by Steve Medcroft
Round two of the NORBA National series is in the books. Held for the first time at the Sugar Mountain ski resort in Banner Elk, North Carolina (June 10-11), the race was well received and well attended by both domestic and international pros.
Subaru/Gary Fisher rider Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (fresh from a World Cup podium place in Fort William) put up a dominating performance on the steep, ten-kilometre cross-country loop. He took the lead before the end of the first of four total laps ahead of a chase group including 2005 NORBA series winner and Canadian national champion Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis), Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW) and Todd Wells (GT/Hyundai) and extended that lead to almost three minutes by the end.
Kabush and Horgan-Kobelski went head-to-head in the short track on Sunday, trading the lead three times in the last lap alone. Kabush had the final advantage, proving that the infection that caused him vertigo at the Curacao leg of the World Cup (and threw off his form for the first half of his season) is behind him.
The Luna Chix were in fine form in the women's cross country. Shonny Vanlandingham won her second consecutive NORBA on Saturday ahead of Subaru/Gary Fisher's Heather Irmiger.
On Sunday, the Luna Chix achieved a first in NORBA short track; all four team racers in attendance took spots on the podium. "We talk about it before every short track," Vanlandingham, who came fourth behind teammates Katerina Nash, Jimena Florit and Georgia Gould, said after the race. "We have four strong riders and we were able to tag team at the front, one after the other."
Australians Sam Hill (Monster Energy) and Tracey Hannah (Team Edge) managed to keep the rubber side down better than anyone else on the world-class Sugar Mountain downhill course. Hill, who recently won the Fort William World Cup, rode at a level above his competition. He finished thirteen seconds ahead of second placed Justin Leov (Yeti/Fox). The next eight finishers posted times within ten seconds of each other. Seventeen year-old Hannah, little sister to pro downhiller Mick Hannah, took her first NORBA win beating the UCI World Cup's second highest ranked rider, Sabrina Jonnier (Monster Energy).
Check out all the results, reports and photos here: