By Dave McElwaine in West Dover, Vermont
One thousand mountain bikers are competing in various categories for a stars-and-stripes jersey this weekend from July 17 through July 20 at Mount Snow in West Dover, Vermont. Categories 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.
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.
Read the complete preview of all events and stay tuned to Cyclingnews for results, race reports, and photos all weekend.