At the grand finale of the Jeep King of the Mountain series, where Tara Llanes sustained her injury, at Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado, Czech Republic's Michal Prokop and Anneke Beerten of the Netherlands's brought home the coveted overall crowns.
Entering the final race, the men's and women's standings had never been so tight in the five-year history of the series. Five pairs of athletes were tied and seven had a legitimate chance of earning the top prize and driving off the mountain in a new 2008 Jeep Liberty.
Prokop, the two-time defending series champion, had won the first race of the season in Park City, Utah, before heading to China to compete in the UCI World Cup BMX Championships during the second race. Arriving in Beaver Creek, the Czech BMX and mountain bike national champion knew there was much ground to be covered and wasted no time trying to reestablish his dominance. Prokop beat Australia's Jared Graves in the final matchup based on the time differential from the two heats.
"I honestly didn't think I would be able to win this competition today, but I tried my best and it turned out well for me," said Prokop. "I just tried to be as fast as possible out there, and was careful to watch my turns and cover my inside. Maybe I got lucky with Lopes going down early, but I'm thrilled to win again."
Beerten, who had captured the title at the previous round in California, was forced to start the day with a tough match-up against co-leader Melissa Buhl based on the seeding runs. The world's second-ranked racer with two World Cup wins in 2007 was able to get past her rival and advance to the semi-finals, where she swept Fionn Griffiths to reach the finals.
Meanwhile, Jill Kintner, the world's number-one ranked mountain bike racer and two-time defending series champion was taking care of business on the other side of the bracket. Kintner and Beerten met up in the final, with Kintner coming out on the top for the day and Beerten taking the overall.
"I really liked this course a lot, but it was hot out there and became slippery in some spots," said Beerten. "It was nearly impossible to have a perfect run, but I knew I had to be smooth and also aggressive if I wanted to win that Jeep. Thankfully it all came together for me."
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