For defending Jeep King of the Mountain World Champion Wade Bootes of Australia, an already deep line-up of contenders chasing the richest prize purse in the industry became even deeper with the announcement that Brian Lopes, mountain bike racing’s career victories leader, has been added to the U.S. squad for the 2005 Mountain Biking World Championships, beginning June 19 in San Luis Obispo, California.
The three-year-old Mountain Biking World Championships, sister event to the wintertime Skiing & Snowboarding World Championships, features the world’s top male and female mountain bike racers competing to capture the King of the Mountain title for their country, as well as a cash payout that tops $100,000 and the keys to a 2006 Jeep Commander. A national audience will be able to view the King of the Mountain Series on CBS Sports and through nationally syndicated television.
Heading into the first race of the three-event series at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, Bootes faces a list of challengers that includes San Diego’s Mike King, a former World Champion who has amassed 67 career top-three finishes; Michael Prokop of the Czech Republic, the 2004 World Cup Champion; and Chris Powell of La Jolla, Calif., who finished third at the U.S. Championships and eighth in the World Championships in 2004. Added to the mix is Lopes, from Trabuco Canyon, Calif., who besides being one of the most recognizable faces in the sport has earned 15 titles in his mountain biking career - nine on the NORBA National circuit, four on the UCI World Cup circuit and two prestigious World Championships.
On the women’s side, Australian Katrina Miller faces an equally daunting task in defending her Jeep King of the Mountain World Champion title. Miller, a two-time World Champion and four-time NORBA Champion, will battle a line-up that includes Anneke Beerten of the Netherlands, number one overall at the 2004 World Cup; England’s Fionn Griffiths, the 2003 NORBA Champion; Vanessa Quin of New Zealand, the 2004 ICU World Champion; Tara Llanes of Corona, Calif., a four-time Winter X Games medalist and 2003 U.S. Mountain X Champion; and Jill Kintner of San Jose, Calif., who has amassed an astounding 70 career BMX titles before taking up mountain bike racing, where she earned the 2004 NORBA Championship and the 2005 Sea Otter Championship.
In addition to this stellar field, two male and two female racers have qualified for the June 19 race in San Luis Obispo based on points earned in National Off-Road Bicycling Association (NORBA) events. They include on the men’s side, Travis Collins of San Luis Obispo, Calif., and Brian Schmith of Lancaster, Calif., and on the women’s side, Marla Streb of Los Osos, Calif., and Melissa Buhl.
Running from June through August, the Jeep King of the Mountain Series will include events on Saturday, July 23 at Pando Ski Area in Grand Rapids, Mich. and Sunday, August 14 at Jack Frost Mountain in The Pocono Mountains, Pa.