One of America’s most storied mountain biking venues, Mount Snow, will host the fifth US Cup ProXCT Series round this weekend. This year a strong mix of international riders, particularly from Canada, will bump the level of competition up a few notches.
Racers will compete this weekend in five disciplines: cross country, short track, super D, dual slalom and downhill. All of the best North American cross country riders are expected to attend, but some of the gravity riders will be competing in the Crankworx races at Whistler Mountain in British Columbia.
Mount Snow is classic east coast racing, and also the host of the past two US National Championships. The trails feature lots of roots, rocks and generally mud is a major factor. While at a much lower elevation than the Rocky Mountain races that the riders have attended this year, the trails can be steeper and the cumulative climbing just as high.
Women’s cross country
The women’s cross country race is going to be an absolute throw-down. Seven women who finished in the top 12 last weekend at the Bromont World Cup in Quebec, Canada will be on the front row. Realistically any of them can pull off a win this weekend but a lot will depend on the race conditions and who is having the best day on the bike.
Mary McConneloug (Kenda-Seven-No Tubes) has won here three years in a row, including two national championships. She excels on steep climbs in sloppy conditions and is currently the top United States of America rider on the International Cycling Union’s ranking.
Catherine Pendrel (Luna Women’s MTB Team) won the World Cup race at Mont-Sainte Anne and is ranked second on the women’s international standings. If Pendrel can bring her World Cup form and skills to Mount Snow, there is nobody in the field who can beat her. She currently leads teammate Georgia Gould in the ProXCT series by only five points. Gould lost last year’s race to McConneloug by only five feet, proving that she is highly competitive on this course.
Willow Koerber (Gary Fisher/Subaru) won at Mount Snow in 2004 and she, too, excels in nasty conditions and can descend like a bobsled. Koerber has been on fire lately with two high finishes on similar courses at the Quebec World Cups. Last weekend she led the entire women’s field and would have certainly made the podium had it not been for an untimely puncture.
Newly crowned US Champion Heather Irmiger (Gary Fisher/Subaru) has been a revelation this season and is perhaps the most well rounded rider in the group, as well as being very strong on long climbs. In 2004 she won the downhill time trial at Big Bear Mountain, showing she was no slouch when the going gets steep and fast. She will ride a 29 inch Superfly bike this weekend which should roll well over the plentiful rocks on the Mount Snow course.
Finally Katerina Nash (Luna Womens MTB) is on a roll having won the B.C. Bike Race with teammate Pendrel, then taking top honors at the two-day Downieville Classic and topping that off with third place at the Mont-Sainte Anne World Cup. Nash is one of the best tactical riders in the group and capable shifting gears at the end of a race. If she can maintain contact with the leaders until the last lap, she is capable of motoring away when everyone else is suffering most.
Men’s cross country
Adam Craig grew up riding trails just like at Mount Snow, in fact it is basically the Maine resident’s home course. Craig can probably ride technical trails better than anyone in the field, but he is also is the best descender. His upright, freestyle position allows him to make better use of his upper body, enabling him to ride what others might walk. A somewhat erratic starter, Craig came from a long way back in the past two World Cup races to take top 10 finishes.
Geoff Kabush, fresh off his World Cup victory in Bromont, is certainly back on form after early season problems. Racing while ill at the Canadian National Championship a few weeks ago, he won against one of the event’s strongest fields. We have not seen Kabush race at Mount Snow for several years, but it certainly is his kind of course and bears a lot of similarity to the World Cup courses of the past two weeks.
Series leader Max Plaxton (Team Sho-Air/Specialized) did not have a very successful Canadian World Cup experience, partly due to some bad luck. He will have his hands full holding on to the lead with newly crowned American champion Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski only 10 points behind. JHK has had a magical summer winning the Teva games, the U.S. Marathon Championsihps, and two top 20 World Cup finishes. He is likely to be the best climber at Mount Snow, but will have to smoke the downhills to stay ahead of Craig.
Anyone who has raced against Todd Wells (Specialized) knows he can win any race. He always seems to be within striking distance of the leader and his fitness level is always good. Were it not for an untimely mechanical at the national championships, he might have come to the line with JHK in the cross country race. Wells is extremely likely to be on the final podium.
Nobody has won more Pro XCT cross country races than Aussie Sid Taberlay. He has beaten all of the above riders on at least two occasions this season. Given that he didn’t contest the North American championship races or the two Canadian World Cups Taberlay has had a long to time to specifically prepare for the Mount Snow race.
The short track at Mount Snow has been the site of some epic battles over the years. It features a short, loose climb, a traverse across off-camber grass, a fire road descent, and a long stretch of pavement that is usually into the wind.
American champion Craig will be attempting to do the stars and stripes jersey proud on the men’s side. However Wells is undefeated in the short track series this season. JHK certainly has a shot as does former Mt. Snow winner Ryan Trebon, and former short track champion Barry Wicks.
Cyclingnews has learned that road and cyclo-cross star Jeremy Powers will be competing this weekend at Mount Snow. His cyclo-cross skills may help him be competitive in the short track discipline. It will be interesting to see how he fares against fellow crossers, and good friends, Trebon and Wicks. The bragging rights associated with that battle may actually be more important to him than winning the race.
On the women’s side, Nash returns to Mount Snow for the first time in years. She is unquestionably the most accomplished short track racer on the planet, having won countless races. Unlike her previous outings this year, Nash now appears to be on very top form and as such she is the woman to beat.
American Champion Gould has won her share of short track races as well. The Mount snow course should suit her style of power riding well. Defending champion Katie Compton will be absent, possibly opening the door for Irmiger, winner of the short track race in Colorado Springs.
Lea Davison will again be the dark horse in the race. Third two years in a row at the national championships, she will be racing in front of her hometown crowd at Mount Snow. There is no doubt she is thinking she can win.
The Super D course at Mount Snow has typically favored the cross country riders as opposed to the gravity racers. While the course has a significant vertical drop, the trails are not so steep or lumpy that a downhill bike is much faster. There is a climb where the fastest of the cross country riders usually get away from their group.
Look for the Team Giant riders Craig and Carl Decker to post some victories this weekend. Other contenders include Koerber and Kabush, should he decide to race. Kelli Emmett will not be racing due to a broken finger.
The gravity crowd will be treated to one of the best like downhill courses in America. It is technical and occasionally steep. The Dual Slalom course is a bit short but very spectator friendly. Both events are part of the Mount Snow Mountain Bike Festival rather than the U.S. Cup Series.
It is unclear how strong the professional field of gravity riders will be at Mount Snow due to competing races.