While there's clearly no substitute for first place, elite American mountain bike racers, Brian Lopes and Melissa Buhl, have to like their current position heading into the second stage of the Jeep® King of the Mountain (www.jeepsports.com) 2006 Mountain Biking World Professional Championships, set for Aug. 12 at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Though Lopes, 34, from San Clemente, Calif., and Buhl, 24, from Chandler, Ariz., are 10 years apart in age, both have distinguished themselves with national and international championships and are savvy enough to know that one great day of racing separates them from first place in the overall standings. Claiming first place will be no easy task, however, with the world's two top racers, Michal Prokop of the Czech Republic, and Jill Kintner of Seattle, Wash., currently holding onto first place and vying to defend their Jeep King of the Mountain 2005 World Professional Champion titles. With a first or second place finish by Lopes and Buhl in Elkhart Lake, the title of World Professional Champion would be completely up for grabs when the series' grand finale takes place on Sept. 3 at Beaver Creek, Colo.
"I am healthy and I have been around the block for some time now, which is a great advantage," said Lopes, a three-time World Champion, five-time World Cup Champion and nine-time National Champion. "I know what it takes to put together a good race run, and now I just need to go out and make it happen."
The 2006 Mountain Biking World Professional Championships from Elkhart Lake will air on CBS Sports on Sept. 24, from 5:00 - 6:00 p.m. EST.