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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
After two very tough weeks, Roland Green’s string of bad luck came to an end Friday at NORBA National No. 4 at Mammoth Mountain in California. The Canadian Trek-Volkswagen rider took the front during the third of five laps, then pulled away from his pursuers to win the 29.3-mile race in 2:18:05. Countryman Ryder Hesjedal (Subaru-Gary Fisher) was next across the line, 1:16 back of Green. New Zealand’s Kashi Leuchs (Volvo-Cannondale) was third, another :36 back.
As Green crossed the finish line he pumped his fist emphatically, then told a gathering of reporters, “The curse is over!”
Green’s win followed a pair of World Cup races — Grouse Mountain and Durango — where the 26-year-old looked to be on his way to victory only to be knocked from contention with flat tires. This week he admitted to changing things up a little.
“I went with some beefier tubes and that gave me some confidence,” said Green, who now holds the overall lead in both the World Cup and NORBA series.
The battle for fourth place was one of the best of the day. Entering the final lap Haro-Lee Dungarees rider Seamus McGrath was off the podium in sixth place. But McGrath went by Todd Wells during the last descent of the “No Fear” section — a steep 100-yard pitch of double track with loose, silty soil — then reeled in Bart Brentjens (Giant) on the race’s final downhill.
“I sprinted with Bart and got by him,” McGrath said. “I felt really good on that last lap.”
Brentjens held on for sixth, while Wells ended up sixth. That result kept the surprising Wells in the hunt for a national title. After four races he sits second among Americans in the NORBA overall, 42 points behind Kirk Molday, who finished ninth at Mammoth.
Not around for the finish were the likes of Pavel Cherkasov and Steve Larsen. Cherkasov blamed “flat legs” while Larsen got a flat tire, then had his quick-fill cartridge malfunction. Greg Randolph, Paul Rowney, Bart Bowen and Roel Paulissen were also among the 26 riders that did not finish. That large number could in part be attributed the altitude of the course, which was never less than 8300 feet, and reached as high as 9000 feet.
Early in the race it was Hesjedal making his usual move to the front. The lanky Canadian charged off the start line and led the 89-rider field into the first climb. At the end of the first lap Hesjedal had a small gap on Green and Leuchs, with Brentjens just off the pace.
Next to the front was Leuchs, who made a gutsy pass on the first descent of “No Fear.” By the end of the second lap Leuchs had extended his gap to 21 seconds over Hesjedal and Brentjens, with Green another two seconds back.
But Green broke out another gear on the third lap, and went by Brentjens and Hesjedal just minutes in. By the end of that third lap Green had overtaken Leuchs as well, and had a 14-second advantage coming through the start-finish line. From there his gap steadily grew all the way to the finish.
CHEVY TRUCKS NORBA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES, Mammoth Mountain, CA. July 20-22.; Cross country; Men; 1. Roland Green (Can), Trek-Volkswagen, 29.3 miles in 2:18:05; 2. Ryder Hesjedal (Can), Subaru-Gary Fisher, at 1:16; 3. Kashi Leuchs (NZ), Volvo-Cannondale, at 1:52; 4. Seamus McGrath (Can), Haro-Lee Dungarees, at 2:02; 5. Bart Brentjens (Nl), Giant, at 2:16; 6. Todd Wells, Hildenbrand, at 3:20; 7. Ziranda Madrigal (Mex), Turbo, at 3:45; 8. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, RLX Polo Sport, at 4:10; 9. Kirk Molday, SunRace-Santa Cruz, at 5:43; 10. Liam Killeen (GB), Great Britain, at 5:44; Others; 11. Geoff Kabush (Can), Kona-Ford Focus, at 6:22; 12. Walker Ferguson, Subaru-Gary Fisher, at 7:10; 13. Jimi Killen, Schwinn, at 7:29; 14. Travis Brown, Trek-Volkswagen, at 8:12; NORBA NCS OVERALL STANDINGS; (through 4 of 5 events); (lowest score has been dropped); 1. Green, 586 points; 2. Hesjedal, 560; 3. McGrath, 478; 4. Cherkasov, 470; 5. Molday, 464; 6. Rowney, 442; 7. Wells, 422; 8. Madrigal, 414; 9. Fleming, 398; 10. Horgan-Kobelski, 394