3 Kelli Emmett (USA) Hillenbrand Racing            2.20
4 Jimena Florit (Arg) RLX / Polo Sport             2.40 
5 Alison Sydor (Can) Trek / VW                     3.13
6 Melanie Mcquaid (USA) Ford Outfitters            4.45
7 Dara Marks (USA)                                 6.58
8 Lanie Mason (USA)                                7.18
9 Chrissy Redden (Can) Gary Fisher                 7.34
10 Rhonda Quick (USA)                              8.28
11 Willow Koerber (USA) RLX                       11.08
12 Kathy Sherwin (USA)                            15.35
13 Shannon Gibson (USA)                           16.52
14 Alicia Mayer (USA)                             18.17
15 Joan Orgeldinger (USA)                         18.18
16 Tonya Laffey (USA) MTB Chicks                  18.35
17 Jennifer Todd (USA)                            19.15
18 Lisa Matlock (USA) Ford Outfitters             19.28
19 Jennie Wilson (USA)                            21.25
20 Tiffany Kenny (USA) Ford Outfitters            21.45
21 Molly Hummel (USA)                             24.27
22 Nicole Habay (USA)                             24.44
23 Shari Hausbeck (USA)                           26.16
24 Rachel Massey (USA) Ford Outfitters            26.29
25 Leah Trapp (USA)                               27.27
26 Sonia Lopez (USA)                              29.13
27 Kimberly Anderson (USA)                        30.08
28 Leslie Gilmore (USA) Soulcraft                 34.15
29 Shonny Vanlandingham (USA) Luna Chix           35.18
30 Mio Suemasa (Jpn) Trek/VW                      36.30