By Steve Medcroft and Harlan Price
The full NORBA schedule officially opened with an all-disciplines event in Fontana, California this past weekend. Located in Southridge Park - an urban park surrounded by some seven million people and located about fifty miles from the traditional California NORBA opening spot at Big Bear Lake - the venue offered an unusual break from NORBA's usual ski resort and mountaintop courses. The shaded and grassy Southridge community park provided an oasis for riders to escape to after spending hours racing in clouds of desert dust in the bordering foothills. The technical, seven-mile XC race course crossed concrete drainage ditches, paralleled new housing developments and provided heavy equipment operators the chance to watch spandex-clad racers go around in circles for hours.
Spectators and competitors alike were treated to marathon, mountain-cross, Super D, downhill, cross-country and short-track racing from Friday to Sunday.
The usually dominant Canadians flexed their muscles in the cross-country disciplines and as perennial NORBA dominator Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis) swept the men's short-track and cross-country events. He managed to stay ahead of a last-lap pile up between lead group members Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru / Gary Fisher) and Todd Wells (GT / Hyundai) to win the cross-country. On Sunday's short-track course, which designers routed up a steep section of the previous day's mountain-cross course (a similar layout to last year's US MTB National Championships), Kabush hovered near the front and proved that he's recovered from whatever ailed him during the Commonwealth Games through Sea Otter and has regained that uphill kick he's always used to put a final-lap gap on the rest of the field.
Kabush may have seen the tactical advantage in that steep uphill while watching fellow Canadian Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain / Business Objects), who used it for her own win just an hour before. Sydor, who has been talking about retirement for at least the past three years but keeps coming back to the sport season after season as strong as ever, also took second in the cross-country race behind Shonny Vanlandingham (Luna Chix).
A Canadian even won the marathon; Troy Misseghers spent three hours, fifty-three minutes completing seven laps of the dusty Fontana cross-country course to hold Chris Eatough (Trek/VW) off by two minutes and win the second NORBA marathon of the year. Since Misseghers came second in the marathon opener (held in March on the competitive race loops at McDowell Mountain Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona) to countryman Kris Sneddon (Kona Les gets), he now sits on top of the seven-race men's marathon series standings. To win the series, he needs better cumulative results than any other rider in five of the seven races (a winning criteria modified from the original no-drop rule). Kiwi Jennifer Smith (Trek/VW) took the women's marathon 3.36 ahead of Melissa Thomas (Rocky Mountain / Business Objects).
American downhill national champ Cody Warren (Haro) won the men's downhill after he flatted in qualifying and posted the slowest preliminary run. Since he qualified with the slowest time he was sent down the run for the finals first and had to wait while forty-five other riders finished before knowing his fate. South African downhiller Joanna Petterson (Morewood) beat April Lawyer (Team Maxxis) and Wendy Reynolds (Beqar Nake) for the women's win.
The NORBA series stops next in Banner Elk, North Carolina (June 10-11); a first-time venue for the series. For results, race reports and photos from round one of the NORBA series, check out our Fontana coverage section.