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Mountain

Big Bear: Alive and kicking

Minus a full OLN TV crew, some sponsor banners and prize money for the pros, the opening race of the NORBA national championship series doesn’t look much different from years past. On Friday in Big Bear Lake, California, 24 hours before pro racing commences, the pits seemed as vibrant as ever, with all the expo space filled up and plenty of riders and spectators milling about in anticipation of the coming weekend’s action. “It’s a NORBA national,” said a matter-of-fact Eric Moore of USA Cycling. “We all know there’s some things missing, but it still has the vibe. It’s been a huge team

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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor

Minus a full OLN TV crew, some sponsor banners and prize money for the pros, the opening race of the NORBA national championship series doesn’t look much different from years past. On Friday in Big Bear Lake, California, 24 hours before pro racing commences, the pits seemed as vibrant as ever, with all the expo space filled up and plenty of riders and spectators milling about in anticipation of the coming weekend’s action.

“It’s a NORBA national,” said a matter-of-fact Eric Moore of USA Cycling. “We all know there’s some things missing, but it still has the vibe. It’s been a huge team effort, but I think we’ve pulled it off.”

Pro racing is set to go Saturday at noon, with the men’s cross country. The pro women will follow about 10 minutes later. If all goes according to plan the women, slated to do two laps of the 12-mile course, will finish just ahead of the men, who will start with a 6-mile parade lap, then do two 12-mile laps of their own. The course itself is classic Big Bear, with lots of fire-road climbing, plus several tricky descents that shoot riders down some steep, loose, rocky sections. Expect flat tires to play a role in both race’s outcomes.

The change in cross-country scheduling (last year the races were run separately on Friday) was done for two reasons: to bring the pro racing back to the weekend, and, by running them concurrently, it freed up three hours for amateur racing.

Mountain cross racing is also on the Saturday slate, with the finals scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Qualifying was held Friday and it was Brian Lopes and BMX-convert Jill Kinter putting down the top times. Mick Hannah, Eric Carter, Mike King and Gary Houseman rounded out the men’s top five. Tara Llanes, Tai-Lee Muxlo, Katrina Miller and Melissa Buhl were the other top women’s qualifiers.

Check back to VeloNews.com Saturday afternoon for live updates from the cross-country races, than again later in the day for full reports, photos and results from all the pro action.

RACE NOTES
— Maxxis rider April Lawyer had her weekend ended early when she suffered a broken collarbone during downhill training Friday. It was a tough blow for the Southern Californian, who is all but a hometown rider here in Big Bear Lake. Also suffering a race-ending injury was Jamie Lilly, who likely would have been a factor in the mountain cross.

— Look for around 12 minutes of Big Bear television coverage on Outdoor Life Network next Thursday on Summer SportsZone. Production of what will be three separate packages (gravity, cross country and a feature) is being handled by Studio City, California-based Echo Entertainment. Producer Paul Smith has a six-person crew that will be manning three cameras. Former downhill world champion Greg Herbold will be handling commentary and providing some POV shots from aboard a motorcycle.

— The eighth-place qualifier on the women’s side was Canadian Michelle Dumaresq, who gained national attention last year because she is transgendered. Among the riders she beat were two-time world’s silver medallist Fionn Griffiths, and last year’s national downhill champion Lisa Sher.

— Missy Giove was spotted in the pits sporting her new-for-2003 team kit. Giove will be aboard a Foes when racing gets going.

— As usual a strong international contingent has descended on Big Bear. Among the notables is 2002 downhill World Cup overall champ Steve Peat, fellow Brit Tracey Moseley and her French Kona teammate Fabien Barel. The big name absent is last year’s overall NORBA downhill champion Sabrina Jonnier, who is still recovering from an early-season injury.

— Nothing official has been worked out, but some of the trade teams have been tossing around the idea of putting up prize money so that the races can regain their E1 status. There was even word that Roland Green has said he’d donate all his winnings to the greater cause if it would help the situation.

PICK TIME
Season openers are always a bit of a crapshoot, but here are the VN picks for this weekend’s winners.
CROSS COUNTRY: Roland Green, Alison Dunlap
SHORT TRACK:Seamus McGrath, Alison Dunlap
DOWNHILL: John Waddell, Tracey Moseley
MOUNTAIN CROSS: Eric Carter, Katrina Miller