By Matt Pacocha
It wasn’t a real Fat Boy criterium, but it sure felt like one. Call it what you like, but Georgia Gould (Luna) and Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) took convincing wins at the first NMBS short track in Fountain Hills, Arizona.
The races were run in an unusual format; both the men and women started after dark. The women sprung from the line just before 8 p.m. and the men had to wait until half past eight for their start. However inconvenient the late hour, riders and spectators seemed to relish it was truly an exciting race.
The surprisingly challenging course ran through an abandoned downtown lot and adjacent side street, which provided a long paved start/finish straight. Off the pavement the terrain was strewn with cinder blocks, a series of two-foot berms that served as jumps or rollers and a half dozen corners, all of which were covered with a precarious surface of loose gravel over a hard sun-baked base. Since the race was run well into the evening, race promoters rented a dozen high-powered construction lights for illumination.
Gould is Gold in the Women’s race
In the women’s race, veteran Canadian Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain) took the hole shot off the paved start/finish drag and remained the early animator for the first few laps. It wasn’t until the third go-round that Gould stuck her nose into the wind at the front of a hard-charging field. With a strong pull, she drew her teammate Katerina Nash (Luna), Sydor, and Kathy Sherwin (Titus) into a lead group. The four rotated for a couple of laps before Gould really went on the offensive. Midway through the race the Luna rider blazed down the start/finish straight with an effort that only Sydor could match.
“I had a good start and it was down to just four pretty quickly,” said Sydor. “Georgia was leading quite a few laps and she was just on a different level. I was on her wheel but it wasn’t easy, so I knew it was only a matter of time. She was riding the road well, but also the rest of the course well too, so the strongest rider won.”
Gould stayed at the front for an entire lap before she broke free. Once Sydor fell off the pace Nash quickly joined her from behind, and sat on her wheel to monitor any threat to the woman leading the field.
“Georgia proved she was super strong today,” said Nash. “She pretty much went for it every time we hit this section [the start/finish straight] and Alison [Sydor] kind of messed up around a corner and got a gap, so my role was to sit on Alison’s wheel.”
Ahead, Gould spent the rest of the race off the front, alone, with a quick cadence that seemed to never fade. She crossed the line with a 20 second gap over Sydor and Nash who sprinted to the line. Sydor took second from Nash in a photo finish. Sherwin and Willow Koerber (Subaru-Gary Fisher) rounded out the top five.
“I was trying to really drill it up the pavement and it just kind of stretched out every lap,” said Gould. “I was feeling pretty comfortable the whole first part of the race so that’s why I started surging.”
Despite the late night start, Gould had good things to say about the dynamic downtown race format.
“I think it’s really cool,” she said. “I didn’t really know what to think, but when you see all of these people out here, even though it might be a little inconvenient for us, I think it’s worth it because it gets more people out and excited [about the race].”
When to hold ‘em
Geoff Kabush held his cards close until the end of the game. While he was at the front from the beginning, he took the hole-shot, he was careful not to show too much strength. He seemed content hovering between third and fifth for the majority of the first half of the race.
Adam Craig (Giant Bicycle), on the other hand, spent the majority of the race, once it shook out, on the attack and off the front. At one point Craig’s gap came close to 15 seconds and he looked ready to add to it.
“Ryan [Trebon (Kona)] balled it up going for a prime, so I figured — if you’re feeling good — being by yourself would be the way to go since everybody just looks at each other in the straight and rides like dorks in the corners,” said Craig. “But I was pretty much riding like a dork in the corners too. I didn’t feel super spry, but I felt good enough on the straightaway. I’m happy; we’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”
10 laps into the race, Todd Wells (GT-Hyundai) took up chase and showed his cards for the first time, he was holding a good hand. With the gap coming down, Kabush gave Wells some help, but at that point he was still careful not to make too large of an effort. Three laps later, Wells attacked won a prime. Kabush used the increased pace as a springboard. Wells was the only one who looked comfortable at Kabush’s pace.
“I saw four [laps] to go and after Todd went for the prime I knew guys were going to be a little bit on the rivet, so I kept the pace high to keep things strung out,” said Kabush. “I knew it was going to be the first guy into the top corner and Todd and I went in together. I made him take it pretty tight and I was able to go wide and keep my momentum up a bit more to just squeeze by him. Just in the last few tight corners I was able to slow it down a little bit and accelerate out of one corner to get just a little gap. I was able to keep it down the [finishing] stretch, so it was all good.”
The battle for the first corner off the paved straight on the final lap was a hard one, at first it looked as though Wells had it, but then Kabush moved in, forcing a tight turn and gaining the advantage. By then, Wells was simply unable to come around.
“I passed Kabush going into the last corner, he passed me back then he brake checked me going around that U-turn and I kind of hit his wheel,” said Wells. “I didn’t go down or anything, but it was just enough to loose momentum and I couldn’t get back on before the pavement.”
Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and his young teammate Sam Schultz took third and fourth, while Ross Schnell (Trek-Volkswagen) rounded out the podium, he made the presentation this time too.
Short TrackPro Men
1) Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis), 22:58.0
2) Todd Wells (GT-Hyundai), 22:59.5
3) Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher), 23:00.8
4) Sam Schultz (Subaru-Gary Fisher), 23:01.2
5) Ross Schnell (Trek-Volkswagen), 23:01.8Pro Women
1) Georgia Gould (Luna Women’s), 21:22.5
2) Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain), 21:43.4
3) Katerina Nash (Luna Women’s), 21:43.7
4) Kathy Sherwin (Titus), 21:54.2
5) Willow Koerber (Subaru-Gary Fisher), 22:01.7
NOVA Super D
Earlier in the day, Carl Decker (Giant Bicycle) posted the winning time in Saturday afternoon’s Super D event. It was Decker’s first race of the season. The event was run in a time-trial format with a 30 second buffer between racers. Temperatures hovered around the mid 80s and the sun shone at full force making for a perfect day of racing, especially for those escaping winter weather in various other parts of the country.
Besides the race format, the course itself was somewhat vertically challenged and could have very well been labeled a time-trial instead of a Super D. Nonetheless most racers had their grins from the twisty top of the course turned to grimaces by the final climb to the finish.
Travis Brown (Trek-FRS) took second in the race after missing his start time because of some technical difficulties. His second place in the Super D builds on his seventh place finish in Friday’s time-trial.
“I’m just lucky that they let me start, because I missed my start time,” said Brown, who was forced to fix a last minute issue with his brake levers.
Decker was pleased, and somewhat surprised, by the win, since he had not raced Friday’s time-trial.
“I gave myself one more day to get in shape,” said Decker. “I haven’t been riding my bike too much. I started racing cars this winter and that’s been taking up a lot of time. It was really hard. The top part was really twisty and fun, but it was a cruel reality when you got to the bottom and had to ride those stepping-stone rollers to the top. My highest heart rate of the year was yesterday at 155; today was way higher than that and it felt really, really bad.”
Decker explained that he has had a life long dream to race cars, and just recently, he was able to participate in amateur staged rally event.
“This is my nine to five,” he said. “Five years ago I was driving around town delivering pizzas to be able to race bikes, now I’m racing bikes to be able drive [race] cars.”
Super DPro Men
1) Carl Decker (Giant Bicycle) 16:33.7
2) Travis Brown (Trek-FRS), 16:45.9
3) Aren Timmel, 16:54.8
4) Bryan Fawley, 16:55.4
5) Dana Weber, 17:22.3Pro Women
1) Tomarra Muhfeld (Trek-Volkswagen Regional), 18:58.2
2) Chrissy Bono (Intense Cycles), 19:12.6
3) Jennifer Gersbach (BMC-Sports Garage), 19:14.8
4) Heather Svahn (Ritchey), 19:44.5
5) Shannon Holden (Velo Bella), 19:49.1