Jeremiah Bishop (Trek / VW) took top honours at the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) round 5 event held last weekend in North Carolina. The "Showdown at Sugar" was more like a showdown in mud, but that didn't deter Bishop, who had finished second behind Adam Craig at the wet and slippery USAC National Mountain Bike Championships cross country event the previous weekend in Mount Snow, Vermont.
In the mountains of western North Carolina, 31 year-old Jeremiah Bishop logged his third-ever NMBS win, and his first in 2007. He won the final NMBS series event last year in Aspen, Colorado, and his first win came in Waco, Texas, in 2004. This latest victory marked a return to form after battling a mid-season illness; Bishop is aiming for a strong remainder of 2007, during which he hopes to show himself one of the top American contenders for the 2008 Olympic team.
"It was kind of a surprise. I didn't expect the win would be here of all places - after I had a rough June," said Bishop, who sat out both World Cups in Canada due to a respiratory illness. "While [Geoff] Kabush was winning a bronze medal at Mont Ste. Anne, I was sitting in bed. Last weekend [at US Nationals in Mount Snow], I got second, but I felt like my legs weren't really there yet."
The illness had only added to his motivation. "To look at the bright side of the coin, I had planned on taking a mid-summer break anyway to recharge. When you have to sit on a bench, it really drives home how much you want to be out there racing and how much you really miss it and want it."
When national champion Adam Craig (Giant) charged off the start line in North Carolina, Bishop knew he had to follow and not let him get away. "The racing started right away. There was no drafting or sitting on. I knew I had to mark Adam. I followed him. He was scorching the first lap, and we immediately started to pull away from everyone."
At the top of the 1,300 foot climb, at an elevation of 5,100 feet, the duo disappeared into the fog, getting ready for a slippery descent to be negotiated during each of the six mile laps. "It rained in the days prior to the race. The course was treacherous," said Bishop. "The two main sections of singletrack were the hardest in the national series so far this year, even harder than Mount Snow. It was nasty. There were a lot of crashes. It made for some hair raising moments."
"We started the downhill. It was like octopus feet everywhere. I could tell Adam was loving it," said Bishop. "I was trying not to crash. We came through lap one near each other."