By Steve Medcroft
At last weekend's 24 Hours of Moab, Cyclingnews diarist Nat Ross became the winner of the first-ever 24 hour national points series. In the series, promoted by Laird Knight (Granny Gear Promotions), a rider had to collect points at three of the six Granny Gears races to win a cash prize estimated at $5,000.
Even though he won all of the three Granny Gear races he entered in 2006, and podiumed in two other 24-hour events, Ross hasn't had an easy season. For the first time, the veteran solo endurance racer has been in races that were called for weather. And not just one; three events Ross was in have come to a screeching halt.
"At the 24 Hours of Nine Mile," Ross said by phone on Tuesday, "lightning storms and torrential rains at 5:30 in the morning stopped the race. At the 24 Hours of Landau the terrain became impassable after a deluge of rain some time between two and six a.m.,." Then again last weekend, at the 24 Hours of Moab, rain dumped over the course; this time causing flash floods that washed sections of the course out from under rider's wheels.
"It was insane," Ross said. "It was cold. I heard that Search and Rescue had pulled 21 people off the course for hypothermia and injuries from crashes."
When he wrote his original season plan, Ross had not intended to race in Moab. "I showed up a (the 24 Hours of) Temecula (the first event in the Granny Gear series, held April 21st) to test myself at the beginning of the season. Laird (Knight, race promoter) said there was a series but I didn't think it would fit my schedule. But I won Temecula, and Laird said that 30% of the overall prize money (Granny Gear donates a portion of every solo entry to a pool from which he pays five riders deep in the solo class) would go to the series category and it got me thinking."
The final nudge that caused Ross to shift his schedule contend for the Granny Gear series was "going to Wisconsin (the US national championship race at the 24 Hours of 9 Mile in Wassau) and getting my ass handed to me by Chris (Eatough). I decided to concentrate on Moab instead of (24 hours of Adrenalin) Worlds in Georgia, and in order to win the series, I had to have three races so I jumped into (24 hours of) Landahl (in Missouri September 16th.)."
Having recently completed the Race Across America in the four-man competition Ross says he found himself with good legs at Landahl and took his second series win. All he needed was a high placing at Moab. After recon rides in Moab by his pit crew, and warnings of possible bad weather, Ross geared up for wet conditions. "When it rains in Moab, it gets cold," he said. "I brought rain gear and even modified my stuff with shower caps and water proof vests and rubber gloves - everything I could think of to keep me dry."
"And," Ross adds, "after the previous two races (that were affected by severe weather), I knew it would be an advantage to go out fast early; if the race got stopped and restarted I wanted to be in front."
Ultimately, after flash flooding tore the Moab course apart, racing was called after less than nine hours. Ross was four minutes ahead of Josh Tostada (Giant) at the time. As anticipated, the solo class competition never resumed and Ross was declared victor. Once the total attendance is calculated, Ross expects a series payout of about $5,000. "That's a pretty good payday."
Ross says the series will impact the way he designs his 2007 racing schedule."I think it can be good for the sport, something a lot of racers could get behind."
For now though, Ross is hanging up the rain gear and turning his attention to "taking the whole month of December off" and riding in a few select cyclo-cross races.
McConneloug and Paez Leon capture continental MTB titles
By Sue George
Mary McConneloug (USA) won the women's cross-country Pan Am Championships. She clocked a winning time of 1:35:36 over the 13.17-mile course to beat silver medalist Catherine Pendrel (Canada) and bronze medalist Jimena Florit (Argentina). Pendrel learned she would replace Alison Sydor on the Canadian team only one week prior to the race, but told her coach the morning of the race that she felt like she would medal.
Hector Leonardo Paez Leon (Colombia) won the men's 19.76 mile race in front of silver medalist Mathieu Toulouse (Canada), and bronze medalist Cristobal Silva (Chile).
In the men's Under 23 race, Max Plaxton (Canada) took home gold over Dario Alejandro Gasco (Argentina) and Sam Schultz (USA). Plaxton, 21, said, "I wanted to win this race so badly, as I took the silver as a junior in 2002 and the bronze in 2005. It was pretty hard for me in the first couple of laps, but after a while I succeeded in catching the leaders and I passed them. I soon got a lap ahead and was feeling better at every lap." Plaxton added that he did not suffer much in the oppressive heat thanks to drinking a lot of water.
Francisca Campos (Chile) and Jenna Zander (USA) took first and second in the women's Under 23.
The Continental Championships follow only the World Championships and World Cup events in terms of races that offer the most UCI points on an annual basis. Hence, many nations send their best athletes to win valuable UCI points. Overall country rankings determine the number of 2008 Olympic Games starting positions per country.
For full results from the Pan American MTB Championships, click here.