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Kabush, Vanlandingham ride to side-by-side wins in Fontana

Credit Fontana with a first in the history of the NORBA National Mountain Bike Series: Defending cross-country champions Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) and Shonny Vanlandingham (Luna) coasted across the finish line side by side to win the first round of the 2006 series. Kabush, who was leading the four-lap men’s race, caught Vanlandingham just as she was wrapping up the victory in the three-lap women’s event. “I saw her coming through the last couple of whoops and heard people cheering for her,” Kabush said. “It’s pretty rare that two winners get to roll across together so I gave it some gas.”

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By Fred Dreier

Kabush and Vanlandingham hit the line side by side

Kabush and Vanlandingham hit the line side by side

Photo: Fred Dreier

Credit Fontana with a first in the history of the NORBA National Mountain Bike Series: Defending cross-country champions Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) and Shonny Vanlandingham (Luna) coasted across the finish line side by side to win the first round of the 2006 series.

Kabush, who was leading the four-lap men’s race, caught Vanlandingham just as she was wrapping up the victory in the three-lap women’s event.

“I saw her coming through the last couple of whoops and heard people cheering for her,” Kabush said. “It’s pretty rare that two winners get to roll across together so I gave it some gas.”

Kabush was part of a six-man breakaway that separated itself from the main field midway through the first lap. The Canadian national champion sat in third wheel as Todd Wells (GT), Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher), Barry Wicks (Kona), Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) and Jeremiah Bishop (Trek-Volkswagen) accompanied him through the first feed zone.

The dry, 7.5-mile course was riddled with punchy climbs and loose descents, with deep, sandy wheel ruts and braking bumps. It sent riders from the manicured, green field of Southridge Park into the dusty Southern California sageland, where they faced a series of urban obstacles, including a deep culvert descent.

“It was a challenge, for sure,” said Bishop, who lost contact with the group on the third lap. “The loose descents got really dusty when I was riding with the group. It got to where I couldn’t really see where I was going.”

Hot off a top-20 finish at the Ford Tour de Georgia, Wells appeared the strongest of the six-man group, and pushed the pace on the climbing sections, dropping Bishop and Plaxton. Horgan-Kobelski, returning from an illness that knocked him out of the Sea Otter Classic stage race, also appeared on top form, and worked with Wells to drop riders on the climbs.

Wicks hung strong for three laps, while Kabush preferred to sag on the climbs and surge back to the group on the flats and descents. As the group sped through the start-finish for the final time, only Kabush, Wells and Horgan-Kobelski had survived the pace.

Wells and Horgan-Kobelski took turns trying to shake the Canadian on the course’s primary climb, which began a stone’s throw away from the start-finish area. Riding a dual-suspension bike, Kabush again allowed himself to be dropped momentarily before returning to the group on the descent, where he put in an attack on the two hardtail riders. That attack also proved futile, and as the riders sped through the final feed zone it appeared the day would be won in a three-up sprint.

That’s when the race took a turn for the worse for Wells and Horgan-Kobelski. Both riders threw in surges just past the feed zone, hoping to reach the final patch of single-track in first position. Instead, the two collided, locked handlebars and crashed.

“It happened just a few meters in front of me,” Kabush said. “It looked like Todd was fading a bit and Jeremy surged up, and they locked bars and went down pretty hard. I was able to sneak around on the right. I was pretty near the end, so I just rolled in, but it’s a shame it happened because it would have been a pretty good finish.”

Although Kabush didn’t punch it after his rivals fell, he said he didn’t consider slowing, either. Horgan-Kobelski said that had he been in the Canadian’s shoes, his reaction would have been similar.

Wells nurses a bum wing post-race

Wells nurses a bum wing post-race

Photo: Fred Dreier

“You gun it as hard as you can to the finish,” he said.

Horgan-Kobelski was quick to rise and held on to finish second. Wells was not as lucky. The reigning U.S. cyclo-cross champ badly bruised one elbow and arm, was unable to ride the final tricky descent and spent the rest of the day wearing a sling. Passing Wells near the finish was Wicks, who was ecstatic as he rolled across the line for his first NORBA podium finish.

“I was worried when I was still with the group after lap two, I’ve never been in that position before,” Wicks said. “I heard there was a crash, and when that happens you have to take advantage.”

After the race Wells tried to maintain an optimistic attitude. He said his decision to race the first NORBA was last-minute, aimed primarily at gaining coveted UCI points for his push toward the 2008 Olympics. The NORBA held UCI C2 status, and awarded 30 UCI points to the race’s victor.

“I was supposed to go to Gila with the road team but after Georgia I wanted to have a little break,” Wells said. “I’m happy because today showed me that my fitness is really high. I just hope my arm and wrist are okay because I have the World Cups to focus on now.”

Crashes also marred the women’s event, primarily on the two deep, sandy descents. Luna’s Katerina Nash was one of the first to hit the deck, flying over the handlebars and landing in the silt. She was unhurt and returned to the race.

Her teammate, Vanlandingham, showed her strength over the shorter power climbs, and motored away solo midway through the first lap. It was the only space Vanlandingham needed. While Canadian Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) and Subaru-Gary Fisher teammates Heather Irmiger and Willow Koerber gave chase, they could not catch the Coloradan.

“I think it works to my advantage to go off the front early,” Vanlandingham said. “It’s really easy to get caught up in the carnage behind you and get slowed down. Especially on a course like this that has a lot of single-track.”

Thin field for mountain cross
With the majority of the top domestic gravity talent overseas for the opening round of the 2006 World Cup in Vigo, Spain, a handful of NORBA racers showed up for Saturday’s mountain cross.

Rich Houseman (Yeti), John Kirkcaldie (Maxxis), Jared Rando (Giant) and Garrick Anderson (ODI) battled it out in the men’s finals. Houseman and Anderson locked bars and stacked it midway down the loose, dusty course, and Rando was able to escape for the win. It was the first NORBA victory for the Australian, who said the dry course reminded him of similar conditions near his hometown of Canberra.

Rando is the hands-down favorite for Sunday’s downhill, having won the California state downhill championships last year on the same course.

“I’m used to that sandy, dusty dirty stuff. I like it,” Rando said. “You just try to drift your back wheel the whole time and try not to wash out. It’s a little tricky. Tire choice is important.”

Taking the women’s mountain-cross was Leanna Gerrard (Cannondale-Bear Naked), a former collegiate national champ.

Photo Gallery

Results

NORBA National Mountain Bike Series No. 1

Fontana, CA

Cross/country

Men

1. Geoff Kabush (Can), Maxxis

2. Jeremy Horgan/Kobelski, Subaru/Gary Fisher

3. Barry Wicks, Kona/Les Gets

4. Todd Wells, GT/Hyundai

5. Jeremiah Bishop, Trek/Volkswagen

6. Carl Decker, Giant

7. Adam Craig, Giant

8. Max Plaxton (Can), Rocky Mountain/Business Objects

9. Emanuel Valencia, Turbo

10. Ricky Federau (Can), Team FAST

Women

1. Shonny Vanlandingham, Luna

2. Alison Sydor (Can), Rocky Mountain/Business Objects

3. Jimena Florit (Arg), Luna

4. Heather Irmiger, Subaru/Gary Fisher

5. Willow Koerber, Subaru/Gary Fisher

Super D

Men

1. Adam Craig, Giant

2. Ross Schnell, Trek/Volkswagen

3. Mike West, Maverick

4. Chris Eatough, Trek/Volkswagen

5. Roddi Lega, Norco FACT

Women

1. Jamie Whitmore, Felt

2. Heather Svahn, Reno Wheelmen

3. Abigail Hippely, Maverick

4. Ann Fitzsimmons, Schwalbe

5. Erin Duggan, Velo Bella

Mountain cross

Men

1. Jared Rando (Aus), Giant

2. John Kirkcaldie (NZ), Maxxis

3. Garrick Anderson, ODI

4. Rich Houseman, Yeti

5. Dale Holmes, KHS

Women

1. Leanna Gerrard, Cannondale/Bear Naked

2. Joanna Peterson, Morewood

3. April Lawyer, Puma/Maxxis

4. Wendy Reynolds, Cannondale/Naked

5. Anke Martin, Honda/Iron Horse

Marathon cross/country

Men

1. Troy Misseghers, 3:53:15

2. Chris Eatough, Trek/Volkswagen, 3:56:07

3. Michael Lee, Trek/Volkswagen, 3:58:34

4. Jay Henry, 3/D Racing/Hillenbrand, 4:01:01

5. Evan Plews, Santiam Bikes, 4:03:17

Women

1. Jennifer Smith, Trek/Volkswagen, 4:48:44

2. Melissa Thomas, Tokyo Joes, 4:52:20

3. Josie Beggs, Starbucks, 5:12:29

4. Kate Aardal, X/Fusion, 5:16:00

5. Mandy Eakins, Context, 5:28:01