NORBA Series Round #5 (Finals)

Mt Snow, Vermont, USA, August 17-19, 2001

The Schedule


Day 1 - August 17: Long course XC M/W - 29.5/23.5 miles

Canadians sweep finals, Green and Grigson take series

Roland Green (Trek/Volkswagen) and Chrissy Redden (Subaru/Gary Fisher) led a Canadian assault on the final cross-country race at the Chevy Trucks NORBA National Championships Mountain Bike Series.

For Green, who crushed a world-class field with a three-minute solo lead over second place Seamus McGrath (Haro/Lee Dungarees), it confirmed his position as one of the world's best cross country racers.

In the quest for the American titles, Ruthie Matthes (Trek/Volkswagen) rode solidly to finish seventh on the day, but good enough to claim her fifth national championships. Matthes, 36, confirmed her retirement from the sport at the end of the season.

And 29-year-old Kirk Molday (SunRace/Santa Cruz) came back from a slow start to finish eighth on the day, good enough to take the men's national title. Another Canadian from British Columbia, Ryder Hesjedal (Gary Fisher/Subaru) powered off the starting line. Green responded to his training partner's move, pressed to the front and never looked back. On a wide-open course with far less single track than traditionally found at Mount Snow, groups formed, broke apart, and re-formed anew. During the second lap, a chase group of 20 riders developed. In that group both top Americans, Molday and Todd Wells (Mongoose/Hyundai), rode.

But nobody could match the power of Green.

"A lot of guys have been traveling, and I've stayed close and focused on training," said Green. "That work paid off today. I changed my bike at the last minute with the rain. I had a full suspension set up, but went with the hardtail at the last minute.

While Hesjedal faltered, Kashi Leuchs (Volvo/Cannondale) pressed ahead with McGrath. "Kashi and I rode and worked together," said McGrath. "I figured that I needed to make my move in the last lap. Kashi and I were talking about how Roland was kicking our asses. He instantly rode away from us. I knew it was going to be a battle for second."

As the weather changed from a cool drizzle to a steamy heat, a number of younger rider broke down while the older diesels of the field pushed forward. Tinker Juarez (Volvo/Cannondale) proved himself worthy of a spot on the world's team by passing Hesjedal and sitting in fourth.

"I think I made a good point today. I proved I could ride as good as any of these guys and ride really well at altitude after the 24 Hours race in Colorado."

Two other Americans notorious for slow starts, Molday (Sun Race/Santa Cruz) and Travis Brown (Trek/Volkswagen), pushed forward into the top 10. Younger Turks, including Wells, cracked.

As the five laps wore on, Green pulled away. Leuchs and McGrath dueled brilliantly for second, as did Juarez and Hesjedal for fourth. Molday rode with Brown, monitoring his position and keeping an eye in the rear-view mirror for Wells. The 20-year-old Wells clearly appeared disappointed with his 18th-place finish. Having started the season with a shop team and a full-time job, he appeared at the start with a new trade team sponsorship and an announcement he had given notice at work. Ironically, it would be Wells' weakest performance this season in a NORBA national race.

The final results, with every podium result a solo finish, were Green in the winner's circle, followed by McGrath and Leuchs. Hesjedal fought back to overtake Juarez on the last lap, but the 40-year-old Juarez held tough for fifth.

And Molday, with an eighth place finish, completed his redemptive season by taking the stars-and-stripes jersey.

"It feels great today because I reached my goal. It's a bit disappointing because I know I'm capable of doing more. I wanted a few more top three," said Molday. "No one else could do it this year, and I wanted to show the rest of the world that we're (American cross-country racers) not that out of the game."


Although Redden had won a NORBA national in Mammoth two seasons ago, her victory at last year's Mount Snow finals elevated her into the elite ranks. Throughout the season, she has stayed there, albeit in the shadow of her teammate Mary Grigson, who won three of the series races.

In Mount Snow, however, the entire show belonged to Redden. She fired off the line, established a lead, and never looked back. "I just like this course," said Redden. "It's East Coast and sea level. Both the singletrack and climbs are good for me. The climbs are not too long and not too steep. They're real power climbs. I can just open up and go crazy."

During the first lap, Alison Dunlap (GT/Chevy Trucks) challenged for the lead early on but flatted on the third lap. After changing a tire in the rain, she fell out of the top 10 and, with creaking legs, started back to racing. This left an opportunity for the other Alison, Alison Sydor (Trek/Volkswagen).

"On the first lap, Alison Dunlap and I worked together on the climbs and went fast on the descents," said Sydor. "And then I guess Alison crashed or something and I just kept going. Once it started raining, I thought whoo-hoo!"

The Canadian, who struggled earlier in the season, demonstrated the gradual return of world-class fitness with a solid ride. But Grigson came up hard and surged into second.

In a reversal of roles, Redden had only to worry of her teammate catching. Grigson, content to use the race for preparation for World's, made the rainy event into a popular parade in front of a huge crowd.

Matthes held in fourth for much of the race, ahead of Vermont's Audrey Augustin (GT/Zeal), the third best American going into the event. The second best American in the series was Shonny Vanlandingham (SoBe/Headshok) who punctured. Despite the use of tire levers, the tight bead of a new tire kept a frustrated Vanlandingham from making the change. She did not finish.

On the third of four laps, Dunlap made an amazing surge. "I just thought, this is stupid, I'm way back here," she said. "I'm just going to have a hot lap." Dunlap roared from 12th to fourth by the halfway spot in the final lap.

Redden finished alone with a huge gap on Grigson, who ended the race in second, but first in the series. Then came a satisfied Sydor, followed by a smiling Dunlap. And next to finish, all present expected the arrival of Matthes. Instead the Vermont crowd - massive for a Friday afternoon event - was treated to a surprise, Audrey Augustin finished a brilliant fifth.

"In the end, I was working with Ruthie (Matthes) to try to catch Jimena (Florit), so I put in a higher gear and just went," said Augustin. "The ending was epic. Vermont has the best fans and it was so inspiring. They were cheering so loud I couldn't hear myself breathe." After Jimena Florit (RLX/Polo Sport) finished in sixth, Matthes rolled in.

"Today, I really wanted to be on the podium for my last national cross-country, but I couldn't get enough liquid. Two days ago I felt great, but today didn't feel as good. It felt hard to go easy. The crowd was great. They were yelling 'Don't retire!'," said Matthes. "I'm not one to just rest on my laurels, but how many titles do I need to have? I want to explore living in another way outside of bike racing. I've been doing it for 19 years."


Pro Men Cross Country
1 Roland Green (Can) Trek/Volkswagen               2.01.20
2 Seamus McGrath (Can) Haro/Lee Dungarees             3.34
3 Kashi Leuchs (NZl) Volvo/Cannondale                 4.22
4 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Gary Fisher/Subaru             4.28
5 Tinker Juarez (USA) Volvo/Cannondale                4.59
6 Geoff Kabush (Can) Kona/Ford Focus                  6.03
7 Travis Brown (USA) Trek/Volkswagen                  6.14
8 Kirk Molday (USA) Sun Race/Santa Cruz               6.41
9 Luke Stockwell (Aus) Zaxby's                        6.44
10.Craig Gordon (Aus) SoBe/Headshock                  7.07 
Pro Women Cross Country
1 Chrissy Redden (Can) Subaru/Gary Fisher
2 Mary Grigson (Aus) Gary Fisher/Subaru               1.24
3 Alison Sydor (Can) Trek/Volkswagen                  3.38
4 Alison Dunlap (USA) GT/Chevy Trucks                 5.54
5 Audrey Augustin (USA) GT/Zeal                       6.08
6 Jimena Florit (Arg) RLX Polo Sport                  6.45
7 Ruthie Matthes (USA) Trek/Volkswagen                7.03
8 Melissa Thomas (USA) Red Hook                       7.04
9 Susan Haywood (USA) Trek/Volkswagen                 8.35
10 Ann Grande (USA) Kona/Ford Focus                   9.27

Day 2 - August 18: Short Track XC M/W

Green, Redden Score Doubles with Short Track Victories

Haywood, Horgan-Kobelski Win National Titles

The same two Canadians who won the pro cross country races Friday repeated with short track cross country victories today at the Chevy Trucks NORBA National Championship Mountain Bike finals.

Chrissy Redden (Subaru/Gary Fisher) out-sprinted six other all-star breakaway companions to win her second race in as many days. The men's race also boiled down to an elite lead group, with the riders trading attacks. Having launched an early probe off the front, Green settled in and rode defensively, content to watch others. He then fired his cannon with two laps to go, cutting the group down to three, and fired again with just over a lap to go. Despite a ferocious charge from his countryman Ryder Hesjedal (Subaru/Gary Fisher), Green held on for the victory in front of the largest crowd assembled to date for 2001 national championship series.

More than 7,000 spectators had assembled along the barricades for the crowd-friendly short track race, a half-hour timed event on a course tightly woven through the Mount Snow ski area's lodges and lots. Laid out like the letter 'W' on the side of the mountain, the course had two challenging hills. But the descents allowed riders to recover, too. Hence, both races started the same way: a wild game of crack-the-whip that steadily snapped riders off the pace.

Pro Women

In the women's race, Sue Haywood applied the pressure early to force a selection. After three laps, it had boiled down to seven of the best: Haywood, Redden, series leader Jimena Florit (RLX Polo Sport), Alison Dunlap (GT/Chevy Trucks), Alison Sydor (Trek/Volkswagen), Shonny Vanlandingham (SoBe/Headshock) and Vermont's Audrey Augustin (Zeal/GT). The early pressure sent a who's who of women's racing off the back: Mary Grigson (Subaru/Gary Fisher) and Ruthie Matthes (Trek/Volkswagen) were two of the casualties.

The seven leaders took turns pressing, but not attacking. The crowd roared each time the ladies crowded through corners, throwing elbows or hips to hold position.

"On a course like this there was a lot of tire rubbing and some elbowing," said Haywood. "It's just defensive moves." Then with the bell sounding the final lap, Dunlap - who had won every short track she had finished this season - attacked with fury. As she climbed the first hill, however, Redden and Sydor responded and retrieved Dunlap on the descent.

"Alison put out an elbow, and, I was nice about it. I was like 'Excuse me, but I'm going through'," said Redden.

Florit and Haywood, seeking a national title, held the gap but could not close; Augustin and Vanlandingham faltered.

Having clawed her way back to Dunlap, Redden pounced on the opportunity. She lit up a ferocious sprint to take the win from Dunlap. Sydor, finding her lost form, finished third. Four seconds later, Florit came in ahead of Haywood to round out the podium.

Haywood, having scored the podium in all but one race in the series, secured her first national title. With a fourth place finish in the finals, three seconds, and a victory at Deer Valley, Utah, Florit repeated as the series winner.

Pro Men

Having studied the women's race, the men followed the same script. The lone difference was the presence of one dominant rider, Roland Green (Trek/Volkswagen).

Ryder Hesjedal (Subaru/Gary Fisher) used his patented style of attacking at the gun. He strung out the line and started to take a regular damage report. Green pressed once and snapped off the front, only to sit up, look back to his British Columbian training partners, Hesjedal, Chris Sheppard (Haro/Lee Dungarees), Chris Sheppard (Kona/Ford Focus) and Geoff Kabush (Kona/Ford Focus), at the front of the group. He slowed a bit, waved them up, and settled in. Farther back, a massive string of riders pressed ahead and connected. This allowed for something unusual in short track: a massive break of more than 20 super-talented riders roaring about on a single line. >From this group sprung Sheppard alone. The leaders opted to bet on Green instead of Sheppard and allowed him to open a massive gap that he held for five brilliant laps. But with the hounds approaching, he thought better of such heroics and retreated back to the field.

When he returned, however, he discovered the group of 20 riders had been reduced to just nine. The main field had been snapped in two when Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (RLX Polo Sport) and Todd Wells (Mongoose/Hyundai) crashed in a turn.

With 15 minutes of racing to go, the race had become Roland Green versus eight powerful riders.

Hesjedal chose to play his brawn card instead of his brains card by pushing at the front. Green sat tight.

Coming off Hesjedal's efforts, Pavel Cherkasov (Subaru/Gary Fisher) plowed forward, hoping to retire on top.

Green sat tight.

Paul Rowney (Yeti/Pearl Izumi) pressed ahead twice, but could not snap clear.

Green sat tight.

Carl Swenson (RLX Polo Sport) attacked hard and opened a small gap that Hesjedal fought to close.

Green sat tight.

"I was hurting out there, too," said Green. "These guys were all racing real hard. I just saved it."

Indeed he did. With two laps to go, Green exploded off the front. The group responded as best they could.

"We all know that he can go at any moment," said Swenson. "So you try your best and race as hard as you can. But everybody knows how strong Roland is."

Hesjedal chased in vain, with Rowney struggling to advance. Their efforts would pay off with second and third, but Green controlled the day, the weekend, and the world of mountain bike racing. Cherkasov and Cadel Evans (Volvo/Cannondale) rounded out the podium in fourth and fifth respectively. Green took the series, too. Despite his crash, Horgan-Kobelski scored the U.S. title, finishing 15th on the day and fourth overall.


Pro Men 
1 Roland Green (Can) Trek/Volkswagen
2 Ryder Hesjedal (Can ) Subaru/Gary Fisher
3 Paul Rowney (Aus) Yeti/Pearl Izumi
4 Pavel Cherkasov (Rus) Subaru/Gary Fisher
5 Seamus McGrath (Can) Haro/Lee Dungarees)
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) Volvo/Cannondale
7 Jimi Killen (USA) Schwinn
8 Geoff Kabush (Can) Kona/Ford Focus
9 Chris Sheppard (Can) Haro/Lee Dungarees
10 Carl Swenson (Can) RLX Polo Sport
Pro Women 
1 Chrissy Redden (Can) Subaru/Gary Fisher
2 Alison Dunlap (USA) GT/Chevy Trucks
3 Alison Sydor (Can) Trek/Volkswagen
4 Jimena Florit (Arg) RLX Polo Sport
5 Sue Haywood (USA) Trek/VW
6 Audrey Augustin (USA) Zeal/GT
7 Shonny Vanlandingham (USA) SoBe/Headshock
8 Rachel Lloyd (USA) SunRace/Santa Cruz
9 Kerry Barnholt (USA) SoBe/Headshok
10 Carmen D'Aluisio (USA) Volvo/Cannondale

Day 2 - August 18: Dual Slalom M/W

Carter takes Dual Slalom series

Entering the finals of the Chevy Trucks NORBA National Championship Mountain Bike Series, Eric Carter (Mongoose/Hyundai) and Brian Lopes (GT/Fox) were tied for the series lead, with World Champion Wade Bootes (Trek/Volkswagen) sitting just 20 points away in third.

Despite several strong challengers in the early rounds, Lopes and Carter bashed their way down the course towards a Herculean final against one another. Lopes posted the fastest time in the qualifiers, with France's Cedric Gracia (Volvo/Cannondale) second, Carter third and Bootes fourth. But as Carter proved, racing against the clock is different than racing against a rider. In the upper bracket, Lopes defeated Kyle Ebbett (Iron Horse) in the first round, averted a second-round upset when Nathan Rankin (Foes/Azonic) crashed, and then beat Mike King (Haro/Lee Dungarees) and Bootes en route the finals. Bootes narrowly won the first run, but Lopes came to win.

Carter's path to the final went through Ryan Smith (Oakley), Sean McCarroll (Global) and Mikeal Deldycke (Schwinn) and brought him up against Cedric Gracia (Volvo/Cannondale) in the semifinals. Carter lost the first run, but came back strong on the faster course to knock off Gracia and advance.

The Mount Snow course completed the set of courses these riders faced during the series. Coming off the high-speed Mammoth course that included a half-pipe, riders in Vermont faced an unusual course. With a steep drop out of the gate, the riders completed most of the jumps before the course flattened out for berm turns. By the final berm, the course had just about drained all speed out of the bikes. Riders had to blast out of the turn like criterium riders, with the blue course having an inside line to the finish. Hence, the blue course nearly always produced the winner.

In the finals, the contrasting styles of Carter and Lopes became evident. "He's definitely faster coming out of the start," said Carter. "I carry more speed out of the gates."

Carter, the 2000 National Downhill Champion, had won two straight NORBA dual slaloms going into the final. All had been after facing Lopes in the finals; in all Lopes had crashed out once. The first ride put Carter on the faster blue course. Lopes, knowing he had to be aggressive on the red course, crashed near the bottom, giving Carter a 1.5 second advantage.

"I was just trying to get any advantage I could because that (blue) course is faster," said Carter.

In their second run, Carter found himself struggling to keep up with the aggressive Lopes. In the middle berms, he found his bike washing out. "I thought for sure I was going to get killed," said Carter. He kept it up, but struggled to get out of the final, crucial berm. "I thought, 'Pull it together, regroup and ride like I know I can ride'... My legs just froze, I couldn't move."

He narrowly hung on to Lopes, losing the round, but winning the event to hold on to a national championship jersey for another year. In the consolation round, Gracia defeated Bootes to win the bronze medal.

Donovan second to Chausson in farewell ride

Here's the story: World Champion Ann Caroline Chausson (Volvo/Cannondale) posted the third fastest time in qualifiers and then went undefeated the rest of the night on both courses to win the whole thing. She knocked off, in order, Melissa Buhl (ODI/KHS), Tara Llanes (Yeti/Pearl Izumi), Sabrina Jonnier (Intense) and, in the finals, Leigh Donovan (Schwinn). She beat all riders in two straight rides, proving her worthiness of the rainbow jersey. Jonnier defeated Brutsaert in the consolation round for third place.

The storyline in the women's dual slalom, however, would be Leigh Donovan, in her last NORBA national race.

"It's sad," she said. "I cried a lot of tears today. I'm really going to miss all this."

Donovan set the fastest time in qualifiers. She then defeated Gale Dahlager (Razor Rock), Marla Streb (Foes/Azonic), and Elke Brutsaert (Schwinn) en route to her appointment with Chausson.

In the finals, Chausson, 24, simply out powered the 30-year-old Donovan. She took the first run with a 1.5 second advantage after Donovan slipped a pedal in the middle berms. In their final run, Donovan - on the faster blue course - drove hard to the line but still could not beat Chausson. The French rider's red course victory stamped her passport to dominance in this event.

"It's a good event. It's good for spectators," said Chausson. "The course, it was a bit too easy, but I liked it."

As for Donovan? "I'm thrilled. I'm happy. I won the national championship," said Donovan, reminding herself and her fans of what a great ride it has been.


Pro Men 
1 Eric Carter (Mongoose/Hyundai) 
2 Brian Lopes (GT/Fox)
3 Cedric Gracia (Volvo/Cannondale)
4 Wade Bootes (Trek/Volkswagen)
Pro Women 
1 Ann Caroline Chausson (Volvo/Cannondale)
2 Leigh Donovan (Schwinn)
3 Sabrina Jonnier (Intense) 
4 Elke Brutsaert (Schwinn)

Day 3 - August 19: Downhill M/W

Gracia, Chausson Take NORBA Downhill Finals

LeDuc, Giove Take U.S. Titles

The Chevy Trucks NORBA National Championship Mountain Bike Series received a French kiss on its last day, with Cedric Gracia and Ann Caroline Chausson scoring a double for their Volvo/Cannondale team and their native France. With several favorites landing on the casualty list instead of the podium, a nervous 22-year-old Todd LeDuc (Foes/Azonic) sat at the finish as the lead American in the series. Going into the event, LeDuc had a slender lead over defending national champion Eric Carter (Mongoose/Hyundai). "Eric had to get a podium to beat me," said LeDuc. "I knew E.C. would push it, so I pushed it more."

After simply training on the mountain several name-brand pros admitted to being scared of this course. Mick Hannah (Global) ruined his season and broke his collarbone when he tried to clear the 30-foot stair steps drop off. Steve Peat (GT/Chevy Trucks) was also injured in a training run that would likely end his season. California's Tammy Pickerell (Santa Cruz/Risse) had only to walk down the course to claim a national title as an expert, but a severe training crash hospitalized her for much of the weekend.

Often wet, the Mount Snow course had drained and dried to afford fast conditions. The course opened with a precipitous jackhammering on granite. After plummeting down two huge drop-offs, the course opened up to grassy slopes with occasional water bars. Then the riders fired into a keyhole of dark single track through forest that drained into Mount Snow's infamous "Yard Sale" section. There the riders picked their way down a 100-foot rock, root and tree-marred section before they emptied into a grassy freeway to the finish.

Women: Chausson dominates

The women's race had a degree of controversy, but nobody could deny the dominance of Ann Caroline Chausson. During her qualifying run she crashed and ruined a wheel, as did Kathy Krause. The riders claimed a hay bale had been moved into their path. The re-ride was granted and she posted the fastest qualifying time.

In the finals, Marla Streb (Foes/Azonic) flatted up top and sought a re-ride. An official initially granted the request, but a jury overrode the decision.

"I had to re-run so I did three runs today," said Chausson. "It's always the same with girls. I known there was going to be such a fuss, I would not have had my team protest."

Missy Giove (Global) posted a 4:22, only to be bested by Leigh Donovan (Schwinn), who delivered a 4:21.

Chausson, who made a huge save on the stair step when she vaulted onto her own stem, rocked the house with a 4:15. This gave the series and the U.S. title to Giove, who finished 54 points ahead of Donovan.

"I was trying to actually go slow today and have a good solid ride," said Giove. "I knew I could go faster but that is for the worlds. Still, I won my first ever race here, a dual slalom, so this was important." Marla Streb (Foes/Azonic), April Lawyer (Maxxis) and Kathy Pruitt (Dirt Works) rounded the series podium and the national championship top five.

Men: Top seeds crash out

The men's race saw a huge casualty rate that intensified in the higher ranks of riders.

Sean McCarroll (Global) shocked all with a 3:54, becoming the first rider to break the four-minute barrier. Eight riders later, Johnny Waddell (SunRace/Santa Cruz) went a second faster to take the hot seat. With so many riders with such great pedigrees yet to come, few expected Waddell's time to last. He sat there for 23 riders until John Kirkcaldie (Maxxis) delivered a time just one second faster.

Down the hill, cleanly, came LeDuc, to deliver an impressive 3:56. He then assumed a position on an equally hot seat waiting for the top-ranked riders to finish.

The crowd looked up the hill for one minute, then another minute, then another minute until the announcers, through radio contact farther up the mountain, learned that Kurt Voreis (Haro/Lee Dungarees), Carter and Michael Ronning (Intense) had all suffered mechanicals or crashes. Then down the Yard Sale section, to the roar of the crowd, came Gracia. Where others had slugged their way down, Gracia danced to the delight of the crowd, and then powered toward the finish. And to finish with a deflation, the crowd learned that the final rider on the list Chris Kovarik (Intense) had also pulled off the course. Gracia got the day.

"Two years ago I won on this and it was wet. This year it was dry. It was scary," said Gracia. "In my final I just rode for fun" And LeDuc scored the national title with an eighth-place finish. "I never even thought I would be close to a national championship," said LeDuc, 22. "I think there's definitely a new wave of younger riders." The overall series title went to John Kirkcaldie (Maxxis) of New Zealand, who never won a single event but reached the podium consistently. Validating his national title, Leduc ended up second overall with Australia's Nathan Rankin (Foes/Azonic) in third. Waddell and Colin Bailey (Maxxis) rounded out the podium for the series.


Pro Men
1 Cedric Gracia (Fra) Volvo/Cannondale                  3.48.47
2 John Kirkcaldie (USA) Maxxis                             4.06
3 John Waddell (Aus) SunRace/Santa Cruz                    5.13
4 Sean McCarroll (Aus) Global                              6.14
5 Derin Stockton (USA) Intense)                            6.26
6 Rich Houseman (USA) Tomac                                6.88
7 Joel Panozzo (Aus) SunRace/Santa Cruz                    6.91
8 Todd Leduc (USA) Foes/Azonic                             7.73
9 Nigel Paige (GBr) Intense                                9.66
10 Colin Bailey (USA) Maxxis                               9.97
Pro Women
1 Ann Caroline Chausson (Fra) Volvo/Cannondale          4.15.38
2 Leigh Donovan (USA) Schwinn                              5.78
3 Missy Giove (USA) Global                                 7.17
4 Katja Repo (Fin) GT/Chevy Trucks                        15.31
5 Vanessa Quinn (Aus) Intense                             15.77
6 Kathy Pruitt (USA) Dirt Works                           20.35
7 April Lawyer (USA) Maxxis                               20.49
8 Lisa Sher (USA) Chumba Wumba                            25.23
9 Danni Connelly (USA) Karpiel                            25.37
10 Dawn Borque (USA) Rhino Bike                           25.60

Day 3 - August 19: Mountain cross

The Speed Stick Mountain Cross, a four-up downhill race, made its NORBA debut at Mount Snow, as the final event of the final race in the Chevy Trucks NORBA National Championship Mountain Bike Series.

With the sun setting on the event, the series and the season, the fans and racers all tramped back up the mountain one more time to see a course designed and physically built by Eric Carter (Mongoose/Hyundai). Riders had to bust it hard out of the gate, launch off a jump, dive into a right-hander and do a 180 to the left, only to dive back down to the right. Then came a triple jump as the riders bore down on the course's premier feature, a 20-foot jump. Thereafter, they merged into the final slope of the dual slalom course to finish under the truss. The whole course took about 60 wild seconds ever seen in bike racing. The format four mountain cross is as follows: four riders race down the mountain; the first two to finish advance; the others are eliminated. This continues all the way down to a final heat of four. First run in England years ago, the event made its American debut at this year's Mercury Sea Otter Classic, with the prodding and planning of Carter.

Throughout the season, Rick Sutton, the president of GaleForce Marketing, which runs the Sea Otter and the Chevy Trucks NORBA National Championship Mountain Bike Series, had wanted to put the event into the NORBA schedule. But finding time, space, money, energy and the necessary truckloads of dirt, proved prohibitive... until he got to the finals at Mount Snow. And he got the show he wanted.

"I thought it was great," said Sutton. "There's definitely going to be more mountain cross next year." During the practice runs, the qualifiers, and the early elimination rounds, the crowds buzzed about the big air and tight berms of the course. The fourth place riders, en route to elimination, were often seen putting on the best shows.

The final runs, however, proved fantastic.

The women's final included Gale Dahlager (Razor Rock), Tai-Lee Muxlow (Dirt Works), Katrina Miller (Jamis) and World Downhill and Dual Slalom Champion Ann Caroline Chausson (Volvo/Cannondale). Chausson had made an impression earlier by qualifying for the men's race, beating out a number of men. She then beat out her first round competitors to advance to the second round, where she was eliminated by Rich Houseman and Greg Minaar (Global) but she beat Orlando Martinez.

In the women's final, Chausson proved as dominant there as she had en route to both dual slalom and downhill victories prior to the mountain cross. Chausson took it out of turn one and never gave it back. Despite a good scrap between Muxlow and Miller, the Jamis rider controlled the ride for second place.

The men's final afforded a rare opportunity to see extremely competitive men get to do what their formal disciplines of dual slalom and downhill do not allow: hit each other.

The four finalists included Brian Lopes (Fox/GT), Wade Bootes (Trek/Volkswagen), Nigel Page (Intense) and Cedric Gracia (Volvo/Cannondale). As with dual slalom, the racing improved No sooner had the gate dropped than the action started for real. Racing on the far left of the bunch, Page was the first victim. Like four billiard balls colliding, the last ball struck - in this case Page - moved the farthest. He hit the first jump, had his bars smacked, and performed a fantastic one-and-a-half somersault, bike and all, before landing like a bag of peat moss. The others raced on.

Gracia showed his speed to match the famed acceleration of Lopes and slammed into the first turn, knocking Bootes off the machine for a second. Bootes recovered to make a race of it, but Lopes and Gracia took the battle down the mountain with frightening zeal. Lopes' aggression and speed carried all the way to the finish, where he claimed a victory. For Lopes it proved a small payback, to win Carter's event, as Carter had defeated him in the dual slalom the day before.

Most impressed, however, were the crowds. As they streamed down the mountain for their respective rides home, all left with a sense that NORBA racing might just have a future after all.

Final series overall standings

Men cross-country
1 Roland Green (Can) Trek/Volkswagen
2 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Subaru/Gary Fisher
3 Seamus McGrath (Can) Haro/Lee Dungarees
4 Kirk Molday (USA) SunRace/Santa Cruz
5 Pavel Cherkasov (Rus) Subaru/Gary Fisher
Women cross-country
1 Mary Grigson (Aus) Subaru/Gary Fisher
2 Chrissy Redden (Can) Subaru/Gary Fisher
3 Ruthie Matthes (USA) Trek/Volkswagen
4 Jimena Florit (Ard) RLX/Polo Sport
5 Audrey Augustin (USA) GT/Zeal
Men Short Track XC
1 Roland Green (Can) Trek/Volkswagen
2 Ryder Hesjedal (Can ) Subaru/Gary Fisher
3 Pavel Cherkasov (Rus) Subaru/Gary Fisher
4 Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski
5 Paul Rowney (Aus) Yeti/Pearl Izumi
Women Short Track XC
1 Jimena Florit (Arg) RLX Polo Sport
2 Chrissy Redden (Can) Subaru/Gary Fisher
3 Susan Haywood (USA) Trek/VW
4 Shonny Vanlandingham (USA) SoBe/Headshock
5 Alison Dunlap (USA) GT/Chevy Trucks

Men Downhill
1 John Kirkcaldie (USA) Maxxis
2 Todd Leduc (USA) Foes/Azonic
3 Nathan Rankin (NZl) Foes/Azonic
4 John Waddell (Aus) SunRace/Santa Cruz
5 Colin Bailey (USA) Maxxis
Women Downhill
1 Missy Giove (USA) Global
2 Leigh Donovan (USA) Schwinn
3 Marla Streb (USA) Foes/Azonic
4 April Lawyer (USA) Maxxis
5 Kathy Pruitt (USA) Dirt Works