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(Updated) Racing action to heat up at next year's World Cup venue
All of the top North Amercian racers will head to Windham Mountain this weekend for the finale of the US Pro Cross Country Tour (ProXCT) series. Cross country, short track, and team titles will be awarded after a highly competitive six-race series that started in Fontana, California, back in April.
Gravity events will also be held as part of the Windham Yankee Clipper and the US Pro Gravity (ProGrt) Tour. Some top level racers are expected to compete so they can check out the newly built four cross and modified downhill courses. Racing disciplines will also include super D, dual slalom, and downhill.
UCI points will be awarded for cross country, four cross and downhill events.
Last year was Windham Mountain's first year hosting mountain bike events. The ski resort, only 140 miles from downtown Manhattan, made a major investment into course construction and it has paid off. Windham Mountain has been named as a 2010 World Cup Venue for both gravity and cross country events and will directly precede the World Championships held at Mont Sainte Anne a week later. Riders from as many as 35 countries are expected to attend the races at Windham.
Cyclingnews reported last year that the courses were "World Cup class" and "the most fun courses of the year". Then US national cross country champion and current US national short track champion Adam Craig (Giant) said, "That is a hard, proper, mountain bike course". US short track national champion Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB) said, "They did such a great job building this course. You could tell they put a lot of work into it-it is really great."
US ProXCT series leaders Catherine Pendrel (Luna Women's MTB) and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski will attempt to wrap up their series titles. Pendrel, the second ranked rider in the world, has won three straight ProXCT events including Mt. Snow last weekend. JHK, while winless this season in the series, has a sizeable lead due to his consistency.
Pendrel currently has a 20-point lead over her teammate Georgia Gould. With five points awarded per position in the race, Gould would have to finish at least five positions ahead of Pendrel to take the series. At last year's race, Gould won convincingly by 1:27, but Penrel was second. With Gould not satisfied with her fourth place finish at Mount Snow, she will certainly be looking to redeem herself at Windham.
The men's race last year was perhaps the most stunning of the year. Mattieu Toulouse (Team Maxxis) won in a sprint to the line against Adam Craig. While Toulouse has retired from racing, his teammate Canadian champion Geoff Kabush will be competing at this year's event. Kabush won the Bromont World Cup two weeks ago, and then followed it up with a win at Mount Snow. Only Todd Wells (Specialized) and Sid Taberlay (ShoAir/Specialized) were able stay with Kabush for most of the race.
JHK leads the series by 25 points. Only a catastrophe could dislodge him from the title. In 2006 he faced a similar situation at the Snowmass, Colorado, finals. He rode a strong race but rode somewhat conservatively on the descents to keep his bike together and assure he finished. The same could happen at Windham Mountain.
Adam Craig was easily the best descender at last year's race. Winless this season on the ProXCT circuit, he will certainly be looking to turn this advantage into a victory.
Rick Hodge, the Windham Race Director, reports that “The UCI wanted to shorten the course and make it more spectator friendly.” As a result, the course has been reduced from 4.8 miles to 3.2 miles. It still will include a couple dozen man-made bridges, two flyovers, and technical trails where every rock placement has been thought out. Tons of flat rock has been placed in strategic places to make the course flow like few others in North America. Man-made berms allow the rides to carry high speed through the turns on the long descent. Climbing will be 1,100 feet per lap on singletrack and some relatively steep fire roads.
The one drawback of the course last year was the bumpy traverses across the ski slopes. This forced many of the top riders to race on their full-suspension bikes. The organizers report that many of these sections have now been "ridden in" and should be quite a bit smoother.
Barring a disaster, Todd Wells has the Trailwatch.net short track series all but wrapped up with a 45-point lead over Carl Decker (Team Giant). He also won the Windham short track event in 2008. The real battle may be between Decker and JHK who trails Decker by only five points in the standings. If JHK can finish two spots ahead of Decker, he could take second place away. Both of them will know the math heading into the race.
Only two women have a shot at winning two short track races this season; Heather Irmiger (Gary Fisher/Subaru) and Katerina Nash (Luna Women's MTB). While it is quite likely that Irmiger's 30-point lead in the series will be sufficient to give her the title, both women would like to win this race. Last year Nash won the event and Irmiger was fifth. Georgia Gould was second, only two seconds behind Nash.
Lea Davison has put the other riders on notice, saying "It's the last short track of the season and I will be going all out." Davison crashed hard at Mt. Snow last week and was a bit bruised afterwards. She finished third two years in a row at the United States championships.
The short track course at Windham Mountain has far less climbing than the last two short track events that the racers have faced. The start on a fireroad climb, make a 180-degree turn onto some off-camber grass, then ride a lumpy downhill with more off-camber sections until the course bottoms out near the ski lodge. It continues along a flat before riders tackle a small climb on a sweeping turn that brings them back to the start/finish.
Gravity - Downhill and four cross
Windham marks the fourth stop on the US ProGRT. In the downhill, only 10 points separate the top four men. Series leader Kain Leonard (Crested Butte Mtn Sports) sits just one point ahead of Chris Heath (Manitou-Hayes), however Chris Boice (Yeti-FoxShox) and Aaron Gwin (Yeti-FoxShox) sit just within striking distance.
In the women's field, Darian Harvey (Cannondale) has a bit more of a comfortable lead over the field, but will be determined to maintain her advantage through the final rounds.
In the four cross, 2009 US four cross national champion and series leader Mitch Ropelato (Café Rio - Canfield Bros) has a sizeable lead over the field and barring any mistakes should see gold at the end. That will not distress the field as they do their best to upset this young pinner.
Series leader Jackie Harmony (Vixen Racing) looks to assert herself as the women's four cross champion, but with Harvey and others hot on her tail, she'll have a tough battle on her hands.
The weather is this weekend looks good with partly sunny skies forecast and temperatures in the low 80s. Hodge reports, "Everything is drying up well. There are a few running water spots but the mud is not a factor."
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews this weekend for coverage of all events. We will also bring you some photos and a preview of the World Cup gravity courses.