Canada and US dominate Pan Am Continental Championships

The US team swept the elite women's podium and Canada took two golds and a silver in the men's...

The US team swept the elite women's podium and Canada took two golds and a silver in the men's competitions at the Continental Mountain Bike Championships in Villa la Angostura, Argentina, last weekend. Both countries were on a quest to secure the maximum number of start positions for the 2008 Olympic Games.

In the elite women's race, Georgia Gould (Luna) led the elite women's contingent with a win in the 24-kilometer race in a time of 1:56:46 ahead of silver medalist Mary McConneloug (Kenda-Seven) 2:06 back and bronze medalist Willow Koerber (Subaru-Gary Fisher) 4:51 back. Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Gary Fisher) finished fourth to give the Americans a sweep of the top four spots. Francisca Campos Salas of Chile rounded out the top-five, 5:46 back. One of the favorites, Shonny Vanlandingham (Luna), did not start due to illness.

Meanwhile, all three of Canada's team members at the race came home with medals in the elite men's race. Geoff Kabush and Seamus McGrath took first and second in the elite men's category while Max Plaxton won the Under 23 division. Kabush clocked a winning time of 2:02:40 while McGrath crossed the line 49 seconds later.

Winner Geoff Kabush was proud of the team, but worried about his own condition going into the race. "I was unsure if I would be recovered after finishing the 13th day Tour of Cuba in February; but obviously the racing paid off. It was a very close race, and luckily I timed things perfectly."

Kabush faced a challenge from American Todd Wells (GT-Hyundai), who was three kilometers away from a possible victory when mechanical failure derailed his hopes. Wells settled for third while his teammates Adam Craig (Giant) and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) a fourth and fifth respectively. Wells led for most of the 30km men's contest before wet and sandy conditions caused his rear derailleur to malfunction. He finished two seconds off second place.

Max Plaxton took the U23 race ahead of Sam Schultz (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Sam Jurekovic (USA Cycling National Development Team). "It's one of the best courses I have ever raced. I did the job I had to do. I am satisfied. I cannot wait to race with the elite," said Plaxton, who has been dominating the under 23 event for two years in a row. Plaxton had gone into the race confident after previewing the 6km course.

Chloe Forsman (Luna) took gold in the women's U23 race, with a four-and-a-half minute final lead over second-place finisher Alexandra Serrano of Ecuador. Melanie Meyers (Kenda-X-Fusion-Titus) added a bronze to the American medal count.

Entering Sunday's race, the United States was ranked fourth in the men's standings behind Switzerland, France, and Spain, while the American women were ranked sixth behind Norway, Germany, Canada, China and Poland. Nations earning top-five for men and top-four for women on December 31, 2007 will accumulate the maximum number of Olympic start spots (three for men, two for women). Canada came to the event looking to secure two men's cross-country spots.

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