Max Plaxton (Sho-Air/Specialized) won his first US ProXCT race on Saturday at Cheyenne Mountain Park in a heated battle with Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, who finished second. He also solidified his lead in the series. Todd Wells (Specialized) rode in no-man's land much of the race to take third. Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) was fourth, and Derek Zandstra fifth.
The course was fast and challenging. The weather was perfect for the 90 elite men who started.
"The course was awesome," said Todd Wells. "It was a good combination of flat, smooth, fast sections and rocky, technical sections up top. It was a real mountain bike course."
The racers did four 5.2-mile laps with 1,070 feet of climbing per lap at an altitude over 6,000 feet. On the back side of the course there were some challenging uphill switchbacks. The descent was twisty, rocky, and extremely fast. The run into the finish was on pavement.
As usual, Todd Wells won the start on the pavement and led the racers onto the dirt. Horgan-Kobelski went to the front and drilled the pace. "I had to try to blow it apart at the beginning. I was feeling really strong," said JHK. "I didn't want to have to race all three Sho-Air guys at the end, but Max bridged a huge gap on the descent. He was descending really well. I was trying to be a little conservative and not get a flat."
By the end of the first lap, Horgan-Kobelski had nearly a 10-second lead on Wells, Plaxton, Sid Taberlay (Sho-Air/Specialized), Geoff Kabush, and Adam Craig (Giant). By the end of the second lap, however, Plaxton had closed the gap on JHK to within a few seconds.
Plaxton set the pace on the third lap followed closely by JHK. Wells was ten seconds back followed by Kabush. Beyond was an enormous gap back to Sam Schultz who later relinquished fifth place to Zandstra. Taberlay's front fork locked up, taking away any chance he had to make the podium.
"Plaxton and JHK got away on the descents," said Wells. "Plaxton was flying."
On the final descent, Horgan-Kobelski had the lead, but Plaxton found a shorter line around a corner to make the pass. It was important to hit the final pavement stretch first as it was extremely difficult to get around someone on the run into the finish.
"I felt that I needed to attack an suffer at the front," said Plaxton. "I was definitely descending well, which I attribute to my bike." He was riding a full suspension Specialized Epic.
"I didn't feel the altitude," said Plaxton. "Last week at Vail (at the Teva Games - ed.) I was hurting…but it was smart that we went up there and raced a little higher and then came back down."
The next major race for the American riders is the National Championships in Granby, Colorado, on the weekend of July 18.