Round two of both the H2O Overdrive Triple Crown Series presented by Specialized and the Mountain States Cup take place this weekend, May 15-16, in Northrop, Colorado. The Triple Crown Series events include cross country, short track, and super D racing. The Mountain States Cup Series also includes four cross and dual slalom events.
In the Triple Crown Series format, racers accumulate points from their cross country race, in addition to their best score from either the short track or super D to take the weekend victory. It is not required that racers actually compete in all three events, a choice that many will make based on how well they do in the super D event which takes place on Saturday morning.
With Colorado home to many pro racers, the competition level is expected to be high. There is no conflicting World Cup race this weekend, but most Canadians will be chasing UCI points in their first Canada Cup Series race.
With series leader Max Plaxton expected to be absent this weekend, his teammate Sid Taberlay (Sho-Air/Specialized) has to be considered the men's favorite. He is capable of winning at all three disciplines. He has dramatically improved his short track racing, and in fact, is the newly crowned short track Australian Champion. Giving him some serious competition will be USA cross country champion Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru/Gary Fisher). JHK races very well at altitude but has been battling a cold since returning from the last World Cup race in Houffalize, Belgium.
Andy Schultz (Kenda-Felt), who has shown on occasion that he can ride with the leaders, will most certainly be trying to make the selection that is likely to take place early.
There is also a battle brewing amongst the younger guys for podium spots. Russell Finsterwald (Subaru/Gary Fisher) may find himself racing against Blake Harlan (Team Jamis), Under 23 Champion Colin Cares, and Ben Sonntag. Harlan, the lone Team Jamis racer this weekend, will be freed from his normal domestique duties of working for Jason Sager to concentrate on his own results.
The women's field is expected to be even deeper than the men's. Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) is the favorite to take the weekend series given her prowess in cross country and short track. She won both events at the Sea Otter Classic last month, and recently made the World Cup podium in Dalby, England. Generally, the Luna women are restricted from racing Super D events (due to the risk of injury), so it is unknown if Gould will bet her entire weekend on the other two events.
US National Champion Heather Irmiger (Gary Fisher/Subaru) has shown that she can beat Gould, particularly at altitude. Kelli Emmett (Team Giant) can also be expected to be in the mix. She has been almost unbeatable in super D for several years. In addition, she bested Irmiger in the first Triple Crown cross country race in San Dimas, California. Katie Compton (Planet Bike) will be making her season mountain biking debut this weekend. As she frequently trains with Emmett, you can be sure they both will be in good form.
Race director Keith Darner told Cyclingnews that the pro men and women will both race four cross country laps. The 7.4-mile loop is a mix of doubletrack and buttery, smooth singletrack. Each lap ranges from 7,800ft altitude to 8,300ft for a total of 590ft of climbing per lap.
"We expect over 900 total race starts this weekend," said Darner.
The weather forecast calls for rain during the week, but perhaps just a passing shower on Saturday. Sunday is expected to be sunny. "The rain may actually help to improve the course conditions," said Darner.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the racing in Nathrop this weekend.