The US Mountain Bike Nationals have returned to Sol Vista Bike Park in Granby, Colorado, for the second consecutive year. Throughout the weekend, more than 1,000 racers are competing for 70 stars-and-stripes jerseys in cross country, short track, downhill and super D.
All eyes will be on Jeremy Horgan Kobelski and Heather Irmiger (both Subaru / Trek), who made history at last year's event when they won the elite men's and women's cross country national championships, just two weeks after both winning the marathon national championships. The stage is set to see if they can repeat the feat since both won their respective marathon titles at the Firecracker 50 over the Fourth of July.
More national titles won't come easy for the husband and wife duo as each will have plenty of competition. In the men's race, Adam Craig (Rabobank/Giant) is looking for a national title and strong second half of the season after sitting out the first half while he rehabilitated his knee after surgery. Specialized's Todd Wells is hoping for a win to make up for bad luck last year, when he suffered a last-lap mechanical while battling JHK off the front. Also, don't count out Sam Schultz (Subaru / Trek), who won his first national series race a few weeks ago and Ryan Trebon (Kona) and Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale).
In the women's contest, Irmiger will face a challenge from Georgia Gould (Luna), who has been dominating the US Pro XCT national cross country series this year and from Willow Koerber (Subaru / Trek), who has had a stellar first half of the season on the World Cup. Katie Compton (Plante Bike), Kelli Emmett (Giant), Krista Park (Incycle / Cannondale) and former cross country national champion Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven/No Tubes) are others to watch.
Elite and junior riders will race on a 4.32-mile cross country course with 710 feet of climbing per lap. The course is different than last year; a rut-filled downhill has been replaced by another, smoother, more flowy descent. Amateurs will compete on a longer, 8.94-mile course that is only slightly different from last year.
Any of the above mentioned cross country riders could also come home with a short track national championship jersey, too. Last year, Georgia Gould and Adam Craig won the titles.
On the gravity side, defending downhill national champion Aaron Gwin (Yeti Fox Shock), defending four cross national champion Mitch Ropelato, Duncan Riffle (Giant), and Joey Schusler (Yeti Fox) should contest a tight downhill race.
World Championship medalists Melissa Buhl (KHS Bicycles), Jill Kintner (Transition Racing), and Kathy Pruitt (Jamis) will not disappoint in the women's downhill and four cross. Buhl and Kintner are the defending downhill and four cross champions from last year.
Downhillers will drop 1,000 feet over an approximately sub one-mile course that will take only two or three minutes to finish.
In the super D, former national champion Adam Craig and his Giant teammate Carl Decker will be top picks along with defending national champion Aaron Bradford (Specialized/OnSite Ultrasound). Blake Harlan (Jamis), Myles Rockwell and the two Wells brothers, Todd and Troy, are also on the start list.
Elke Brutsaert (Durango Devo) will return to defend her super D title and she'll face Kelli Emmett, Alison Mann and Krista Park, among others.
One factor likely to affect many of the racers is the altitude and the thin air that goes along with high elevation. The ski area hosting the event sits at 8,200 feet.
The forecast for the weekend is looking good with temperatures in the 80s (degrees Fahrenheit) and mostly sunny skies.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for complete coverage from the US Mountain Bike National Championships.
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.