Koerber climbs to first national win in five years

Subaru / Gary Fisher rider overcomes heat, humidity and a flat

Willow Koerber has been on countless podiums during her five years with the Gary Fisher/Subaru team but has never taken the top step before today. In fact, her last national victory was in 2004 while riding for the now defunct Polo team. Georgia Gould (Luna Womens MTB) rode consistently to take second place, passing her teammate Catherine Pendrel who finished third after suffering a flat tire on the home stretch. Lea Davison (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) finished fourth in one of her best outings ever. Luna's Katerina Nash, despite feeling the effects of the heat today, finished fifth.

Windham Mountain has been selected to be on the 2010 World Cup circuit so this US ProXCT elite race was a tune-up for the organizers. The cross country course drew rave reviews from the racers. Virtually everyone you talk to mentioned how "fun" the descent was. Pendrel summed up sentiments, "It's just a great course."

The designers seem to have found almost the perfect balance of traversing uphill followed by a more direct descent. While climbers have the advantage at many World Cup courses, the fast descending at Windham is equally important. Koerber was good at both. Pendrel graciously conceded, "She was the best rider today".

Koerber, who has found some success on the World Cup circuit, including two podiums this year, has been searching for a US national series win for years. Her efforts have been hampered in part by the Luna dominance of the sport - first by Shonny Vanlandingham, and later Georgia Gould and Pendrel. At one point a couple years ago, Koerber, not satisfied with her racing, signed up Durango coach Rick Crawford to get her to the next level. Throughout this period, Koerber was able to maintain an incredibly positive attitude.

From the start of the race, a select group that included favorites Koerber, Heather Irmiger (Subaru / Gary Fisher), Gould, Pendrel, Mary McConneloug (Kenda-Seven-No Tubes), and Nash. Pendrel seemed to be setting much of the early pace, but on the descent, it was Koerber who came through first. "I was climbing amazing," remarked Koerber. "I know everyone says I'm an awesome descender, but I wanted to prove I could climb too. I got my biggest gap on the climb."

The day was filled with riders suffering flat tires. The descent, while not the most technical of the year, had plenty of rocks and wooden bridges. With the riders carrying more speed than normal, the tubeless tires were puncturing and "burping" their sealant. In fact, Koerber flatted twice during her race. The fist time she gave up the lead as mechanics replaced her wheel.

With Pendrel and Gould motoring away during the wheel change, many may have thought the ball game was over for Koerber. However, within one lap, she regained the lead by out-climbing the Luna duo, and by the bottom of the descent, she had a winning margin with only a lap to go.

"You had to really be on it today with the bit between your teeth at all times," said Pendrel. She too had tire problems. "There was one lap where I was descending cautiously because I was losing air in my tire. We were both descending well, but she (Koerber) had more on the climb today," said Pendrel.

America's top-ranked UCI rider, Mary McConneloug, seemed to be having a bit of an off day. It has been quite a while since she was missing from a national podium. Lea Davison (Team Rocky Mountain / Maxxis), who edged out McConneloug on the last lap said, "I was feeling good today, and I had some good luck. Everything clicked." Davison again brought her large cheering section down from her home state of Vermont. Everywhere on the course, people were screaming her name.

With the World Cup coming to Windham next year, this was an important practice run for the North Americans. Koerber said, "Obviously I'm excited for next year". Windham seems like the perfect course for her.

Today's race wrapped up the ProXCT series. Pendrel finished first, followed by Gould, Irmiger, Nash, and Pua Sawicki (Ellsworth).

On Sunday, the elite women will compete in the finals of the TrailWatch.net short track national series. Irmiger is hoping to wrap up the series with a good performance.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage from Windham Mountain this weekend.

Results

Elite women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Willow Koerber (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher1:36:58 
2Georgia Gould (USA) Luna Womens Mtb Team0:00:40 
3Catherine Pendrel (Can) Luna Womens Mtb Team0:00:47 
4Lea Davison (USA) Maxxis0:01:36 
5Katerina Nash (Cze) Luna0:03:00 
6Mary Mcconneloug (USA) Kenda/Seven0:04:53 
7Heather Irmiger (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher0:05:56 
8Pua Sawicki (USA) Ellsworth0:08:16 
9Amanda Sin (Can) 3 Rox Racing0:09:34 
10Amy Dombroski (USA)0:10:11 
11Chloe Forsman (USA) Luna Womens Mtb Team0:11:42 
12Sandra Walter (Can) Local Ride Womens Mtb0:13:32 
13Allison Mann (USA) ShoAir/Specialized/Nema0:14:48 
14Judy Freeman (USA) Toughgirl/Co0:15:45 
15Krista Park (USA) Incycle/Magura/Notubes0:15:49 
16Kimberly Flynn (USA) Vantaggio0:17:38 
17Zephanie Blasi (USA) Kenda/Tomac/Hayes0:18:52 
18Heather Holmes (USA) Kenda/Tomac/Hayes0:19:05 
19Lindsey Bishop (USA)0:19:30 
20Alexandra Serrano (Ecu) Cikla-Specialized0:20:28 
21Jamie Dinkins (USA)0:21:29 
22Maureen Bruno Roy (USA)0:22:08 
23Anina Aaron (USA) Kenda/Kmc/Hayes0:22:34 
24Catherine Vipond (Can) Norco0:24:27 
-1lapBryna Nestor (USA)  
-1lapTeal Stetson-Lee (USA)  
-2lapsJane Pearson (USA)  
-2lapsLydia Tanner (USA) Tokyo Joes  
-3lapsPhilicia Marion (USA) Kenda/Kmc/Hayes  
DNFMolly Throdahl (USA)  
DNFDanae York (USA) Velobum.Com/Turner  
DNFKathy Sherwin (USA) Kenda/Tomac/Hayes  
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