By Dave McElwaine in Fontana, California, USA
The second stop on the Kenda Cup West Series, part of the U.S. Cup presented by Specialized, will take place at a familiar venue this weekend in Fontana, California. It will also be the scene of the first Pro XCT racing ever. For most of the pro racers, this will be their fourth time racing at Fontana as it was the site of previous NMBS races. In addition to cross country, the weekend will include Super D, Downhill, and 4X racing for both amateurs and pros.
For much of this past winter, it appeared that there may not be a national pro series in 2009. Thanks to the efforts of Sho Air's Scott Tedro and USA Cycling, the Pro XCT series was born. The series consists of six races that piggyback onto selected US Cup venues, plus a series finale in Las Vegas to take place at the conclusion of Interbike.
Attendance at the Fontana venue has grown every year, particularly in 2008 when the number of spectators seemed to explode. This year is expected to be even busier as the Fontana City race has been included in the Kenda Cup West series.
For three consecutive years, Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis) has dominated the men's race. In 2007 he admittedly did not have the best legs in the race but the challengers kept letting him back on the train. Typically he has won on the final climb, just before some downhill singletrack where passing is nearly impossible. U.S. Champion Adam Craig (Giant), Ryan Trebon (Kona), Jeremy Horgan Kobelski (Gary Fisher/Subaru), Olympian Todd Wells (Specialized), Barry Wicks (Kona), Carl Decker (Giant), and Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale/Monavie) typically can be counted on to battle for the podium spots.
However, there are also a crop of young riders who are determined to knock off some of the favorites. Last year, both Sam Jurecovic and Max Plaxton made the podium. This season, along with wily veteran Sid Taberlay and endurance specialist Manny Prado, they are team-mates on the newly beefed up Sho-Air Team. As a foursome, they can be expected to do some major damage. Sam Schultz (Gary Fisher/Subaru) who took second place last weekend at the Pan Am Continental Championships certainly will be a threat. Andy Schultz (Kenda/Tomac), and Kris Sneddon (Kona) can be added to the young riders who will be vying for top finishes.