By Dave McElwaine in West Dover, Vermont
Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven) and Adam Craig (Giant) successfully defended their US national cross country titles last weekend in Mount Snow, Vermont.
McConneloug engaged in a hard fought battle with Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB) that ended in a sprint finish. Heather Irmiger (Gary Fisher) finished third while up-and-coming rider Lea Davison (Trek/VW) took fourth.
It appeared for most of the race that Gould would ride to victory as she held a lead as large as 20 seconds. "Actually, every climb I would pass her (Gould) and on every descent she would pass me," McConneloug said. "On the last descent I was finally familiar with all the lines I needed to be familiar with."
"I wouldn't give up," she added. "I just tried to keep the cadence up and not touch my brakes. I was cramping…and I just started to think of Mike (Broderick, team-mate and partner -ed.) and how he pushes through all kinds of cramping."
Both McConneloug and Gould will be headed to Beijing, China as team-mates on the US Olympic Mountain Biking Team.
"It was the same as the other two laps," said Gould of the final lap. "Mary would get a gap on the climbs and then I would close it down on the downhill. I just couldn't get by her on the last lap. She was pretty good at blocking."
In the men's race, Adam Craig (Giant) led the entire race, with the exception of the first quarter lap, to win his second consecutive championship. Craig claimed a 1'41 victory over a surging Ryan Trebon (Kona) while Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski took third, followed by Carl Decker (Giant) and Sam Schultz (Gary Fisher/Subaru).
Craig consistently increased his lead throughout the race, particularly on the third lap where added one minute to his gap. Craig was clearly descending the steep trails at Mount Snow faster than his competition. He was riding a new prototype full-suspension Giant Anthem (named Alabama) with one 35 tooth chainring.
"I was trying to ride smooth and fast and have a good time," said Craig. "I just tried to ride a steady race and be Kabush-esque."
The newly re-designed cross country course at Mount Snow features more steep fire road climbs and less single-track, however the final technical section had been re-routed to a fire road. Despite heavy rains overnight, the course was still relatively dry compared to previous years at Mount Snow.
Trebon, who bolted off the front on the 'parade lap', appeared to be struggling during his first two laps. He began to move better on lap three and started picking off riders.
"The first lap was killing me," said Trebon. "I was going so slow. Then I just started riding a pretty good tempo. "I didn't ride fast, just the same speed the whole course," he added. "Sometimes that works."
Horgan-Kobelski also seemed to struggle early in the race, but improved dramatically towards the end to finish third. "I tried not to go out too hard because the climbs here are really steep and they would get harder towards the end of the race," he said.
Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW) and Todd Wells (GT/Pacific) were both having good races but flatted, ruining their chances at making the podium.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of US Nationals including the downhill, super D, short track and dual slalom events.