By Sue George
Round # 5 of the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) comes to Deer Valley Resort in Utah this weekend, and this round features a full slate of gravity and endurance events. The event is sandwiched between two World Cups: #3 in Champéry, Switzerland, and #4 in Mont Saint Anne, Quebec, Canada.
"It will present a good test of mid-season fitness, we'll start to see who has started too fast and who has been saving themselves for the longer haul," said NMBS series director Jeff Frost, of Blue Wolf Events.
The 7.1-mile (11.4km) cross country course at Deer Valley Resort is at altitude, a condition that often causes a shake-up among the usual podium contenders. It features 1,400 feet (427m) of climbing per lap. Deer Valley is the first time NMBS cross-country racers will be racing together at altitude in 2007. The rounds in Phoenix, Fontana, and Santa Ynez have been much lower. Pros will tackle four laps, while experts do three, and sports do two laps. The pros race the cross country on Saturday. Their short track is Sunday.
Going into round four of the non-gravity disciplines, Canadian Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis) will be looking to defend his overall lead. Kabush has 546 points, leading the series ahead of 2005 US National Champion Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher), who's got 499 points and 2006 US National Champion Ryan Trebon (Kona), who has 458 points. Kabush has won all three cross country rounds thus far in 2007, but Horgan-Kobelski won in 2006 at this venue.
Reigning women's national champion Georgia Gould (Luna) will look to continue her winning ways this season. Gould also has won all three rounds of the cross country so far and leads the standings with a perfect 546 total points. Teammate Shonny Van Landingham, who's known to be a strong performer at altitude events like Deer Valley and is second overall with 482 points, is a contender for this round of the cross country. Van Landingham finished second at the Santa Ynez Round #2 cross country and won at Deer Valley last year.
Willow Koerber (Subaru / Gary Fisher) is in good form, too, coming off a strong fifth place finish at the World Cup in Champery, Switzlerland last week, and another favorite Katerina Nash (Luna) has appeared on all but one of the short track and cross country NMBS podiums this year. She's sitting in third with 419 points. Known absentees are Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain / Haywood), who is competing in the TransGermany, and Sue Haywood (Trek / VW), who is teaching a mountain bike clinic in West Virginia.
To read the complete preview, including information on the short track and gravity events, click here.