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Giant’s Adam Craig wins stage 1 at the Downieville Classic

Day one of the legendary Downieville Classic Mountain Bike Race is in the record books with more than 800 riders having faced up to the grueling 29-mile point-to-point cross-country race – stage one of Downieville’s hotly contested All-Mountain World Championship. Giant's Adam Craig was the hot shot of the day as he casually destroyed the course record and took the All-Mountain pro men’s stage victory. Pedaling into the streets of Downieville in 1:52:04, Craig’s time bested reigning All-Mountain champion Ross Schnell’s record-setting 2008 performance by nearly five minutes.

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By Seth Lightcap

2009 Downieville Classic, day 1: The 8-mile, 3000-foot climb up to Packer Saddle took its toll.

2009 Downieville Classic, day 1: The 8-mile, 3000-foot climb up to Packer Saddle took its toll.

Photo: Seth Lightcap

Day one of the legendary Downieville Classic Mountain Bike Race is in the record books with more than 800 riders having faced up to the grueling 29-mile point-to-point cross-country race – stage one of Downieville’s hotly contested All-Mountain World Championship.

Giant’s Adam Craig was the hot shot of the day as he casually destroyed the course record and took the All-Mountain pro men’s stage victory. Pedaling into the streets of Downieville in 1:52:04, Craig’s time bested reigning All-Mountain champion Ross Schnell’s record-setting 2008 performance by nearly five minutes.

Craig wasn’t the only one to put the hammer down however. Sid Taberlay (SHO-AIR) beat Craig to the top of the initial eight-mile, 3000-foot climb, but fell behind on the 17-mile descent to settle for second in 1:52:45. Perennial contender and three-time Downieville All-Mountain champion Jason Moeschler (WTB-Santa Cruz) nipped at their heels, 30 seconds back to take third in 1:55:20.

2009 Downieville Classic, day 1: Craig blasted the record time on the cross-country.

2009 Downieville Classic, day 1: Craig blasted the record time on the cross-country.

Photo: Seth Lightcap

“Sid and I had a good battle,” said a cool, calm Craig after the race. “We started off pretty chill, riding tempo for the first couple miles, but we stepped it up as the climb got steeper.”

Taberlay was two bike lengths ahead of Craig at the top of the climb, but when the bottom dropped out of the trail, Craig and his two-pound heavier bike took over, just barely.

“I didn’t give him enough credit for his descending skills,” said Craig. “I was surprised to see him at the climb up to Third Divide. I thought I had already put some distance between us.”

Third Divide is one of the final sections of the stage and is known for blinding fast speeds, “Star Wars” – like speeds according to race promoters.

Craig’s Jedi skills treated him well on Third Divide as he made up just enough time to cruise in comfortably ahead of Taberlay.

“Had I seen him behind me when I finished Third Divide I would have had to pull over and suck my thumb,” said Craig attesting to the fact that his Giant trail bike gave him a significant advantage over Taberlay’s lighter, more cross-country oriented Specialized S-Works rig.

Other notable All-Mountain pro men’s finishers included recent BC Bike Race champion Chris Sheppard (Santa Cruz) who took forth and last year’s All-Mountain champ, Ross Schnell (Trek), who took ninth.

Schnell took to the course having barely recovered from breaking his hip in late May at a French Enduro Downhill event.

“I started the race having only ridden a week since my injury,” said Schnell. “I felt like I showed up to a final exam in my underwear having forgotten to study … the climb was a bad dream.”

Downieville illumanati and four-time downhill champion Mark Weir did not compete do to the recent birth of his son.

Nash nails the women’s race

Fresh off a victory at the BC Bike Race, Luna’s Katerina Nash handily won the All-Mountain pro women’s division, posting a time of 2:14:14. Willow Koerber (Gary Fisher-Subaru) and Kelli Emmett (Giant) raced into the finish three minutes after Nash with Koerber only six seconds ahead of Emmett, 2:17:33 and 2:17:39 respectively.

Looking ahead to stage 2, it’s still anyone’s guess as to who will take the All-Mountain title. Mere seconds separate the top riders and the punishing 17-mile, 5333-foot plunge that awaits the racers is known to slash sidewalls to bits.

So will Craig keep the air in his tires and come away with crown? Or will fate and a flat allow Moeschler, Sheppard, or Taberlay to pounce on the victory?

It will all get decided in the dirt Sunday. Stay tuned.

Downieville Classic All-Mountain World Championship – Stage One Results

Pro Men –

1 Adam Craig 1:52:04
2 Sid Taberlay 1:52:45
3 Jason Moeschler 1:55:20
4 Chris Sheppard 1:57:58
5 Sam Koerber 1:59:15

Pro Women­ –

1 Katerina Nash 2:14:14
2 Willow Koerber 2:17:33
3 Kelli Emmett 2:17:39
4 Rachel Lloyd 2:18:15
5 Lizzy English 2:29:45

Photo Gallery

Results

Downieville Classic All-Mountain World Championship – Stage One Results

Pro Men –

1 Adam Craig 1:52:04
2 Sid Taberlay 1:52:45
3 Jason Moeschler 1:55:20
4 Chris Sheppard 1:57:58
5 Sam Koerber 1:59:15<
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Pro Women­ –

1 Katerina Nash 2:14:14
2 Willow Koerber 2:17:33
3 Kelli Emmett 2:17:39
4 Rachel Lloyd 2:18:15
5 Lizzy English 2:29:45