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Top riders return to NORBA series this weekend

The first round of the 2005 Shimano NORBA national MTB series is this weekend in Tapatio Springs Resort, Boerne, Texas. After last year's series was rather weakened by top riders spending much of the season in Europe chasing UCI points for Olympic qualifying, this year's series looks to be much stronger.

Eight 2004 Olympians will line up over the weekend: Americans Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, Todd Wells and Mary McConneloug, Canada's Seamus McGrath, Kiara Bisaro, Alison Sydor and Lyne Bessette and Britain's Liam Killeen.

Other favourites to grab podium spots in 2005 include 2001 World Champion Alison Dunlap. The winner of last year's short track series Dunlap says she's focusing on the NORBA Series and the Sea Otter Classic this year. Dunlap will be joined at the start line by Luna Chix team-mate and 2004 NORBA cross-country series winner Shonny Vanlandingham. Geoff Kabush won the overall series in both cross country and short track last year, while Ryan Trebon, Travis Brown, and Adam Craig will also be strong contenders for wins this weekend.

Just like the 2004 NORBA opener, this weekend's UCI E1 event will use a stage race format to determine an overall winner. Racing begins on Friday morning with a marathon at Flat Rock Ranch in nearby Comfort. Riders will make two and a half laps of the figure eight course for a total of 62 miles. Later on Friday, the three-mile long time trial course which utilises many of the property's horse trails will be the center of attention, as pros, semi-pros, and experts compete in the event's first stage.

Saturday will feature a spectator-friendly short track race that winds around and through the expo area, while Sunday's cross-country competition will close out the first stop of the 2005 NORBA Series with plenty of climbing, rock ledges, and fast single track.

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