Halfway through the short track, it was a three-way race for the podium. And all three men were riding for Specialized: Todd Wells, Burry Stander and world champion Christoph Sauser.
Sauser burped his tire and did not finish, but Wells charged on for the win, with Stander taking second and Giant’s Carl Decker outsprinting Jeremiah Bishop (Monavie-Cannondale) for third. Kona’s Ryan Trebon and Subaru-Gary Fisher’s Sam Schultz and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski were also in the hunt.
“Burry and Susi got off initially, and I was just sitting on JHK and Trebon, seeing how strong they were,” Wells said. “They didn’t have much gas today, so I was able to punch it across to Burry and Susi. There was an off-camber corner where Susi rolled his tire, so then it was just Burry and I.”
For a short track race, where hardtails are the rule, bike selection was interesting. A number of riders raced full-suspension rigs. Wells raced Specialized’s new 29-inch bike, the Stumperjumper S-Workers 29er Hardtail.
“A lot of guys are riding full suspension,” Wells said. “It was pretty bumpy and rough. But it’s fast. The 29er I feel is like an-between bike — not quite a hardtail, not quite a full. This new Specialized 29er is rad. It’s like 20 pounds.”
Decker was also on a full-suspension Giant Anthem.
“Riding the Anthem was kinda like cheating on that course; it was so rough,” Decker said. “You come off the steepest part of the course into this really bumpy course.”
Like a number of elite men, Stander and Sauser had just traveled from the South Africa World Cup last weekend. Both raced full-suspension Specialized Epics.
“I’ve been running this all year in every single race,” Stander said. “With the Brain (shock lockout), the rear is locked out on the smooth stuff, then opens on the rough stuff. On a course like this it’s perfect.”
Stander said the plan from the beginning was to get him, Sauser and Wells clear off the front. When Sauser flatted out, Stander kept drilling it with Wells.
“We both had awesome legs today,” Stander said. “We put the hammer down on the pavement and recovered toward to the top. The plan was to get all three of us away, it didn’t matter which one of us won. Todd’s been super motivated for today, it’s an American race, so good for him.”