By Sue George with assistance from Dave McElwaine
Only the cross country types will head to Fountain Hills, Arizona, for the next round of the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS). Round two starts Friday, just a few days after round one ended in Fontana, California.
Racing action will kick off Friday with the NOVA marathon on which pros will race three laps of the 23.4 mile course and amateurs will tackle two. Later in the day will be time for some gravity-assisted fun in the form of a Super D time trial race, with elite riders spaced ten seconds apart.
On Saturday the elite racers will take on an afternoon short track and the weekend wraps up Sunday with semi-pro and elite cross country races. In an unusual format for an NMBS event and new to Fountain Hills, elites will compete in multiple events as part of a stage race. The short track, which was held last year at night in downtown Fontana will be held during daylight hours at McDowell Mountain Regional Park.
Georgia Gould (Luna MTB Women's Team), Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) and Barry Wicks (Kona) will be the racers to beat. Gould won both the cross country and the short track at the opening round, both times ahead of her team-mate Katerina Nash, while Kabush and Wicks split victories last weekend. Eyes will also be on Wendy Simms (Kona) who showed she can contend with the fastest women after a strong winter cyclo-cross season. The Canadian finished third in both the cross country and the short track at Fontana.
Look out also for Catherine Prendrel (Luna), Mical Dyck (Trek / Terrascape) and youngster Emily Batty (Trek Bicycle Store) in the women's races. Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain), Adam Craig (Giant), Ross Schnell (Trek / VW) will be the men to watch in the men's events.
In last year's cross country, Gould rode away from all the other women for a solo win and Kabush rode three laps with Todd Wells (GT) before one of his attacks stuck. Kabush will be really fired up after coming one step closer to John Tomac's record number of NMBS cross country wins last weekend.
In general, course conditions are reported to be among the best in years, with the singletrack is much firmer due to spring rains. All the washes are rideable. The "power" course will favor the riding styles of Wicks and his team-mate Ryan Trebon although it will not suit riders like Jeremy Horgan Kobelski (Gary Fisher / Subaru) as well.
Again several big names will be absent from the NMBS. Cape Epic racers like Jeremiah Bishop (Trek / VW), Sue Haywood (Trek / VW) and Jenny Smith are still busy with the nine-day South African stage race. And riders like Todd Wells (GT), Mary McConneloug (Kenda / Seven), Michael Broderick (Kenda / Seven), Sam Jurekovic (U23 National Team), and Colin Cares (U23 National Team) all are headed to South American for the Pan Am Games in Venezuela, also this weekend.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the NMBS #1 from last weekend in Fontana, California.