By Steve Medcroft
There are more than a handful of racers strong enough to win the Pro men’s Cross Country at this weekend’s U.S. National Mountain Bike Championships in Mammoth Mountain, California. Defending champion, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru – Gary Fisher) is in peak form after recently placing second in the overall NORBA National Series. Adam Craig (Giant) comes into the race saying he feels like he’s flying on the bike after winning the Mount Snow NORBA XC, finishing as the highest-place American at World Championships and placing well at the World Cup finals in Scotland. Todd Wells (GT Hyundai) is always a threat. Barry Wicks (Kona – Les Gets) just won the Cougar Mountain Classic Cross Country race at Infineon Speedway in California. Former Junior World Champion Walker Ferguson is back on form after spending time sorting out his goals.
But with all that talent on the start line, one potential winner will have to sit on the sidelines; Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW) injured his lower back in a pre-race run at Mount Snow just before the NORBA Nationals finals and has been restricted from racing.
“I was pre riding with Nick Waite and (East Coast Trek factory team rider) David Duvall. There was a spot on the course with a tree in the middle and I went over the bars at top speed trying to avoid it.”
Bishop says he initially believed he did no worse than bruise his back so he lined up for the next day’s NORBA finals Cross Country race. “I didn’t feel great so I made a deal with Jon (Posner, Trek team manager) that if I wasn’t in the top twenty after the second lap, I’d pull out.”
Struggling, he DNF’d and rested his back. His next race would have been the Livigno World Championships. “On Sunday, before heading to Worlds, I figured I should make sure everything was okay so I had my back x-rayed. They said I had broken bones and I was like 'are you kidding?’"
They weren’t; the diagnosis was that Bishop had fractured the bony spines on the outside of his three lower-most vertebrae. Luckily, there was no damage to the underlying spinal column but Bishop has been ordered to avoid any stress to the area; which essentially means he’s out of racing for the time being. “I have to wear a protective wrap,” he says. “It looks like a weight-lifter’s belt. I can ride my bike to rehab but I can’t train for a couple more weeks.”
Bishop says he was “bummed about not being able to do Nationals but I accepted that as a reality when the injury made itself fully apparent.” Although he’ll miss the race, Bishop says he’ll still be in Mammoth. “I'll be there to support my team and help Trek with a product launch”
After that, his attention will shift back to racing. “I’m definitely going to do some cyclocross now,” he said. “We have good races coming up on the East Coast and it will help me focus on building towards next season and to get back in the swing of things.”