By Dave McElwaine in Windham, New York
Mathieu Toulouse (Maxxis) pulled off the upset of the season by slicing through the field for three laps, then taking on US National Champion Adam Craig (Giant) in an epic half-lap battle. Craig, known for his descending prowess, could not make up enough time on the final descent to get by Toulouse.
The cross country race, National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) round #5 in Windham, New York, was decided in an exciting final sprint to the line where Toulouse won by a foot. Toulouse's team-mate and series leader Geoff Kabush did not race at Windham in order to prepare for the upcoming World Cup race in Canada.
Toulouse was not a factor early in the race as he not only had a poor starting grid, but also got caught up in a log jam where the racers first entered singletrack. "It's a fire road start and bottles up pretty quick," said Toulouse. "I had to get off my bike. I had to start slow also because it was pretty hot but it worked out pretty well for me.
"I kept it under control and just rode it like a time trial," he added. "This is the best kind of course for me, climbing and east coast singletrack."
Jeremiah Bishop (Trek / VW) was leading the race as it entered the final climb, but dropped down to third by the finish line. Sam Jurekovic (U-23 National Team) finished fourth, his second XC podium this season, while Sam Schultz (Gary Fisher/Subaru) had his best finish in fifth place.
"I cramped," explained Bishop of his tumble down the standings. "I got a bottle [at the feed zone], took a sip, and it slipped right out of my hand."
With temperatures in the high 80s with high humidity, most of the racers felt that the weather was a significant factor in the race. "Jeremiah [Bishop] had me with one lap to go then we came back together," said Craig. "I was trying not to ride as hard as I could since I'm pretty roasted from training a bunch. Then Matt came through on the last climb and it was time to get that 140 percent work, which I did."
When Bishop and Craig headed up the hill the last time, everyone assumed that the race would be determined by a blazing fast descent. Both are among the best descenders in the business. With Toulouse and Jurekovic 40 seconds behind the leaders, it seemed impossible that anyone but Craig or Bishop could win. When the final sprint took place, even the race announcer was fooled into thinking that Bishop was involved.
The new cross country course at Windham Mountain became an instant hit with the racers. "That is a hard, proper, mountain bike course," said Craig.
Other winners of the weekend included Georgia Gould (women's XC), Katerina Nash (women's STXC), Todd Wells (men's STXC), Joanna Petterson (women's DH), Kieran Bennett (men's DH), Adam Craig (men's Super D) and Wendy Simms (women's Super D),
See Cyclingnews' full coverage, including all pro and amateur events, of the NMBS #5 round in Windham, New York.