Stop six of seven of the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) will take top pro racers to the mountains of North Carolina July 26-29 for the Showdown at Sugar, an event in its 14th year.
"We love the technical terrain here at Sugar Mountain. It is classic East Coast riding, with roots, rocks, drops, the whole lot," said series director Jeff Frost, of Blue Wolf Events. Racers should be all warmed up and ready after last weekend's technical national championship course in Mount Snow.
One favorite for the weekend is newly crowned US national cross country and short track champion Mary McConneloug (Seven Cycles).
"After winning the (short track), I decided since the good legs are here, and I should put them to good use! Mike Broderick and I both look forward to racing in the National Series race this weekend. We hear the riding at Sugar Mountain is phenomenal," the McConneloug said.
McConneloug will face the likes of Georgia Gould (Luna), who will be looking to maintain her perfect score of 728 points from four cross country races. Gould's experienced team-mate, Shonny Van Landingham, lies second in the series with 654 points, while ex-pat Czech Katerina Nash completes the Luna Women's team domination of the top three spots with 582 points.
Cross country racers will tackle a 6.5 mile course, with relentless climbs, fast descents, and intricate singletrack through the eastern hardwoods. Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis) leads the series over Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) by 719 points to 681. Carl Decker (Giant), sits in third with 528 points. Look out also for Virginia rider Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW), who took third at Deer Valley and second at last weekend's national championships and showed he's back on form after a respiratory illness compromised his June form.
Look for newly crowned national short track Ryan Trebon (Kona) to mix it up with these men, too. He dropped to third in the short track standings after Deer Valley, but is now riding strong.
Local rider Willow Koerber (Subaru-Gary Fisher), who grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, lays fourth overall in the short track series and is expected to put on a strong showing. Showing her prowess on the international scene, Koerber has twice visited the World Cup cross country podium so far this season.
In the downhill, Australians Jared Rando (Giant/Michelin) and Amiel Cavalier (Giant), with 525 and 483 points respectively, will aim to continue what is becoming a tradition of Aussie dominance on American soil. However, Cody Warren (Foes/No Fear) has shown he has the talent to beat both Aussies, and a strong result here would put him right back in contention for the series lead.
Melissa Buhl (KHS) will be looking to keep her downhill series lead over Joanna Petterson (Brodie) and Lisa Myklak (Leelikesbikes.com). Buhl also leads Petterson and Jackie Harmony (Brodie/Bike and Bean) in the 4X / Dual Slalom.
37 year-old national and world champion Eric Carter hopes to continue to outsmart his younger rivals and maintain his comfortable series lead. At Deer Valley, Jared Rando moved up into second place overall, with his compatriot, Cavalier, close behind.