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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Sheppard victorious in men's race
Catharine Pendrel (Luna) won the first inaugural elite women's Whiskey Fat Tire Criterium in Prescott, Arizona, on Friday. She separated herself early in the 30 minute plus three laps criterium, held on a hilly short course near Yavapai County Courthouse in downtown Prescott and established a lead that none of her competitors was able to close.
Pendrel said the Fat Tire Criterium was distinctly different from a traditional cross country short track because of the hilly nature of the course and the fact that it was held on paved roads. "I had no clue what to expect," she said after the finish. "I thought it may actually be harder than a normal short track just because it's faster and if people ran an even faster tire, then it might get into some bunch racing but that climb was just so selective."
Pendrel said she gained her advantage almost by accident. "One of the girls made a move early on, and I was able to counter and I just got away," she said. "I didn't want to be by myself for that long but that's just the way it happened."
But whether the move was a gift or not, Pendrel made the most of it; she was clearly the dominant rider on the steep short climb dubbed "the Wall". "I was just reacting to the moment. But that style of climbing suits me pretty well."
The battle behind was fought between Kelli Emmett (Giant Bicycles), Nina Baum (NoTubes Women's Elite), Zephanie Blasi (NoTubes Women's Elite), and Monique Mata (Sho-Air/Specialized) with Emmett and Blasi finishing on the podium.
Pendrel said that the Friday night criterium was a great opener for Sunday's elite women's Whiskey 50 cross country race. The top 10 women who finish on Sunday have a US$10,000 purse to split and who might the dominant rider is not so sure. "I checked out the 25-mile loop (Thursday)," Pendrel said. "The course is full of these wide-open descents with loose rock, so people from the southern US should be favored. And the fire road - 24 miles of it - should be pretty decisive, too."
The Canadian knows she will have some serious competition for the $4000 first-place prize. "I think Kelli Emmett is a very strong rider and she's done some stage racing," she said of the favourites. "I think Pua (Monique Mata) favors the endurance style racing. I'm not sure if Gretchen Reeves is here, but she won it last year."
Meantime, Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain Bicycles) became the inaugural Whiskey elite men's Fat Tire criterium winner and the second Canadian winner of the night. Sheppard stuck with a powerful lead group containing Tinker Juarez (Canondale Racing/Kenda), Barry Wicks (Kona Bicycles), Peter Glassford (Trek Canada MTB Team), Jake Wells (Dogma Athletica), and Corey Wallace (Kona Bicycles) and saved enough of a kick to gap the break in the final climb of the final lap.
The criterium, held on short city center course which featured back to back nosebleed climbs, started fast and stayed fast. It took 15 minutes of the 30 minutes plus three laps race for the lead break of five riders to establish, with a half dozen chasers trying to reconnect with them.
Wicks was the early instigator. The elite group then splintered a number of times throughout the race but ultimately re-formed for the final laps. Sheppard then outmanoeuvred his break makes to take top honors for the evening.
Although he is an experienced veteran, Sheppard could be considered a surprise winner since he is more known for his ultra-endurance mountain biking (multiple BC Bike Race and Trans Rockies stage and overall wins) and hasn't been seen in a professional short track since 2005.
"I've been somewhat retired from short tracks for a number of years," Sheppard said after the race. "They're really hard. And young guys like Peter (Glassford) sit on the front and put the hurt on me. I only have so many bullets on the short track event like this - about four today - and I used them all."
Sheppard fired the last of those bullets on the final climb for his win. "I attacked on the back side of the course (on the second of two power climbs). Peter (Glassford) had been in the front for the previous three laps so I capitalized on his work."
23 elite women and 70 elite men lined up for the Fat Tire Crit, with crowds eight-deep at times lining the 8/10 of a mile hilly course, the pro athletes felt invigorated by the fan base. The top five finishers for men and women will receive a call up to the start line for Sunday’s race.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Catherine Pendrel (Luna)|
|2||Kelli Emmett (Giant Bicycles)|
|3||Zephanie Blasi (Stan's No Tubes Elite)|
|4||Nina Baum (Stan's No Tubes Elite)|
|5||Monique Pua Mata (Sho-Air/Specialized)|
|6||Rebecca Rusch (Specialized Bicycles)|
|7||Sonya Looney (Ergon Bike Ergonomics/Topeak)|
|8||Kelly Boniface (Moots Cycles)|
|9||Shannon Gibson (NoTubes.com)|
|10||Jennifer Smith (Alpine Orthopedics)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain Bicycles)|
|2||Jake Wells (Dogma Athletica)|
|3||Tinker Juarez (Cannondale Racing/Kenda)|
|4||Peter Glassford (Trek Canada MTB Team)|
|5||Barry Wicks (Kona Bicycles)|
|6||Bryan Alders (Epic Endurance Cycling Team)|
|7||Kris Sneddon (Kona Bicycles)|
|8||Jeff Herrera (Bicycleworld.tv)|
|9||Brady Kappius (Clif Bar)|
|10||Cory Wallace (Kona)|