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A Fred’s Eye View: Short-track tuneup; Fontucky dreamin’; hard-luck Schmatz; great Scott-mobile; and a Miller’s-eye view

There’s a lot of sniffling, sneezing, coughing and wheezing going on at VeloNews world headquarters lately. I suspect the first two ailments (sniffling and sneezing, that is) are due to the onset of Colorado’s allergy season two weeks ago. Our first bout with prolonged sunshine and balmy temperatures sent every flower, blade of grass and tree (not to mention college kid) into hormone hyper-drive, and the air is now a sea of pollen. One local news station suggests minimizing outdoor exposure on warm days and avoiding inhaling truck and car exhaust. Good thing you never encounter either of

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By Fred Dreier

Paco chasing down national U-23 rider Colin Cares

Paco chasing down national U-23 rider Colin Cares

Photo: Fred Dreier

There’s a lot of sniffling, sneezing, coughing and wheezing going on at VeloNews world headquarters lately. I suspect the first two ailments (sniffling and sneezing, that is) are due to the onset of Colorado’s allergy season two weeks ago. Our first bout with prolonged sunshine and balmy temperatures sent every flower, blade of grass and tree (not to mention college kid) into hormone hyper-drive, and the air is now a sea of pollen. One local news station suggests minimizing outdoor exposure on warm days and avoiding inhaling truck and car exhaust. Good thing you never encounter either of those situations on a bike ride. Ugh. Pass the Claritin, please.

The coughs and wheezes, meanwhile, are the result of another regular seasonal occurrence — springtime short-track practice. This week VeloNews tech writer Matt “Paco” Pacocha and I ventured out for the first round of Wednesday-morning practice races, organized by local Trek-Volkswagen hammer Nick Martin. Paco hung in there pretty good and mixed it up with the big boys. I fluttered around in the rear and tried not to crash, skid out or let too many girls pass me. Both of us returned with sore legs, not to mention the hypoxic lung-juice-induced hack.

But the leg-burning efforts are necessary this time of year. The first NORBA National Mountain Bike Series race in Fontana, California, is just two weeks away. And judging by the cross-country course preview I got from race organizer Tom Spiegel, those efforts are going to pay off.

“It’s a 7.5-mile lap, and tell you what, it’s a really tough course,” he said. “There’s a lot of pretty technical single-track and a tough descent. The course has about 1400 feet of climbing each lap. If we don’t get any rain it’s going to be really dusty. It’s the typical Southern California sagebrush country — really, really dry.”

The NORBA event features the full spectrum of NMBS events — cross-country, short track, marathon, downhill, mountain cross and super D. Unfortunately, the race shares a date with the World Cup gravity opener in Vigo, Spain, so you can bet that Jill Kintner (GT), Brian Lopes (GT), Duncan Riffle (Honda-Turner) and the other domestic heavy hitters will be overseas fighting it out with Steve Peat, Cedric Gracia and the other Euro World Cup regulars.

Who shows up on top form is the story for the cross-country events. Just two weeks ago at the Sea Otter Classic, the powerhouses of the NMBS XC scene were definitely ailing. Last year’s NMBS cross-country winner Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) was still fighting an inner-ear infection that kicked him down a notch at the March Commonwealth Games in Australia. Shonny Vanlandingham, the 2005 women’s cross-country winner, was a no-show because of illness. U.S. champ Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski was also knocked down a peg or two with a head and chest cold.

They’re going to need strong lungs to do battle in the 909. Anyone who has ever spent a few hours in San Bernadino, Riverside or Redlands knows of the heinous brown cloud of Los Angeles smog that rolls up on the Inland Empire every afternoon. I think proper acclimation training for Fontana could include smoking a pack of Marlboros each morning.

I’ve heard athletes and SoCal natives use the term “Fontucky” to describe Fontana, and my response was always something like, ha, what a funny way to say the town is kinda ghetto. As it turns out, that pretty much hits the nail on the head. Fontana has dust. It has tumbleweeds. It has semis bound for Arizona. And now it has a NORBA! Well, as it turns out, a few of our good friends in Fontucky are damn proud of their town, which even supports a clothing company sporting the moniker. Here’s the welcome from that company:

Welcome to FONTUCKY!
It never fails, you tell anyone you are from Fontana, California and all you have to do is count to five, four, three, two, one, and the word FONTUCKY is thrown in faster than a tumbleweed on windy Fontana day.

Most folks seem embarrassed being referred to as a Fontuckian, I thought it downright hilarious. As a result, the birth of FONTUCKY clothing and designs of the 909. That’s right, I live in FONTUCKY, home of the California Speedway, the Interstate 10 freeway, and semi-trucks. Lots of trucks. I live in a place where people work hard, play hard and damn it, love a good mariachi. Established in 1913, BFE, CA.

Thank you for checking us out and be sure to come back frequently. I am having a blast representing this city with innovative, quality clothing that is sure to be an eye-catcher wherever you go. There are dozens of FONTUCKY designs in the making so my website will be updated continuously. I am looking forward to your input, your support and your business!

Tell you what — FONTUCKY is in the house.

To order some sweet Fontucky merchandise, email Yolanda Urso.

Schmatz on the mend after mishap
The current re-affirmation that helmets save lives comes from Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada’s sprinter Dan Schmatz. Schmatz recently suffered through a bummer of a Tour de Georgia — he caught the flu before the race started and was upchucking through much of the initial stages. After finishing DFL in the Stage-3 time trial, Schmatz withdrew after Stage 4 to tend to his illness, only to be struck by a car on a training ride the next day.

He’s lucky — he made it through with a broken collarbone and lots of scrapes and bruises. And luckily, the brain bucket did its job. If you’ve got a moment, email Schmatz some get-well-soon vibes.

The bad, black Scott USA Sportsmobile

The bad, black Scott USA Sportsmobile

Photo: Fred Dreier

The bad, black Scott USA Sportsmobile
Scott USA’s Adrian Montgomery was recently in town, mobbing around Boulder in the team’s new bad, black Sportsmobile. The custom van has everything a self-respecting bike-safari dork needs — racks, bed, bumpin’ sound system, plenty of room in the back for a motorcycle and even a kitchen sink.

Montgomery’s ride will do full duty on the NORBA schedule this year. Unlike the hulking team trailers of the bigger mountain-bike programs, which dish out top dollar to park their rigs in the NORBA pit zones, Montgomery and his van will set up shop like everyone else in the free parking.

In my mind, that’s a good way for a smaller team like Scott to provide mechanical support for the riders, still have a presence at the races and save some cash. If you happen to park next to the Scott-mobile at a race this year, ask Montgomery to blast some bass.

Ready for your closeup?
Scott Miller has spent the past 30 years working as a fine-art photographer, and the Seattle shooter has several pieces gracing museum walls.

Lopes, in living color

Lopes, in living color

Photo: Scott Miller

But for the last two weeks, Miller has focused his lens on professional mountain bikers.

His fat-tire work began with a photo essay of his Seattle neighbor Jill Kintner, the reigning four-cross world champ. Then, in early April, Miller traveled to California to check out his first Sea Otter Classic.

“Hans Rey summed it up to me as a meeting of different subcultures within a subculture,” Miller said.

Miller snapped a handful of portraits and action shots with his 35mm and 2.25-inch cameras.

“I just tried to keep it simple,” Miller said. “I show the imagery through the person I photograph. They have an interest as well, and it usually comes out on film.”

Here are a few that made the cut.

Photo Gallery