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Taberlay & Sawicki win US Cup West round three

The US Cup travelled to Southern California on Sunday for round three at the Sage Brush Safari. An impressive 586 racers made the trek to the East San Diego County venue, which has not been open for several years due to closure from fires. Ellsworth's Pua Sawicki and Sho-Air/Specialized's Sid Taberlay came away with wins in the elite races.

Amgen's Natasha Hernday attacked first, but was countered by Sawicki who quickly distanced the field on the climb up to four corners. Sawicki put the hammer down as she reached the steeper portions of the climb and she soon found herself caught up in the midst of the men's field.

"The course was unbelievable," said Sawicki. "I can't remember when I rode a cross country course that put a smile on my face like Sage Brush did today. I felt strong all day and just rode my own race - it worked out perfectly."

At the end, Sawicki was clearly in a league of her own. She passed about 10 pro men on her way up the final ascent to the top of Los Pinos, and she won ahead of Allison Mann, who gave her IE Bikes sponsor its best female pro finish for 2009.

The elite men's race turned into a slug fest with 34 pros lining up to take on the 28-mile loop that offered over 4,000 feet of climbing. Kenda Cup West series leader Taberlay was looking to rebound after a disappointing sixth place finish at last week's ProXCT race in Fontana. Taberlay brought his teammates: Manny Prado who came into the event fourth in points in the overall standings and Sammy Jurekovic who arrived ranked fifth in points.

Kenda/Tomac/Hayes sent Andy Schultz, ranked second in the series. Before the race, Schultz made it known that he was seeking redemption after last weekend's 12th placed finish at the ProXCT opener in Fontana. The race would turn into a two-man battle between Schultz and Taberlay, and the Australian Taberlay would come out on top, successfully defending his series lead.

"I was patient today mate and weathered the storm of attacks Schultzy was throwing at me," said Taberlay. "I wanted the lead into the last downhill section heading back to the finish."

And strike he did. Taberlay came out from behind Schultz's wheel and laid down a blistering attack. The Kenda/Hayes/Tomac rider did everything in his power to respond, but couldn't match the little Aussie's acceleration up the paved climb. Taberlay was in full time trial mode as he desperately made his way back to the top of four corners, before dropping into the old downhill course that riders navigated back towards the finish, where the Sho-Air/Specialized rider came across the line, notching his second Kenda Cup West victory. Schultz finished just over a minute back and ahead of Jurekovic.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Sage Brush Safari.

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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.