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A brutally long and steep climb didn’t faze the two Canadians who won the second round of the Pro Cross-Country Tour on Saturday in Fontana, California.
Organizers of the US Cup event altered the course this year, which took out a hike-a-bike section but made the climb longer. That, however, didn’t slow down the winners of the men’s and women’s events — Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team) and Max Plaxton (Specialized Factory Racing).
But for Pendrel the big ascent, who gapped second-place teammate Georgia Gould by 1 min 15 sec, hardly slowed her down. Making the 2010 overall World Cup XC champion’s performance even more impressive was it was her first race outing of the season.
For Gould, her second place followed a win at the first Pro XCT of the season two weeks ago at nearby Bonelli Park. Lea Davison (Specialized Factory Racing) finished in third place 2:41 behind Pendrel.
After a disappointing outing due to a stomach ailment at the first Pro XCT race two weeks earlier, Subaru-Trek’s Heather Irmiger said she was happy with her sixth-place at Fontana.
“Today I felt like I was really racing; like I was pushing myself,” she said. “It was a nice test.”
For Plaxton, the win marked the first time he’s topped the field at Fontana. As far as the monster climb, Plaxton said it was a non-issue.
“I’m fit right now and I’ve got super form,” Plaxton said after the race. “When you’re on you’re on.”
For most of the first five laps of the men’s contest a lead group of Plaxton, Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale Factory Racing), Todd Wells (Specialized Factory Racing) and Subaru-Trek teammates Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Sam Schultz were within 30 seconds of whoever was leading.
But by the fourth lap, Plaxton began building a buffer of at least one minute on Bishop, who then had another 30 seconds on the chase group. For Bishop, taking second place was just another positive after winning two weeks ago at Pro XCT #1 at Bonelli.
“I’ve trained my ass of this winter,” Bishop said. “I think I’ve had my best pre-season as far as health and 32-hour-plus weeks.”
Ben Bostrom (Sho-Air Specialized) traded in the horsepower of his Suzuki SuperBike for his own human power at Fontana on Saturday. Bostrom, who placed third at last year’s Singlespeed World Championships in New Zealand, finished 27th in the elite field on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Ned Overend is not just an elite racer, he’s a legend. The 56-year-old Specialized roving racer/product developer placed 40th, smack dab in the middle of the field, of which many of the riders are half the age of “The Lung.”