By Dave McElwaine in Fontana, California
Geoff Kabush ((Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) and Georgia Gould (Team Luna) were among those who counted wins after this weekend's racing at the opening round of the US ProXCT series in Fontana, California. Drawing an impressive 1,222 rider starts (720 cross country, 340 downhill, 82 super D and 80 four cross), the race was also stop number two in the US Cup West series and stop number one in the US Mountain Bike National Cross Country Calendar.
In the men's cross country race, Kabush defeated a talented field including a posse of talented ShoAir team riders. Newly acquired ShoAir racer and fellow Canadian Max Plaxton had to settle for second place, although he had led most of the race. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Gary Fisher/Subaru) out-sprinted his teammate Sam Schultz for third.
The race turned out to be quite tactical as Plaxton and Sid Taberlay (ShoAir) were the only team with numbers among the leaders. Initially Taberlay set a blistering pace, but Plaxton broke free and made it up the steep climb first. Kabush was forced to do all the chasing, with Taberlay and Jeremiah Bishop (MonaVie/Cannondale) in tow.
On the fourth lap, Taberlay got around Kabush and was able to effectively block on the descent. This allowed Plaxton to open a 15-second lead entering the next pavement climb.
"My training was going well and I knew I was 100% coming in here" said Kabush. "I had to deal with the ShoAir mafia there for a while...but that's the benefit of having a team. I just tried to stay relaxed because I knew it was going to come down to the last lap."
Kabush was right in that the younger Plaxton faded a bit on lap five, allowing Kabush not only to catch him, but put some significant distance on him before the finish line.
Gould and Luna teammate Catherine Pendrel had a slugfest at Southridge Park in the women's race. Gould's superior power on the flats allowed her to take a 36-second victory over Pendrel. A resurgent Heather Irmiger (Gary Fisher/Subaru) took third convincingly, while 20-year-old Emily Batty (Trek Bicycle Store), fresh off her Under 23 Pan American Championship win, took fourth.
Gould made the hole shot and led the women's cross country field up that first steep climb. She held a lead over Pendrel until the beginning of the climb on lap two when Pendrel passed and seemed to be riding away.
As the race progressed, however, it became apparent while Pendrel owned the climbs, Gould was superior on the two other sections of the course. When Pendrel would get away, Gould would repeatedly bring her back.
"I had a great start. I tried not to go out too hard on the first climb so I would not be too blown up," said Gould. "Then (later), Catherine passed me... she was strong on the climbs, and I was a little stronger on the flat sections."
Behind the leaders, Irmiger rode the entire race alone in third place. She appeared to climb nearly as well as the leaders and rode very consistent laps.
With wins at the opening round of the US ProXCT in Fontana, California, this past weekend, Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) and Georgia Gould (Team Luna) took an early lead on the seven-event series.
The Sea Otter Classic, on April 16-19, will be the next stop on the US ProXCT.