The inaugural All Mountain Triple Crown series will conclude at the Massanutten Resort, near Harrisonburg, Virginia, on Saturday and Sunday, June 19-20. The series winner and second and third places will take home a combined $10,000 overall payout.
Heading into the final round, Sho-Air/Specialized's Sid Taberlay holds a slim, five-point lead over current US Cross Country National Champion, Jeremy Horgan Kobelski, with Colin Cares, Russell Finsterwald and Andy Schultz holding down the top five series placings. However, of these contenders, only Tableray and Schultz (Kenda / Felt) are confirmed to race in Virginia.
They will be challenged by local Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale Factory Racing), Alex Ryan (Champion Systems / Cannondale) and ShoAir / Specialized's Tad Elliot. Other locals who may give the favorites a run for their money are road pro Nick Waite and Chris Michaels.
In the women's race, Giant's Kelli Emmett holds a seven-point lead over current US Cross Country National Champion Heather Irmiger in second, with Krista Park, Lene Byberg and Pua Sawicki round out the top five. Emmett is the only one of those riders currently on the start list, although she'll like face a stiff challenge from retired local pro Sue Haywood.
Locals from the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) have been hard at work on all the trails throughout the spring, and some of the mountain's best riding will be worked into multiple courses. A multi-year partnership between the club and the resort has produced miles of fun riding and smooth and rocky trails relatively close to the local city of Harrisonburg.
Leading up to this year's race, Willetts even got a hand on trail clearing and building from the resorts snowmakers. "Usually in the winter, I'd be helping the snowmakers make snow, but this year, we had so much snow, that I had them out there helping me make trails," said Willetts to Cyclingnews.
As with the first two rounds, the Massanutten round of the Triple Crown will offer riders a chance to compete for up to $20,000 in combined prize money for the pro men and women's field on the weekend. Riders must race a minimum of two Triple Crown disciplines to be eligible for pro pursue.
What is new at Massanutten, a race that has been happening for more than two decades, is that there will be an "open pro" class. This is for men and women Cat. 1 standouts, who think they have a shot to go head to head with some of North America's best.
"When I was racing seriously, a young guy like myself could enter a big race and see how he compared to local and national pros. Now, the sport's gotten so diluted, with all these classes that keep people from racing straight-up against each other," said promoter George Willets.
"The Triple Crown lets us turn back the clock and open things up. The Triple Crown is open to all the fast dudes, whether they're pro, or cat. 1 or an East Coast expert who doesn't usually race in USAC events. Actually, the whole reason we brought the Triple Crown to Massanutten in the first place was to give them the opportunity to win even more money than they did before. But it is a Triple, emphasize the triple, Crown. We have two prize pools, one for the overall weekend standings, and one for the overall series."
This weekend's weather is expected to be very hot and humid with temperatures in the 90s (degrees Fahrenheit) and late-day thunderstorms a possibility.
The action opens with a super D course covering 3.75 miles from top to bottom. It features some rocky ridge riding followed by 1,000 feet of vertical drop.
Riders will start from an overlook high up on the ridge at 1:00 pm on Saturday and shred the Hanenkahm Downhill. Next up comes a new, flowing trail, complete with banked bermed corners before the finish. Winning times are expected to be sub-10 minutes.
The action continues Saturday with a late afternoon short track on a fast, flowing style of course. It's a half-mile lap with sections of the cross country and super D course and bermed corners.
The women's short track will go off at 3:45 pm with the men following shortly at 4:15pm.
"We purposely integrated the Super D, short track and cross country courses to share some of the same trail network. This allows riders to go over sections of each course multiple times as they pre ride or race certain events," said Willetts.
On Sunday the action wraps up with an XXC (extra long cross country) starting in the morning. Then the Triple Crown contingent will start with a more normal length cross country race at 11:30 am.
Elite and expert racers will cover two laps of a 12-mile course, complete with singletrack, creek crossing, switchback climbs and technical sections to keep riders on their toes.
"One of the big motivators for Massanutten to work with the US Cup and Triple Crown format, was we weren't under UCI protocol as far as course regulations are considered. We like to keep it real here in Virginia, and I think this course will throw a little something at everyone," said Willetts.