US domestic mountain bike racing fires up at the Triple Crown opener

Bonelli Park hosting round one on improved cross country course

The Triple Crown will open with its first round at Bonelli Park in California this weekend, March 13-14. Organizers of the US Cup have been putting in the final touches on what has been hundred of person hours of redesigning the course.

Sunny skies and mild temps are on tap for the weekend, as the snow'capped San Gabriels set a perfect backdrop to the Southern California venue.

The pro cross country course features a four-mile loop, with 600-plus feet of climbing per lap. A special start loop will be used on the first lap only to let the pack sort itself out and help alleviate the bottlenecking and subsequent hike-a-bike that often happens early in the race.

New singletrack, bridge crossings, steep punchy climbs and shaded switchbacks should be a welcomed sight for riders and spectators making the course a far cry from the normal, dusty fire roads that most people associate with a Southern California urban venues.

Pro men will do six laps, and women are slated for five. The course is expected to get faster over the weekend, as the course packs down and dries out from the recent rains. Lap times look to be in the 15 to 17-minute range, making for a very spectator and media-friendly course.

In only its first year, the H2O Overdrive Triple Crown is drawing some of the world's top tier talent, with riders like World Cup winner Geoff Kabush and wilver World Championship medalist Lene Byberg slated to attend. Both Kabush and Byberg will have heavy competition, as the men and women both go for a potential US$20,000 dollar combined pro purse.

Other notables include Sho-Air/Specialized riders Sid Taberlay, Max Plaxton, Tad Elliot and Manny Prado. Gary Fisher/Subaru is sending Jeremy Horgan Kobelski, Sam Schultz and Heather Irmiger. The Kona team is bring Ryan Trebon and Barry Wicks, and Specialized Factory rider Todd Wells is expected to be in the mix all weekend as well. Canada's Adam Morka is making the trip down to test his early season form, as well as a host of the nation's fastest male and female racers.  Kelli Emmett and Carl Decker will be wearing the blue and white for Team Giant.

Racers will contest the cross country race on Saturday, and the super D time trial and short track races on Sunday.

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