By Sue George
The top two men from the most recent NMBS round at Sugar Mountain battled it out again in Colorado for the final race in the series. Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis) and Jeremiah Bishop (Trek / VW), ended the series with a sprint finish. Only one second separated the two riders.
Kabush, sponsored by a tire manufacturer, made a calculated gamble by choosing to race with super light tires. He hoped the gains he would experience on the climbs would offset any caution he'd have to employ not to flat on the downhills, and no matter what happened, he'd still win the series, if not the race.
Kabush had raced the tires before, at events like Sea Otter, and he knew their appropriateness for climbing courses. He often races them on grassy short tracks, too. "When I can use them, it drops over a pound from my bike." The Maxxis tires weigh 310 grams, an asset on a course that started out with 1,200 feet of steep climbing, but a potential liability on rocky downhills, like the 20 minute descent that ended the race.
"I already had the series wrapped up, so there was less pressure," said Kabush. "It was craziest (rockiest) course I've ever ridden them on. I tried to use them to go uphill as fast as I could and crack the guys, but Jeremiah was riding really well."
"Kabush was running a risky setup in my opinion," said Bishop after the race. "The one thing that would have derailed his day was a double flat or a slashed sidewall. The wheelset was a shock to me when we started the race and I saw what he was running. I can't believe he didn't flat." After seeing the course, Bishop took the opposite approach ran a full 2.2" mountain bike tire on the rear, which he said paid off on the descents.
Although the two men employed different strategies, one to go fast up, one to go fast down, they ended up at the finish together. Kabush would sometimes shake Bishop on or just after the climb, but Bishop would always get him back on the downhill.
"He caught up with me seven or eight minutes to go," said Kabush. "It made for an intense finish. I'd push it on any uphill, but he kept coming back to me. On the final grass sweeping corner to the finish, we were neck and neck. We were both drifting on the gravel in the corner."
"It made for a really interesting race, probably the most exciting race of the year," said Bishop. "We would yo-yo back and forth. I would catch up to him and he'd pull away on steep climb, and I'd think I was done and dropped, and then I'd rip downhill at a steady place, and I'd see him slowing down for a stream crossing and I'd blast right through and catch back up."
Kabush said he was not bothered by the altitude. When not travelling for racing, he lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at 6,000 feet altitude, not quite as high as the 9,000 feet at Snowmass. He'd had over a week to re-acclimated after racing in North Carolina. In contrast, Bishop, who resides nearer to sea level, chose the arrive-at-the-last-minute strategy and said he felt fine at altitude Saturday, but suffered Sunday.
National champion Adam Craig (Giant) finished third, back 2'30". Todd Wells (GT) and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru - Gary Fisher) rounded out the podium for fourth and fifth.
The Canadian Kabush claimed the overall national series title with Horgan-Kobelski in second. Bishop's strong two series-ending performances helped him step up to third overall, and he said he felt on track for the rest of the major races for the season. Wells (GT) and Barry Wicks (Kona) finished off the series podium.
On the women's side, Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB Team) won the cross country ahead of team-mate Katerina Nash and Heather Irminger (Subaru / Gary Fisher). Gould moved quickly and strategically to the front of the field. "I had a good start and I knew it was important to be first going into the singletrack. It's a 20 minute climb, almost all on singletrack and pretty steep, and there was potential for gaps to form there." Gould maintained her lead until the end, eventually extending it to 1'48". Her win locked up her overall title with 910 points after completing a perfect record by taking all six victories. Nash and Vanlandingham were second and third in the series.
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