By Dave McElwaine in Park City, Utah
Katerina Nash (Luna Women's MTB), a frequent visitor to the second step on the podium, finally beat out her powerful Luna team-mates to win her first National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) cross country race in Deer Valley, Utah. Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB) rode in third position for much of the race, but nailed down second place with a massive surge on the last lap.
"I've been riding well," said Nash. "I just tried to be patient. I was climbing well and it just all came together. It was a good day.
"Catherine let me take the lead on a downhill and she made a small mistake [behind me]," she added. "From that point on I just tried not to make any mistakes."
Catherine Pendrel (Luna Women's MTB) led for much of the race, but finished third after over-shooting a corner on a fast descent. The Luna Women are the top ranked women's team in the world, due to strong World Cup performances this season.
"On the climb after the feed zone it started breaking up and Katerina and I were rolling off the front," said Pendrel. "I was feeling good so I went to the front on the climb and was going to let Katerina lead on the descent because she was descending better than me.
"I actually made a mistake on the descent," she added. "I was hoping to put in a strong last lap but Georgia put in a stronger last lap."
Many of the racers, including the Luna squad, traveled back from the World Championships in Italy this week. It was uncertain how everyone would respond to racing so soon. The question was answered in the few seconds of the race as Pendrel and Gould shot to the front and led the entire field up the mountain in a side-by-side effort.
For Nash, the Czech National Champion, the victory was sweet after some disappointment this season. At the NMBS race in Fountain Hills she sustained a knee injury that resulted in her narrowly missing out on a chance to represent her country at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China this August.
With her win, Nash maintained her lead in the NMBS cross country series. She also won the short track the following day. The next rounds heads to Windham Mountain in New York for the only East Coast stop for the series in 2008.
Trebon wins the hard way
In the men's cross county race, it appeared that Ryan Trebon (Kona) was going backwards as a surging Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW) passed him on the second lap. But Trebon came back and won the race with superior climbing ability.
"I'd take time on Jeremiah on the climbs and then he'd catch me on the descents," said Trebon. "I feel really comfortable on this bike [a 29er] so I don't have as big a deficit on the descents. But Jeremiah still was definitely going downhill faster."
Trebon's victory at Deer Valley was the first time a 29inch wheeled bike has won a NMBS cross country race. There have been two previous wins by Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru/Gary Fisher) in short track and a time trial.
Bishop, finishing second, raced his best race of the year, but in the end could not hold off Trebon on the long climbs. Geoff Kabush (Maxxis), who just returned from a good European racing campaign, was third but never a factor in challenging for the win.
"I definitely stepped up to full gas," said Bishop. "I'm back and celebrated when I crossed the line because I went for the win. I kind of just followed my instincts and I attacked a little earlier than I thought I would [on the second lap].
"I started to cramp on lap three and really felt it on the last lap," he added. "[Trebon] won the race on the virtue of a steady, strong race."
Horgan-Kobelski continued his streak of bad luck, first with a flat tire that lost him at least eight positions. He recovered well and was moving up when he broke a chain, which forced the rider to run his bike to the finish and ride home in eighth place.
In the next day's short track, Kabush played smart tactics to defeat Trebon for the win.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of all the NMBS elite and amateur races in Deer Valley, Utah.