Gravity racing will make its 2005 debut at the Shimano NORBA USA National Mountain Bike Series at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, June 16-19. After a two month interruption, the series returns with the third round of cross country disciplines as a strong field of Olympians and World and National Champions returns to Park City for a NORBA National for the first time since 2001.
In the traditional Olympic-style cross country events, a deep collection of elite-level riders is expected and is led by current series leaders Sue Haywood (Davis, W.V.) and Geoff Kabush (Can). Haywood kicked off her 2005 campaign with two solid results: an overall win at the NORBA opener in Boerne, Texas, and a second place effort in round two in Phoenix. Challenging Haywood will be Alison Dunlap (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Katerina Hanusova (CZE), Willow Koerber (Pisgah Forest, N.C.), Kelli Emmett (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Kerry Barnholt (Boulder, Colo.) and Dara Marks-Marino (Flagstaff, Ariz.).
Noticeably absent at Deer Valley will be 2004 U.S. Olympic Team member Mary McConneloug (Fairfax, Calif.). She will be preparing for the following weekend's World Cup race in Canada. Currently ranked third in the world, McConneloug is sitting fifth in the overall World Cup standings after three events thanks to top-10 finishes in all four events thus far, including two fifth-place finishes. McConneloug's absence could open the door for a relatively new face to grace the podium.
A former world champion and two-time Olympian, Dunlap also has six U.S. national mountain bike titles to her credit and her talent is further complimented by arguably the strongest team. Riding for the Luna Women's Team, Dunlap is backed by teammates Hanusova and last season's NORBA series points leader Shonny Vanlandingham (Durango, Colo.), both threats to victories in Park City in their own right.
On the men's side, Cyclingnews diarist Geoff Kabush has been the dominant rider on the domestic circuit so far in 2005 and is the favourite heading into Park City. Kabush claimed wins at the NORBA stop in Phoenix and at the Sea Otter Classic earlier this season. The current series leader in both the cross country and short track disciplines is on his way to repeating both of the NORBA titles he captured in '04.
2008 Olympic-hopeful Adam Craig (Bend, Ore.) already has a win on the NORBA circuit this year and has consistently been the top American this season in world cup events. His eighth place finish at last weekend's world cup in Willingen, Germany puts him on pace for a win at Deer Valley.
2004 U.S. Olympic team members Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Boulder, Colo.) and Todd Wells (Durango, Colo.) will also be on hand. Horgan-Kobelski, the defending U.S. national champion in both cross country and short track disciplines, will saddle up for his first major event since breaking seven ribs and fracturing his sacrum on a high speed descent at the Sea Otter Classic in April. Wells is coming off of a successful road campaign that included a second place finish at the Tour of Connecticut before heading into the heart of the domestic mountain bike season.
Under the rising star category, 21-year-old Australian Trent Lowe represents the next generation of world-class cyclists. Sitting second in the overall NORBA standings behind Kabush, Lowe also captured the best young rider jersey at April's Tour de Georgia on his way to placing 11th overall in the major international stage race. With loads of potential on pavement or dirt, Lowe will also compete for a spot on the podium against the veterans.
Canadian Olympic team member Seamus McGrath is also likely to land on the podium giving Canada a powerful 1-2 punch along with Kabush.
In the stage race format, cross country riders will compete in three events - the Olympic bobsled time trial and the cross country and short track races - for an overall cumulative time that will determine the event winner.
Gravity pulls riders to Deer Valley
The first of six series events throughout the summer for gravity riders, the Deer Valley NORBA National will also feature some of the world's top downhill and dual slalom athletes as riders begin their quest for an overall series title in Park City.
Leading the list of featured competitors are several distinguished entrants including current U.S. national champion Brian Lopes (Trabuco Canyon, Calif.) and reigning world champion and '04 NORBA series overall winner Eric Carter (Temecula, Calif.). Lopes and Carter's consistent appearances on the podium in mountain cross and dual slalom events, along with their history as two of the sport's most decorated riders, set the scene for a competitive men's dual slalom event on Friday afternoon. Carter's participation may ultimately be a game-time decision however as he is recovering from a broken ankle recently suffered in training. If Carter's unable to go, other notable riders like Mike King (San Diego, Calif.) and Brian Schmith (Lancaster, Pa.) will have one less man standing in their way of success.
The women's dual slalom field also boasts notable talent as U.S. national champion Tara Llanes (Los Alamitos, Calif.) and last season's overall NORBA series champion Jill Kintner (Seattle, Wash.) headline the start list.
With downhill racing also making its '05 debut, current national champion Duncan Riffle (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and last year's NORBA series winner Greg Minnaar (RSA) highlight the men's field, while Kathy Pruitt (Lake Almanor, Calif.) opens up defense of her NORBA crown from a year ago.
The NORBA event begins 17 days of competitive cycling in Park City, as USA Cycling will also hold its annual national road championships at the Park City Cycling Festival June 21-July 2. In all, 125 national championship jerseys will be up for grabs in elite, master, U23, junior and paralympic categories in road, time trial and criterium events.