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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
Paul Rowney finally broke through, while Shonny Vanlandingham made it two wins in two days, as each grabbed short track wins on the final day of NORBA National No. 3 in Big Bear Lake, California.
In the opening race Vanlandingham (Luna) and teammate Katerina Hanusova broke away from a group of eight early in the 11-lap race, slowly expanding their advantage all the way to the finish. It wasn’t until the final lap that Vanlandingham attacked off the front, easily outpacing Hanusova for the victory.
“There really wasn’t any plan as far as who we wanted to win or anything,” said Vanlandingham, who also won Saturday’s cross-country and took the overall title in this three stage race.
Behind the Luna duo it was Heather Irmiger, Dara Mark-Marino, Kerry Barnholt and Jimena Florit battling for the final three spots on the podium. Barnholt (Subaru-Gary Fisher) was the primary aggressor in the early going and nearly closed down on Vanlandingham and Hanusova. But that effort would end up costing her, as she faded back to fifth at the finish.
Meanwhile, it was Irmiger (Tokyo Joes) moving up from sixth at the end of the third lap to third at the start of the ninth lap. From there Irmiger had to fight hard to fend off a late charge from Marks-Marino (Ford Cycling), but Irmiger managed to hang on giving her two podium appearances on the weekend.
“I’ve been working pretty hard, so I guess it’s finally starting to pay off,” Irmiger said.
Marks-Marino settled for fourth, the same spot she occupied at the finish of the cross-country.
In the men’s race, Rowney (Yeti) took advantage of Chris Sheppard’s late-race puncture to grab the first NORBA win of his long career.
“I’ve had plenty of seconds and thirds, every place on the podium but first,” said Rowney, who pulled a one-handed wheelie across the finish line. “Finally got it all done.”
Early in the race the 33-year-old Rowney was part of a lead group that included Sheppard, Ryan Trebon (Kona Clarks-Les Gets), Frank Mapel (Specialized), Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects), Trent Lowe (Yeti), Travis Brown (Trek-Volkswagen) and Carl Decker (Giant-Pearl Izumi).
The initial move of consequence came from Rowney, Sheppard and Trebon, who pulled off the front near the end of the fourth lap and had a 10-second advantage by the end of lap five.
Trebon didn’t last long at the front, though, and it was just Rowney and Sheppard through the 10th of 13 laps. But Sheppard sprang a leak in his rear tubeless tire, and while it never went completely flat, he couldn’t stay close to Rowney in the corners and was quickly gapped.
“It made the corners so sketchy,” Sheppard lamented. “Paul got away immediately and I was just trying to hang on to second.”
Sheppard managed that, but behind him there was a fierce battle between Lowe and Brown for third. Unlike a day earlier when Brown, 34, held off the 19-year-old Lowe, this battle went to the young Aussie. Trebon came across in fifth to complete the podium.
“This is the best form I’ve ever had,” said Lowe, who ended up second in the overall standings just 13 seconds behind Brown.
Sheppard was third overall, with Trebon fourth and Specialized’s Jay Henry in fifth. The women’s final overall standings were not immediately available, nor were updated series standings.
The NORBA series now takes a break until mid June, before reconvening in Snowshoe, West Virginia for round No. 4.
NORBA NATIONAL SERIES NO. 3; BIG BEAR LAKE, CALIFORNIA; MAY 21-23; SHORT TRACK; MEN: 1. Paul Rowney (Aus), Yeti; 2. Chris Sheppard (Can), Haro-adidas; 3. Trent Lowe (Aus), Yeti; 4. Travis Brown, Trek-Volkswagen; 5. Ryan Trebon, Kona Clarks-Les Gets; 6. Andreas Hestler (Can), Rocky Mountain-Business Objects; 7. Max Plaxton (Can), Rocky Mountain-Business Objects; 8. Tristan Schouten, PCW Cycling; 9. Frank Mapel, Specialized; 10. Barry Wicks, Kona Clarks-Les Gets
WOMEN: 1. Shonny Vanlandingham, Luna; 2. Katerina Hanusova (Cz), Luna; 3. Heather Irmiger, Tokyo Joes; 4. Dara Marks-Marino, Ford Cycling; 5. Kerry Barnholt, Subaru-Gary Fisher; 6. Jimena Florit (Arg), RLX Ralph Lauren; 7. Tonya Laffey, MTBChick.com; 8. Jamie Whitmore-Cardenas, Reebok; 9. Gretchen Reeves, Rocky Mountain-Business Objects; 10. Sara Bresnick, Minuteman