By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
Three days. Eight pro races. Sixteen series titles on the line. That’s the slate for this weekend’s NORBA National Championship Series finals at Mount Snow Resort in southern Vermont.
Racing opens Friday with the women’s cross country at 11 a.m., followed by the men at 2 p.m. Saturday brings short track in the afternoon and mountain cross in the evening. Then it’s downhill day Sunday with the finals set for 1 p.m.
In every case but one the races for the overall and U.S. national titles have yet to be decided, so with that in mind here’s an event-by-event breakdown for all four disciplines, plus the VeloNews picks for the weekend’s winners. Check back to VeloNews.com Friday, Saturday and Sunday for full reports, results and photos.
Overall: Roland Green leads Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski by a nearly insurmountable 120 points.
U.S. Title: Horgan-Kobelski is 52 points ahead of friend and training partner Travis Brown, meaning as long Horgan-Kobelski finishes in the top six he wins the jersey.
VeloNews Pick: Barring disaster, Green and Horgan-Kobelski‘s leads are too big to overcome. Don’t expect a disaster.
Overall: This is one of the tightest races, with Alison Dunlap holding a scant two-point lead over Jimena Florit. If both finish anywhere in the top nine — a near certainty — then the fastest rider wins the title. The big question is what effect Dunlap’s broken wrist will have. Two-time defending overall champ Mary Grigson is distant third, 62 points back of Dunlap.
U.S. Title: Dunlap has a huge 142-point margin over Shonny Vanlandingham, and unless Dunlap pulls out of the race, this race is over. If Dunlap can’t go, Vanlandingham needs to finish seventh or better to make up the points, something she’s very capable of.
VeloNews Pick: Dunlap’s one of the sport’s biggest gamers, but racing with a cast could be too much to overcome. Look for Florit to grab the overall title, while Dunlap holds on for the U.S. crown.
Overall: Canadian Ryder Hesjedal owns a cushy 98-point lead over countryman Seamus McGrath, with Costa Rican Adrian Bonilla another 52 points back in third.
U.S Title: Though well off the pace in sixth overall, Todd Wells is on top of the American short track standings with a slim 14-point margin over Horgan-Kobelski.
VeloNews Pick: Hesjedal has won three of four STXC’s this year and No. 4 will come at Mount Snow, giving him the overall crown to boot. As for the Americans, Wells has been up and down all year and it’s down time again, allowing Horgan-Kobelski to win his second stars-and-stripes jersey of the weekend.
Overall: It’s Dunlap and Florit again, but this time Dunlap has a more comfortable 56-point lead. Mary McConneloug is was off the pace in third, 202 points behind Dunlap
U.S. Title: It’s over. Even if Dunlap doesn’t race and McConneloug wins, it wouldn’t be enough.
VeloNews Pick: Dunlap will sweep the season titles, though Florit will break through with her first STXC win of the year.
Overall: It’s a dead heat between New Zealand’s John Kirkcaldie and Australian Chris Kovarik, with Mick Hannah 64 points back in third. Last year under similar circumstances Kirkcaldie finished second, while Kovarik blew up a wheel and DNF’d giving Kirkcaldie the overall title.
U.S. Title: Americans won eight of the first 10 downhill overall titles, but these days the Yanks are way off the back. Eric Carter is the top U.S. rider in sixth, with Colin Bailey one spot and 34 points behind him.
VeloNews Pick: When Kovarik doesn’t mess up he’s the fastest guy in the world. This year he’ll make it down clean and win the title. Same goes for the wily veteran Carter, who will do just enough to hold off Bailey, then stuff that sixth-place jersey way in the back of his closet.
Overall: This much is almost guaranteed: a non-American will win the women’s overall downhill title for the first time in NORBA series history. The combatants are France’s Sabrina Jonnier and Great Britain’s Tracey Moseley who enter racing in Vermont separated by just 32 points.
U.S. Title: One spot back of Moseley is 33-year-old Lisa Sher, who’s coming off the best race of her career (second at Durango) and has a 58-point lead over Marla Streb. Young Kathy Pruitt is 100 points back of Sher in fifth.
VeloNews Pick: Jonnier is coming off a sub-par effort in Durango, which will be more than enough motivation to take the title in Vermont. In the battle of Americans, Sher has been ultra consistent, finishing on the podium in four straight NORBA races. Look for her to make it five in a row and add the U.S. title for good measure.
Overall: American Brian Lopes crashed hard in practice at Durango, but still leads Aussie Wade Bootes by 40 points.
U.S. Title: Lopes is way out front, 120 points ahead of Carter, who won the last race but struggled early in the year.
VeloNews Pick: Lopes is banged up and Bootes outdid him at the X-Games downhill BMX, but the American will turn things around in Vermont to take both the overall and U.S. titles.
Overall: Two weeks ago this was Tara Llanes’s title to lose. But the American suffered a season ending crash during mountain cross practice in Durango, opening the door for Jonnier and Katrina Miller, who are now tied atop the standings.
U.S. Title: Llanes is still the leader, but if Melissa Buhl makes it into the semifinals she’ll pick up enough points to overcome her 60-point deficit. Jill Kintner is also is the hunt 80 points back of Llanes.
VeloNews Pick: The battle between Miller and Jonnier should be a good one, but this one will go to Miller giving her the first ever NORBA mountain cross title. As for the U.S. crown, making the semifinals is too easy in the watered-down women’s field, meaning Buhl will move past the hard-luck Llanes.