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Specialized Factory Racing teammates Todd Wells and Lene Byberg powered through gusty winds Saturday to win their respective races at the first Pro Cross Country Tour race of the season in Fontana, California.
The women’s four-lap race kicked off at noon buffeted by 30 to 40mph wind gusts. Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Gary Fisher) pushed the field initially but was reeled in after several steep climbs. Byberg, from Norway, then took control eventually crossing the line at 1:38:58, 1 minute 16 seconds ahead of Pua Sawicki (Okole Stuff). Willow Koerber (Subaru-Gary Fisher) nipped Kelli Emmett (Giant) for third place at 1:41:37.
Byberg’s win ended Georgia Gould’s (Luna) three-year run at Fontana. Gould finished in seventh 3 minutes 34 secondes back.
The men saw somewhat of a let-up in the wind by the start of their five-lap race at 2:30 p.m. Wells led much of the race, with Canadian Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis) and ShoAir-Specialized teammates Max Plaxton and Sid Taberlay in hot pursuit. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski was in the mix but eventually finished out of the top ten.
The men’s field finished in a bunch sprint, with Wells crossing the line at 1:46:15.43, just .50 of a second ahead of Kabush. Coming in third and fourth just a few seconds behind were Canada’s Plaxton and Taberlay, the Australian short-track national champ.
As with Byberg’s victory, Wells’ win ended Kabush’s four-year streak at Fontana.
Racing will continue Sunday with the men’s and women’s short-track. Check out Singletrack.com for more coverage out of Fontana, which was the��first of the 2010 Pro XCT’s five UCI-inscripted events.
The UCI points will not only determine start positions for the World Cup finale in New York the last weekend in August, but also for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec the following weekend.
In addition to providing races that offer UCI points, the USA Cycling Pro XCT will name overall individual and team champions at the end of the series. American riders will be looking for strong rides at the Pro XCT races as the top U.S. male and female riders in the standings at the end of the series will earn a spot on the U.S. National Team for the world championships (provided they are in the top-three).