By Fred Dreier
USA Cycling’s Professional Cross-country Tour (ProXCT) resumes this Friday in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the Carmichael Training Systems Sand Creek International. The Friday-Saturday event includes short track and cross-country competition between the continent’s top off-road racers, as well as age-group cross-country races in the amateur ranks.
The event is the fourth round of the Pro XCT and the sixth round of the Kenda Cup West, the west coast wing of the Sho Air-Specialized U.S. Cup of mountain bike racing.
The cross-country race take place at the Cheyenne Mountain state park, a hilly swath of land located just south of downtown Colorado Springs. The park sits north of the Fort Carson army base, at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain, which houses the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
The race marks a return to top-level event promotion for Andy Bohlmann, who served as USA Cycling’s technical director from 1984 through 1990. In 1993 Bohlman launched Sand Creek, a regional cross-country series in Colorado Springs. The races ran until 2002, when health problems and family issues forced the director to back off.
“We did 62 races in 10 years. It was a lot of fun,” Bohlmann told VeloNews. “We took a break and came back last year with three events. We’re already planning to do huge things next year.”
Bohlmann returned to race promotion in 2008 with three events based out of the nearby Bear Creek park facility. Bohlmann said he’s queried the Colorado state parks system about holding an event at the Cheyenne Mountain site, and in the summer of 2008 the parks agreed. Cheyenne Mountain state park hosted its first cross-country race last October.
The park features a rolling, eight-mile circuit of hardpack soil through scrub brush and trees. Much of the trail features off-camber slopes covered in slippery pea gravel. This weekend’s race will be held on a shorter 4.9-mile loop, which Bohlmann says includes 1000 feet of climbing per lap. Pro women will tackle four laps while the pro men will race five.
Bohlmann partnered with the Colorado Springs-based Carmichael Training Systems at the end of 2008 to help sponsor his 2009 series. This weekend’s race is the marquee event of the series, and coincides with the opening of the new CTS Endurance Sports Club training facility in downtown Colorado Springs.
Online registration closed on Wednesday, with 315 riders signing up to race. The pro men’s category had 68 pre-registered riders, with 30 pro women signing up early. Race day registration will likely put the total number at nearly 500.
The highlight of the weekend is the pro cross-country races, as the who’s who of elite off-road racers will make the trip to Colorado Springs. Current ProXCT leader Max Plaxton (Sho Air-Specialized) will look to defend his series lead against Coloradan Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher), who is currently tied for second place with Plaxton’s Sho Air teammate Sid Taberlay. Todd Wells (Specialized), Adam Craig (Giant) and Ryan Trebon (Kona) will also look to leave their mark on the course, as will Canadian national champion Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain-Maxxis).
A shakeup in the balance of power could be seen in the women’s pro event, as traditional Luna strongwomen Catherine Pendrel, Katerina Nash and series leader Georgia Gould go up against newcomer Katie Compton (Spike Shooter). Luna has all-but dominated domestic cross-country racing since 2005. But Compton, the five-time cyclocross national champion, recently took down Gould at the June 6 Teva Mountain Games. Compton also looked poised to challenge the Luna riders at the third round of the ProXCT, held May 31 in Birmingham, Alabama, but a freak asthma attack knocked the Spike rider out of contention.
Also looking to factor into that race is hometown rider Kelli Emmett (Giant) and fellow Coloradan Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Gary Fisher).
Friday’s racing kicks off at 4:30 p.m. with the women’s TrailWatch.net short track held at Bear Creek Regional Park in Colorado Springs. The men start at 5:15 p.m.