Norwegian Lene Byberg (Specialized) claimed her first major victory in the United States after leading from start to finish in Fontana. A high speed crash while descending slick rock could have put the result in jeopardy, but Byberg was able to continue and go on for the win.
Byberg has been training and racing in Southern California for several weeks. While she was severely jet lagged for the US Cup race two weeks ago in Bonelli Park, today she was obviously fully recovered and enjoying California.
“I’m feeling stronger than at the same time last year,” said Byberg. “I’ve had an awesome time here in Saguna Beach and America and my legs are feeling better today. It was a good course, similar to Canberra, Australia. But today you had the wind to deal with.”
Pua Sawicki (Okole Stuff) came from behind, passing some legends of the sport, to take second place. Willow Koerber (Gary Fisher/Subaru) showed good early season form by taking third ahead of Kelli Emmett (Giant) while Allison Mann (Rock N Road) made her first national podium with fifth place.
The story of the day in Fontana was the 40mph winds that blew up sandstorms. At times the wind was so strong it nearly brought the riders to a standstill. Race tactics, particularly drafting, became more important than in previous years at Fontana. Most racers could be seen huddling in small groups, trying to shield themselves from the wind.
The professional only race course had two notable features. First was a long, steep climb up the mountain where the riders had to contend with loose sand, forcing all but the top professionals to walk long sections of the ascent. Secondly, racers were treated to a steep descent down a slick rock face that might normally be seen in World Cup racing. In fact, it looked more like a downhill course than a cross country course at that point.
While Byberg set the early pace Koerber was initially stuck to her wheel like glue. When Byberg won her world cup at Bromont, Quebec, last year, Koerber made it onto the same podium. Today looked like a rematch for a while, but Byberg simply seemed to have a bit more early season fitness.
Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) moved up to second place and seemed poised to knock off Byberg. Having won at Fontana the previous three years, Gould was at an advantage, but uncharacteristically faded late in the race to finish in sixth place.
With Gould out of contention, Koerber found herself riding with a surging Sawicki. “We weren’t really battling. When she passed me on the flat she just had more than me,” said Koerber. “It takes me a couple races to remember I can go harder than I think I can.”
Koerber was easily the fastest descender for the day, seemingly riding the rockly descent without touching her brakes.
Sawicki, a multi-time national endurance champion, has decided to concentrate on cross country racing this season. Not only will she be competing in USA Cycling’s full Pro XCT series, but she also intends to compete a full World Cup program, too.
Emmett rode much of the race with Mann, admitting to not quite yet being in top form. “I did big rides this week because I’m heading back to Colorado Springs and the weather there hasn’t been so good,” she said. “I’ve just been trying to get in miles since I didn’t get in much riding in this winter…so it took me a while to get going today.”
Mann has been turning heads already this season and seems poised to battle with the best for podium spots in 2010. She seemed particularly comfortable on the big climbs in Fontana.
Sue Butler (River City Bicycles) made a successful return to racing after asthma ended her cyclo-cross season early. Just finishing the race in 14th place should give Butler confidence that her breathing problem is manageable.
The Luna Pro Team had a reduced roster contesting the race with Catherine Pendrel out due to illness. Katerina Nash also skipped the race to more fully recover from a grueling cyclo-cross season, which ended with a fourth place at the UCI World Championships in the Czech Republic.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Lene Byberg (Nor) Specialized||1:38:59|
|2||Pua Sawicki (USA) Okole Stuff.Com||0:01:17|
|3||Willow Koerber (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher||0:02:39|
|4||Kelli Emmett (USA) Giant Factory Team||0:02:48|
|5||Allison Mann (USA) Rock N Road Cyclery||0:02:51|
|6||Georgia Gould (USA) Luna Pro Team||0:03:34|
|7||Heather Irmiger (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher||0:05:56|
|8||Mical Dyck (Can) Trek Canada||0:06:05|
|9||Emily Batty (Can) Trek World Racing||0:07:20|
|10||Amanda Sin (Can) 3 Rox Racing||0:09:19|
|11||Amanda Carey (USA) Kenda/Felt||0:11:47|
|12||Aleksandra Mooradian (Pol)||0:12:52|
|13||Krista Park (USA) Cannondale/Incycle||0:12:58|
|14||Sue Butler (USA)||0:14:17|
|15||Judy Freeman (USA) Kenda/Felt||0:16:10|
|16||Amy Dombroski (USA)||0:17:56|
|17||Andreanne Pichette (Can) Cvm Subway-Genetik||0:23:59|
|18||Kari Studley (USA) Mafia Racing||0:25:54|
|19||Anna Fortner (USA) The Team / Socalcross||0:29:52|
|20||Lydia Tanner (USA) Tokyo Joes||0:34:09|
|21||Deidre York (USA) Velobum.Com||0:36:09|
|22||Philicia Marion (USA) Amc/Kenda/Toma||0:38:09|
|DNS||Catherine Pendrel (Can) Luna Pro Team|