Geoff Kabush and Pua Mata won the pro Whiskey 50 races in Arizona on Sunday. Kabush rode to victory in the men's race ahead of Markus Bauer and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski.
In the women's race, Georgia Gould was leading going into the final pavement section, but an untimely flat proved costly as Mata passed her to ride in for the victory. Gould managed to keep second place ahead of Kelli Emmett in third place.
In what many riders were calling the best race weekend of this season, Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox) added to his Fat Tire Crit victory from Friday with an impressive win the in Whiskey 50 main event on Sunday. German rider Markus Bauer (Lexware Racing Team) took advantage of a Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Trek) mishap on the final descent to finish second. Horgan-Kobelski, cramping at end, managed to finish third. Alex Grant (Cannondale) moved up steadily in the race to finish fourth. A jubilant Hector Fernando Riveros (Bandwagon Racing) was fifth.
The Whiskey 50 course was about as brutal as anyone could dream up. It began with a twisty six-mile road climb followed by further climbing up switchbacks on singletrack. As riders crested the mountain pass, they were treated to a 10-mile descent into the small town of Skull Valley. After refueling at the aid station there, they began a 12-mile climb back up the valley, ending on a steep dirt climb called "cramp hill". Riders then made their way through up-and-down singletrack before hitting the final pavement stretch back into town.
It was almost a given that nobody was going to get away on the road climb out of town. Bryan Fawley (Orbea-Tuff Shed) paced the group nearly the whole way. Andy Schultz (Kenda Felt) moved up in the peloton by riding on the sidewalk and then briefly led on the steepest part of the road climb.
All the main contenders stayed close to the front. Each knew that it was going to be critical to get onto the singletrack in front of slower riders. Almost immediately after hitting the dirt, Horgan-Kobelski asserted himself on the climb and opened a 20-second gap.
"JHK knows his strength and definitely put down an effort on the first climb," said Kabush. "I just tried to keep him in sight within 20-30 seconds. I was able to bridge to him and thought we might be able to get away."
That plan didn't work out. As they did the 10-mile descent to Skull Valley, many riders could be seen taking risks to bridge up to the leaders.
"On the downhill, a huge group formed which made it pretty dynamic and interesting," said Kabush. "We turned the corner (at Skull Valley) with 15 at least. It was a battle of attrition on the 12-mile climb; there were a lot of question marks as to what was going to happen."
All the eventual podium finishers were in that group, but there were some unknown riders as well including two Colombians and one German. Kabush admitted that he was keeping an eye on the Colombians, as they commonly are good climbers. After the race, it was determined that none of the North Americans knew who Markus Bauer was. But they all agreed that he was a very strong rider. Barry Wicks (Kona) and Mitch Hoke (Cliff Bar) were also in the group.
"Conrad Stoltz, X-Terra champion, laid down the tempo and whittled the group down to seven or eight," said Kabush. "Near the top where we crested, JHK put in an effort and separated myself, him, and Markus."
Unfortunately for JHK, he had a bit of a disaster on the singletrack descent. "It didn't go well for me at the end. I felt amazing and I was descending awesome. Kabush and I got away and then I had some wicked cramps. Then I had a stupid fatigue-induced wreck on the last singletrack," said Horgan-Kobelski.
"I just tagged a tree and twisted my bars," said JHK. "I was only about 15 seconds behind Geoff, and then I got caught. I was cramping in the end but by far this was my best day this year."
A total of 33 women lined up in downtown Prescott just 10 minutes after the men were sent out onto the course. The front row line-up had been determined by the finish order of the Friday night crit, which Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) had won.
At the end of the day endurance specialist, Pua Mata (Specialized), took her second win in as many years. Gould, who flatted with the race lead just before the final pavement, limped in for second place. Kelli Emmett (Team Giant) rode consistently to finish third. Allison Mann (Bikes for Boobs) finished fourth in perhaps her best race ever. Teal Stetson-Lee, the newest member of the powerful Luna squad, made her fist podium appearance with that team by finishing fifth.
Gould put her stamp of authority on the race as soon as the pro women hit the dirt after the long road climb. By the time she hit the uphill switchbacks, there was nobody in sight behind her.
Mata led the chase behind Gould, but then her battle with her chain began. "It was a little stressful starting out," said Mata. "There was a group of six of us. I got into the singletrack second. My legs started to warm up, but right away my chain started to chain suck. I had to stop and get off, and four of them passed me. Georgia had the gap, but I just got stuck. It is hard to pass on that singletrack going up."
On the 10-mile descent, Mata's fortunes changed. She credited her full-suspension carbon Specialized Epic with helping her win the day. Gould said, "On the downhill fire road, she (Mata) was blazing down that.
"On the descent, I knew that with the Epic I could open it up with wheels on the ground," said Mata.
But just after catching Gould, Mata suffered another round of chain suck and lost time. Gould said, "We came through the feed zone, and she was about 15 seconds behind me. I just tried to open it up on the climb and just ride steady. I was feeling good at the top and riding well."
By then end of the downhill singletrack, Gould had opened up nearly a four-minute advantage on Mata.
Then disaster struck Gould. She hit a rock near the end of the singletrack. "Yeah, ride error," said Gould. "I stopped and put some air in and got back on the road where it went completely flat." Gould expressed surprise at how long the last section of pavement was. She rode into the finish on a totally flat tire that had just cost her $2000 in prize money.
Judy Freeman (Crank Bros) also had a good ride behind the leaders. She ultimately finished eighth, and former USA Marathon National Champion Heather Irmiger (Subaru Trek), who started strongly, slipped to sixth place.
Emmett, always fast on the descents, appeared to be having one of her best days ever climbing as well. She crested the main ridge in fourth place behind Freeman, but then used her downhill skills to close the gap.
Most of the top pro racers will now have a weekend off before heading to round three of the World Cup in the Czech Republic where the chase for US Olympic Team spots will continue.
One of the best races
A total of US$30,000 in prize money was equally divided between the men's and women's races, with the winner taking home a $5,000 check. There is little doubt that the prize money inflated the pool of talent racing this year.
While many mountain bike races have experienced dwindling attendance over the past decade, the Epic Rides organization seems to have built a winning formula for its series of events. First and foremost, the Town of Prescott was "all in" for this race, providing a venue at the Town Square, trail access, and the support of all the town's employees. The mayor personally greeted the pro riders at a Friday briefing and could be seen at every event of the weekend.
In an unprecedented gesture, the Town of Prescott provided the media with race transportation with Chris Hosking, who is their Parks and Recreation "Trails Specialist". Without his four-wheel-drive access, it would have been nearly impossible to witness much of the race.
The weekend was chock full of special events for amateur riders and their families. There was nearly non-stop live music by numerous bands on the Town Square, a beer garden hosted by New Belgium Brewery, and complimentary food at various locations. All riders were encouraged to bring canned goods to benefit the Yavapai Food Bank.
Many of the pro racers remarked after the race how huge the crowds were, not only in the downtown area, but also all along the more accessible sections of the course. It gave the race a real "World Cup feel".
The following video (coming!) is provided by race promoter Epic Rides.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Geoff Kabush (Can) Scott-3Rox Racing||2:54:59|
|2||Markus Bauer (Ger)||0:01:16|
|3||Jeremy Horgan-kobelski (USA) Subaru-Trek||0:01:20|
|4||Alex Grant (USA) Cannondale Factory Racing||0:02:17|
|5||Hector Fernando Riveros (USA)||0:02:30|
|6||Barry Wicks (USA) Kona||0:03:07|
|7||Carl Decker (USA) Giant||0:03:08|
|8||Mitch Hoke (USA) Clif Bar||0:04:45|
|9||Spencer Paxson (USA)||0:05:30|
|10||Conrad Stoltz (USA) Specialized||0:05:34|
|11||Kris Sneddon (Can) Kona||0:07:17|
|12||Jay Henry (USA)||0:07:27|
|13||Chris Baddick (GBr)||0:08:32|
|14||Kalan Beisel (USA) Orbea-Tuff Shed||0:09:17|
|15||Jason Sager (USA) Jamis||0:09:57|
|16||Thomas Turner (USA) Jamis||0:10:07|
|17||Luis Mejia (USA)||0:10:33|
|18||Rotem Ishay (USA) Jamis||0:12:07|
|19||Yuki Ikeda (USA)||0:12:24|
|20||Peter Glassford (Can) Trek Canada||0:14:03|
|21||Colin Cares (USA) Kenda-Felt||0:14:04|
|22||Payson Mcelveen (USA)||0:14:52|
|23||Dana Weber (USA)||0:15:59|
|24||Troy Wells (USA) Team Clif Bar||0:17:11|
|25||Brady Kappius (USA) Team Clif Bar||0:18:34|
|26||Michael Hosey (USA)||0:18:40|
|27||Macky Franklin (USA) Orbea-Tuff Shed||0:19:01|
|28||Erick Keniston (USA)||0:19:51|
|29||Blake Harlan (USA) Team Jamis||0:20:19|
|30||Kip Biese (USA) KJBikeCoaching||0:20:21|
|31||Bryan Dillon (USA) Alpine Orthopedics||0:20:55|
|32||Tj Woodruff (USA) Momentum Endurance||0:21:25|
|33||Kurt Refsnider (USA)||0:21:49|
|34||Skyler Trujillo (USA) Niner/Stans/Ergon||0:23:33|
|35||John Nobil (USA) Bear Valley||0:24:53|
|36||Sloane Anderson (USA)||0:26:30|
|37||Eric Salstrand (USA)||0:26:43|
|38||Tad Elliot (USA)||0:27:00|
|39||Josh Whitney (USA) RockyMounts||0:27:10|
|40||Nathan Brown (USA) Superfly Cycles||0:27:28|
|41||Jason Hilimire (USA) Epic Pro Cycling Team||0:27:34|
|42||Tyler Coplea (USA)||0:27:41|
|43||Colton Anderson (USA)|
|44||Santiago Chavez (USA) The Bicycle Company||0:27:49|
|45||Brad Johnson (USA) Bicycle Ranch||0:28:50|
|46||Aaron Elwell (USA) Cannondale||0:30:17|
|47||Bryson Perry (USA) Life Time Fitness||0:30:25|
|48||Ryan Clark (USA) Surf City Cyclery||0:30:27|
|49||Travis Scheefer (USA) Alpine Orthopaedics||0:31:46|
|50||Corey Collier (USA) Don's Bike Shop||0:32:00|
|51||Andy Schultz (USA) Kenda-Felt||0:32:58|
|52||Trapper Steinle (USA)||0:34:22|
|53||Ben Welnak (USA)||0:34:45|
|54||David Graf (USA) Don's Bikes of Rialto||0:36:20|
|55||Jeff Kerkove (USA)||0:36:30|
|56||Nick Gould (USA)||0:37:23|
|57||Scott Henry (USA)||0:37:59|
|58||Nate Bird (USA) Honey Stinger||0:39:02|
|59||Stew Gross (USA) Alpine Orthopedics||0:40:05|
|60||John Sawasky (USA) Myself, my wife, and Bike Revolution||0:40:06|
|61||Domenico (mimmo) Futia (USA)||0:40:43|
|62||Cory Wallace (USA)||0:41:42|
|63||Travis Wilkerson (USA) Surf City Cyclery||0:42:20|
|64||Ryan Geiger (USA) AZ Devo Junior/U23 Mountain Bike Team||0:42:54|
|65||Ernie Watenpaugh (USA) Tokyo Joe's||0:45:53|
|66||Matt Connors (USA) Yeti||0:46:04|
|67||Phil Grove (USA)||0:46:32|
|68||Ryan Dorsey (USA) Honey Stinger||0:46:48|
|69||Doug Johnson (USA) Bandwagon Racing||0:48:56|
|70||Chad Davis (USA) SRAM||0:49:04|
|71||Frank Webber (USA) Orbea USA||0:52:30|
|72||Austin King (USA)||0:56:09|
|73||Mike Pimm (USA)||0:56:42|
|74||Zeke Hersh (USA) Epic Endurance||1:02:32|
|75||Micah Clinger (USA)||1:05:19|
|76||Jeremy Bounds (USA) AZ Cross||1:44:30|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Monique Pua Mata (USA) ShoAir/Specialized||3:21:34|
|2||Georgia Gould (USA) Luna||0:01:26|
|3||Kelli Emmett (USA) Giant||0:07:04|
|4||Allison Mann (USA)||0:11:51|
|5||Teal Stetson-lee (USA) Luna||0:11:53|
|6||Heather Irmiger (USA) Subaru-Trek||0:12:51|
|7||Jennifer Smith (USA)||0:12:58|
|8||Judy Freeman (USA)||0:17:32|
|9||Sarah Jansen (USA)||0:20:24|
|10||Rebecca Gross (USA) Tough Girl Scott Bikes||0:23:10|
|11||Sue Butler (USA)||0:29:20|
|12||Alice Pennington (USA)||0:29:49|
|13||Nina Baum (USA)||0:31:08|
|14||Sarah Kaufmann (USA)||0:31:30|
|15||Kelly Boniface (USA) Moots Cycles||0:31:32|
|16||Heidi Rentz (USA) ACME Shuttle||0:32:10|
|17||Wendy Simms (Can)||0:33:14|
|18||Sonya Looney (USA)||0:33:40|
|19||Suzanne Snyder (USA) Luna Pro Team||0:33:41|
|20||Jari Kirkland (USA)||0:40:35|
|21||Kelsy Bingham (USA) Jamis Bikes||0:43:24|
|22||Tonya Bray (USA)||0:44:46|
|23||Meghan Korol (USA)||0:45:28|
|24||Shannon Gibson (USA)||0:47:17|
|25||Anna Fortner (USA) SoCal Cross||0:50:44|
|26||Kata Skaggs (USA)||0:59:29|
|27||Melissa Liebling (USA)||1:34:05|