By Kip Mikler , VeloNews Editor
The only thing swirling faster than the dust at Deer Valley Saturday afternoon were the short-track racers careening around the base area of the Park City ski resort. The crash-filled men’s race resembled a roller derby, and the women’s race produced a first win for a consistent podium finisher. In the end, Subaru-Gary Fisher’s confident 21-year-old Ryder Hesjedal capped off a stellar weekend with the win, and Jimena Florit (RLX Polo Sport) finally scored what she’s been chasing since short track was invented.
In an explosive men’s race, Hesjedal, who also won Friday’s cross-country, dodged all the flying bodies to take his second win of the weekend. Hesjedal’s training partner Roland Green did it last weekend in West Virginia, so in Green’s absence, the kid decided to take things into his own hands.
On a hot, hot afternoon at Deer Valley, the men’s race whipped the crowd — along with a blinding tornado of dust — into a frenzy. Hesjedal was the winner, but the RLX Polo Sport team acted as race animator. With less than one minute checked off from the 30-minutes plus 3 laps format, Polo’s Carl Swenson was off the front. By the second lap — each one took just over a minute — Swenson’s teammate Jeremy Horgan Kobelski was in second position, trying to put the brakes on the runaway train led by Hesjedal.
“Carl looked really strong early on and I just went to the front with him, tried to keep the pace high,” said Horgan-Kobelski.
Seven laps into the men’s race, a group of five had peeled off the front: Hesjedal, Horgan-Kobelski, and the Kona-Ford Focus duo of Peter Wedge and Geoff Kabush. Famously fast guys like Aussie Cadel Evans, Olympic silver medalist Christoph Sauser, and national champion Steve Larsen were just trying to hang on. Some guys — Australian Paul Rowney (Yeti-Pearl Izumi) and Canadians Andreas Hestler and Seamus McGrath to name a few — had already slammed the dirt.
With 10 minutes to go in the half-hour free-for-all, Chris Sheppard (Haro-Lee Dungaree) showed startling power when he bridged up to the flying five in the front. Four laps to go, and the six had a considerable gap on a chase group. Then, on a spot where the pavement transitioned to dirt, a place where loose rocks were shot off of tires like baseballs coming out of the gun at the batting cage, Swenson made an attack. At the same time, Wedge and Kabush crashed into each other, tumbling into the barriers in a cloud of dust.
“I was right behind it,” said Horgan-Kobelski. “It looked like they just hooked up bars and went down.”
So it was down to four. With two laps to go, Swenson was the first to crack. Then Sheppard fell off the pace. Hesjedal and Horgan-Kobelski came across the start-finish together for the final lap, and that was the last Horgan-Kobelski would see of Hesjedal.
“You’ve got amazing powers when you go for the win,” said Hesjedal, who now leads the Costa Rican Bonilla in the overall standings.
Sheppard finished third, followed by Swenson in fourth.
Florit has been knocking on the door for two years. Her consistency won her the series title last year, but the smiling Argentine was still missing the win. “Finally, I got it,” Florit said.
Florit’s plan was to let others lead and make her move in the last lap. She might not have had the chance if it weren’t for some rotten luck for Alison Dunlap. For the second consecutive day, Dunlap looked to have good form and no chance to show it because of a flat tire. The GT rider attacked in the seventh lap, opened up a sizable gap and held it for three circuits. Then the tire went flat.
With Dunlap out, Haywood went to the front, along with an aggressive Chrissy Redden (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Florit chasing. Redden, who had charged off the front earlier, couldn’t maintain the pace, though, and it came down to a battle of two. Just the way Florit had planned. “I was following attacks instead of producing them,” she said.
Florit hit the gas on the last lap, and Haywood had to settle for second. Redden finished third, followed by Trek-Volkswagen’s Alison Sydor.
With a 14-point lead over Haywood, Florit looks like she might just repeat last year’s title win.
CHEVY TRUCKS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES No. 3, Deer Valley, Utah. June 29-July 1.
1. Ryder Hesjedal (Can), Subaru-Gary Fisher; 2. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, RLX Polo Sport; 3. Chris Sheppard (Can), Haro-Lee Dungaree; 4. Carl Swenson, RLX Polo Sport; 5. Jose Bonilla (CR), Café de Costa Rica; 6. Geoff Kabush (Can), Kona-Ford Focus; 7. Bart Bowen, Kona-Ford Focus; 8. Jeff Hall, Salsa; 9. Jimi Killen, Schwinn; 10. Todd Wells.
1. Jimena Florit (Arg), RLX Polo Sport; 2. Susan Haywood, Trek East Coast; 3. Chrissy Redden (Can), Subaru-Gary Fisher; 4. Alison Sydor (Can), Trek-Volkswagen; 5. Mary Grigson (Aus), Subaru-Gary Fisher; 6. Rachel Lloyd, Sunrace-Santa Cruz; 7. Shonny Vanlandingham, SoBe-Headshok; 8. Ruthie Matthes, Trek-Volkswagen; 9. Gina Hall, Zeal; 10. Dellys Franke, Merida.
Ov erall standings (after 3 of 5 events)
1. Hesjedal, 544
2. Bonilla, 476
3. Horgan-Kobelski, 460
4. Swenson, 450
5. Paul Rowney (Aus), Yeti-Pearl Izumi, 418
6. Andreas Hestler (Can), Rocky Mountain, 406
7. Wedge, 402
8. Kabush, 398
9. Killen, 390
10. Seamus McGrath (Can), Haro-Lee Dungaree, 384
1. Florit, 572
2. Haywood, 616
3. Redden, 510
4. Grigson, 462
5. Vanlandingham, 452
6. Lloyd, 434
7. Mary McConneloug, Jamba Juice, 418
8. Matthes, 412
9. Kerry Barnholt, SoBe-Headsho, 388
10. Hall, 378