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By Kip Mikler , VeloNews Editor
Alison Dunlap (Luna) held off an impressive late-race charge by Jimena Florit (RLX Ralph Lauren) to collect her 14th career NORBA short-track win Sunday at Snowmass Village near Aspen, Colorado. With a stiff wind kicking up clouds of dust on the slopes of Snowmass, Dunlap’s Luna team put in a show of power that only Florit was able to challenge.
After two laps on the dry, dusty course, which climbed one of the lower ski slopes and then descended through a series of loose, rocky S-turns, Dunlap launched a vicious attack.
“I could just tell there wasn’t anyone feeling really gung-ho today,” Dunlap said. “There were gaps forming after just two laps, so I tried an attack myself. That one stuck, and I was like, ‘Oh God, I’ve got a long way to go.’”
Fortunately for her, Dunlap got some help. Teammates Shonny Vanlandingham and Katerina Hanusova shot past Subaru-Gary Fisher’s Kerry Barnholt to create a formidable Luna train at the front of the race.
Meanwhile, as Vanlandingham and Dunlap took turns pulling in the wind and widening the gap over the decimated field behind them, Florit was starting to come alive in the field.
“I had a bad start because I couldn’t get into my pedal,” said Florit, who had ridden to victory in the previous day’s cross-country race in the mountains high above the short-track venue.
After seeing the vertical nature of the short-track, featuring a climb that was longer and steeper than those of most short-track races, Florit set her sights on pulling the weekend double.
“I was so looking forward to this one because of that climb,” said the 32-year-old, who will represent Argentina at the Athens Olympics later this month.
As several crashes in the loose corners of the descents took some riders out, Florit spent the second half of the race chasing the lead trio alone, dangling between 10 and 15 seconds back.
“They had a good gap, but they were worried,” said Florit, who put in a big surge with two laps to go to catch Hanusova. Coming across the start-finish line for the final lap, Florit had dropped Hanusova and had closed to within eight seconds of Dunlap in the lead.
On the final climb, Florit caught and passed Vanlandingham, moving into second. Dunlap held her lead over the top, however, and she handled the final descent without a hitch to collect her 14th career short-track win.
“I have my whole family here and a whole lot of friends,” said Dunlap, who lives in Colorado Springs. “So I had to win this one.”
Dunlap, who says she hasn’t yet decided on her future in the sport after the disappointment she experienced in not making the Olympic team, already has two short track overall championships to her name. The win on Sunday gave her the overall series lead heading into this year’s finals in Durango, Colorado, which will be held later this month. There Dunlap, the woman with the most short-track wins to her name, will try to lock up the third short-track title
NORBA Championship Mountain Bike Series, Snowmass Village, CO. August 6-8
Women’s short track
1. Alison Dunlap, Luna, 25:38
2. Jimena Florit (Arg), RLX Ralph Lauren, 25:43
3. Shonny Vanlangingham, Luna, 25:44
4. Katerina Hanusova (Cz), Luna, 26:03
5. Dara Marks-Marino, Ford Cycling, 26:23
6. Kerry Barnholt, Subaru-Gary Fisher, 26:29
7. Willow Koerber, RLX Ralph Lauren, 26:34
8. Jennifer Smith, W.V. Bon Jovi, 27:12
9. Susan Haywood, Trek-Volkswagen, 27:16
10. Gretchen Reeves, Rocky Mountain-Business Objects, 27:30
Overall standings (after seven rounds)
1. Dunlap, 900pts
2. Vanlandingham, 813
3. Barnholt, 806
4. Hanusova, 800
5. Florit, 797