Many of the best mountain bike pros in the world will line up in the Frank G. Bonelli Park for round 2 of the 2014 USA Cycling US Cup Series presented by Sho-Air Cycling Group on Saturday, March 15 in San Dimas, California. Among them will be Olympians Max Plaxton (Cannondale Factory Racing) of Canada and Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) of the Czech Republic, both of whom will be racing to defend their leads in the US Cup series.
"Bonelli Park is a great location for racing," said Sho-Air President Scott Tedro. "And the course changes we've implemented in the past weeks will ensure that only the best riders will be fighting it out at the front. The much-needed rain that came last week put the course in great shape as well, so we're ready and the course is ready. We can't wait to see this world-class field battle it out this weekend."
Bonelli Park is hosting its first-ever hors categorie mountain bike race as round 2 of the USA Cycling US Cup, but it is no stranger to big-time mountain bike racing. The venue has hosted races since the mid 1980s, including no less than three UCI C1 category events in recent years.
Series standings ahead of Bonelli Park
Following a hotly-contested opening round of the USA Cycling US Cup Series presented by Sho-Air Cycling Group at the Mellow Johnny's Classic in Dripping Springs, Texas, two weeks ago, Plaxton and Nash lead the series standings.
Plaxton tops the men's standings with 30 points ahead of Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox Racing) with 27 points, Todd Wells (Specialized Racing) with 25 points, Jeremiah Bishop (Sho-Air/Cannondale) with 23 points and Derek Zandstra (Scott-3Rox Racing) with 21 points.
Nash is ranked number one among the women, also with 30 points, while her teammates Catharine Pendrel and Georgia Gould are in second and third with 27 and 25 points, respectively. Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) is holding down the fourth spot in the rankings while Erin Huck (Tokyo Joe's/VC Graphix.com) is fifth with 21 points.
The USA Cycling US Cup Series standings could see a serious shake-up at Bonelli Park. Due to its high UCI category HC-ranking, round two offers more points than any other round in the four-race series. For example, the men's and women's winners will collect 45 points for their victories instead of 25 like at the other rounds. And all racers, including the winners, will pick up an extra five points for lining up on the start line.
The elite men's contenders
Series leader Max Plaxton, who won at Bonelli Park in 2010, is bringing reinforcements to help him defend his spot atop the rankings. His entire Cannondale Factory Racing team will be at the start, including Olympic bronze medallist Marco Aurelio Fontana of Italy, Manuel Fumic of Germany, former junior world champion Anton Cooper of New Zealand and Keegan Swenson of the United States. The young Swenson, a former junior national champion, set a blazing pace at the Mellow Johnny's race, leading until he was slowed by a flat tire.
"Bonelli Park has been good to me in the past, and I'm looking forward to coming back with my teammates," said Plaxton. "It's a great opportunity for us all to race together ahead of this year's World Cups."
Emil Lindgren (Giant Pro XC Team) of Sweden and Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Trek Factory Racing) of Spain are both making the trip across the Atlantic from Europe. Lindgren is fresh off helping his teammate Fabian Giger win round 1 of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup, a four-day stage race.
The Sho-Air/Cannondale team, including former US cross country national champion Sam Schultz, Ryan Trebon, Alex Grant and Jeremiah Bishop will be out in force, racing with the home team advantage. Jeremiah Bishop dedicated last year's Bonelli Park win to his son, Conrad. The family man will have a new source of inspiration this year, as his second child is expected to arrive in the days leading up to the race. Bishop won the race in both 2011 and 2013.
The always-fast Geoff Kabush will again be a man to watch, along with his Canadian Scott-3Rox teammates Derek Zandstra and Cameron Jette.
US Short Track National Champion Todd Wells (Specialized) usually mixes it up with the top contenders while US Cross Country National Champion Stephen Ettinger (BMC) will hop into the series after missing the first round.
Others to watch include Mike Broderick (Team Kenda/Stan's NoTubes), Spencer Paxson, under 23 national champion Kerry Werner (BMC), Carl Decker (Giant), Kris Sneddon (Kona), Troy Wells (Clif Bar), Rotem Ishay (Jamis), Jason Sager (Backcountry.com) and Mitchell Hoke (The Pro's Closet-Stan's NoTubes MTB).
The elite women's contenders
The often-dominant Luna Pro Team will be bringing its full contingent including round one top-three finishers Katerina Nash, Catharine Pendrel and Georgia Gould as well as new signing Maghalie Rochette.
At Bonelli Park, they will get some stiffer competition with a more international flavor. Annie Last of Great Britain and Emily Batty of Canada will represent Trek Factory Racing while Mary McConneloug (Team Kenda/Stan's NoTubes) of the US will take a break from her international racing schedule to compete back on home soil.
"This is huge!" said McConneloug. "I'm looking forward to reconnecting with the domestic race scene and am using this big race as a tune-up for the Pan-American Continental Championships in two weeks in Brazil."
Other riders to watch including Erin Huck (Tokyo Joe's/VCGraphix.com), Shayna Powless (BMC), Kate Courtney (Specialized Racing) and Amanda Sin and Mikaela Kofman (both Scott-3Rox).
The Bonelli Park cross country course covers approximately three miles with 687 feet of climbing per lap. The popular, current course was first used in the 2010 edition of the race; however, for 2014, the course has undergone even more significant changes thanks to the efforts of Sho-Air's Scott Tedro.
"We built a rock garden recently, which, combined with the short climbs and descents, will really interrupt the flow and make it tough to get into a rhythm," said Tedro. "We wanted to make sure that for our showcase event, barring a crash or mechanical, only the best riders will be at the front in order to crown a truly deserving champion."
The updated course is filled with tight, twisty singletrack, short steep ascents and fun, speedy fireroads. There is still plenty of doubletrack and fireroads for passing opportunities, but this year's course will also be more spectator and video-friendly as it doubles back on itself multiple times. Racers will be challenged by a bit of everything in the course.
"I've been training on the new course this past week, and it is awesome," said Sam Schultz (Sho-Air/Cannondale). "It's going to make for a great race. Thanks to Scott Tedro for making it an even more fun course to race!"
Free live video streaming
Building upon the success of the live video streaming offered for round 1 of the USA Cycling US Cup Series presented by the Sho-Air Cycling Group at Mellow Johnny's, round 2 at Bonelli Park will again be streamed free online at a dedicated page under USA Cycling's (http://www.USACycling.org) YouTube page. The direct link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niYlI0tDFf4.
The Mellow Johnny's live coverage attracted more than 11,000 unique viewers from 89 countries. The Bonelli Park event features far more viewable sections and promises to be great action.
Saturday, March 15 Bonelli Park Race Schedule, all times Pacific Daylight Time / Local California Time
11h00 - 11h15 PDT: Elite women cross country - staging and call-up
11h15 - 13h15 PDT: Elite women cross country race
13h30 - 13h45 PDT: Elite men cross country - staging and call-up
13h45 - 15h45 PDT: Elite men cross country race
15h50 - 16h00 PDT: Elite women and men cross country podium ceremony