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By Matt Pacocha
The NOVA National opened Friday with Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Georgia Gould (Luna) winning their respective time trials at McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona.
Horgan-Kobelski covered the 7-mile course in 19 minutes and 44 seconds, while Gould finished in 22:47.
The time trial used some of the park’s roughest trails — undulating with sharp corners, drops and dips. And the vegetation lining the course was even rougher, as Horgan-Kobelski learned after cutting one of the final corners a little too close.
“I came in a little hot to one of the corners,” he said. “I was over my limit for a little bit, right at the very end, and blew out one corner, then blazed right through a cactus. I was pretty lucky — I haven’t hit very many in all the years I’ve been here.”
Adam Craig (Giant Bicycle) was second, within 10 seconds of JHK, with Ross Schnell (Trek-Volkswagen) third a further 20 seconds in arrears. Young guns Sam Schultz (Subaru-Gary Fisher), the reigning under-23 national champion, and Sam Jurekovic (U-23 National Team) rounded out the top five — the first time either rider had podiumed in a national senior-level professional race.
Craig looked strong and is hoping to coax even more from his legs as the weekend progresses.
“I’ve been exercising and stuff, doing some actual training-type efforts, so it seems pretty good,” said Craig of his off-season training. “I’m feeling a little flat right now due to the hotness and travel from Puerto Rico, but I should come around for the end of the weekend.”
Women’s winner Gould, meanwhile, was racing with her head as well as her legs.
“I just tried to hold the pace that I know that I can hold for a 20-minute effort,” said Gould as she applauded the semi-pro men’s podium presentation. “You can go harder, but you can only go so fast. You don’t want to blow a corner, so sometimes I would be coasting along thinking, ‘I need to be pedaling,’ but you can’t because it’s so twisty.”
Gould’s Luna teammate Katerina Nash took second with under-23 rider Jenna Zander (Bear Naked-Cannondale) third. As with the pair of Sams in the men’s race, this was Zander’s first time on the podium in a senior-level pro race. Kelli Emmett (Giant Bicycle) took fourth with Trek regional rider Jennifer Smith rounding out the podium in fifth.
The time trial marked Emmett’s domestic debut as the newest member of the Giant Bicycle squad. After bouncing around on smaller programs for the past few years, she was clearly excited about her new job.
“It just ended up working out,” said Emmett. “It’s a great fit. Everybody on the team is so much fun. It’s just great to have the support.”
Horgan-Kobelski won Friday’s time trial on his brand-new Gary Fisher 29er. “I think I’m going to run it in the cross-country too,” he said. The bike was equipped with a single 39-tooth front chainring and carbon guide.
Schnell and Craig missed the podium presentation because they were out riding McDowell’s trails. While Craig is a mainstay on the national-series podium, Schnell’s appearance would have been just his third. “We went for a ride to try to get in shape for tomorrow and we definitely missed it,” said Schnell, who this winter was promoted from Trek’s regional program to the factory squad; he joked that his absence would probably get him fired.
Opting out of the opener were Todd Wells (GT); Geoff Kabush and Mathieu Toulouse (Maxxis); Mike Broderick and Mary McConneloug (Kenda-Seven); Willow Korber (Subaru-Gary Fisher); and a few others. While all are expected to contest Sunday’s cross-country, it will be interesting to see who decides to race Saturday night’s short-track in downtown Fountain Hills. It has been confirmed that the course will contain some dirt and not encourage the use of slicks, so don’t expect a Fat Boy crit revival this year.
1. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher), 19:44.1
2. Adam Craig (Giant Bicycle), 19:53.7
3. Ross Schnell (Trek-Volkswagen), 20:12.5
4. Sam Schultz (Subaru-Gary Fisher), 20:26.3
5. Sam Jurekovic (U23 National Team), 20:29.9
1. Georgia Gould (Luna), 22:47.5
2. Katerina Nash (Luna), 23:07.7
3. Jenna Zander (Bear Naked-Cannondale), 23:36.7
4. Kelli Emmett (Giant Bicycle), 23:39.3
5. Jennifer Smith (Trek-Volkswagen), 23:40.4