A tale of two NORBAs

NORBA #4 & #5 - Deer Valley, UT, July 7-8, 2006 & Sonoma, CA, July 15-16, 2006

Hi Cyclingnews.com readers, back to back race weekends in searing heat with national champion's jerseys at stake most recently, and I am a little tired. Two very different places, some very different results and some cool stuff along the way. The details go like this:

Similarities: It was hot in both Deer Valley and Sonoma, close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in both places. There was some challenging racing.

Differences: Everything else. Deer Valley was just above 7000 feet in elevation, Sonoma was about 70 feet. Deer Valley is home to 200+ miles of killer single track trails, Sonoma is home to the Infineon Raceway.

Deer Valley had some killer trails that unfortunately eroded quickly over the course of the weekend. By the time the SuperD was done on Friday the braking bumps going into the 180 turns were developing deep ruts. It was also really green and overgrown in Utah from all the rain they have had this year. The plants and trees were in full effect, making the trail tight and passing difficult.

Sonoma was wide open, very brown and freshly mowed in some spots. Not really very trail-like, but better than the previous NORBA National here in 2004. Getting offline was costly, as loose terrain and potential flats were just inches away on both sides of the course.

Deer Valley saw big fields in both the men's and women's races, including a very fast female contingent from New Zealand. Sonoma hosted just the US racers for the National Championship, smaller fields and reduced depth.

My weekend in Deer Valley was enjoyable for I got to sleep in my own bed at night with a little commute down to Salt Lake. It was a very busy weekend as well with all my local friends stopping in. I had to repay a few favors as the local authority. We had some interesting team logistics as well as some of our riders wanted not to stay at night up at altitude, but rather reside down in Salt Lake. The weekend moved by rather quickly and before I knew it is was Sunday night and time to think about the next race.

With the Sonoma event being upgraded to the National Championships, all talk about an altitude disadvantage [the former site was Mammoth Mountain, California at 9,000+feet] was gone. However the XC races were on Friday to allow the SuperD to take centre stage on Saturday. Makes for a short week with the travel.

The XC was difficult for our team and others. Hot, dusty and filled with flat tires. In the tech zone at the end of lap one, we counted 12 flat tyres in the women's pro race. This really served to alter the shape of the race early on. Add to that one crash with a bloody knee and some vomiting and our team had a less than stellar day.

Saturday looked better for us as we lined up three girls for the Super D, including last year's national champion, Kelli Emmett. At the finish line the four leaders sprinted like a breakaway group in a long road race and we got second [Kelli] and fourth [Sara Bresnick-Zocchi] - a great day.

Sunday brought a great day of STXC with an interesting course. In 2004 at this venue that STXC was 90 percent pavement and Carl Decker [Giant] won on a road bike; this time the course was really long [3+ minutes] and included some of the 4X course berms. Kelli had a great day for us and made the front group to sprint for third place, to finish on a high note.

Another tear down in the heat and a quick trip to the airport for a Sunday night flight. Sonoma left me with some great visions of wine country of Northern California, but I am looking forward to some down time before the next two races. After a little break we head to Brian Head and Aspen, both 9,000 feet+ venues for the last two races of the 2006 NORBA schedule. I hope that it is cooler up there.

Hopefully the pictures will make up for the lack of text, the heat really got to me the last couple of weeks as I can remember only a fraction of what transpired. Until Brian Head.


Chris Davidson

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