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By Neal Rogers
Wow, is it really October already? I guess it must be, from today’s activity in my checking account. Judging from the automatic deposit of my twice-a-month paycheck, and my impending automatic mortgage payment, it must be the beginning of the month again. Between debit and credit cards and online payments, it’s amazing how you never actually even see your money these days. Then again, the way I tend to blow through cash when it’s in hand, I suppose that’s a good thing.
Speaking of which, I’ve got a case of sticker shock from the VeloNews bar tab following the last night at Mammoth Mountain Resort after the completion of the NORBA National Championships.
For just about everyone there, save the rogue cyclo-cross racers, the season had just finished, and, well, let’s just say mountain bikers know how to party hard. While I’ll never look at a seatpost the same way again, I can hardly wait for next year’s championships.
The NORBA pros also know how to race hard, as one road pro found out over the weekend. Racing in the cross-country and short-track events was Health Net-Maxxis road captain Mike Sayers, competing off-road for the first time at the elite level.
Sayers, who wore the Maxxis cross-country team kit, placed 38th out of 51 riders in the cross-country race, and finished 35th out of 40 riders in the short track after a substantial pre-race warm-up spill left his right elbow and knee shredded. Afterwards, Sayers acknowledged the difficulty of cross-country racing: “I’ve always had a lot of respect for those guys, but until you do it you don’t realize just how strong they are. For two hours, they’re really, really strong.”
[Todd Wells would later parry with: “Those road guys coast around all day and then go hard for the last 20 minutes.”]
Sayers added that he would be coming back to race off-road next year, saying, “It was fun, and the mountain bike community is awesome. The people at Maxxis treated me better than I probably deserved.”
Over the weekend I took a non-scientific poll of riders to find out their opinions of the new, one-day, winner-take-all format. Check out their responses, along with a few other quotes I took from a few of the riders:
Question: What do you think of the new one-day national championships format?
Alison Dunlap, Luna
Winner, national cross–country and national short-track cross-country championships
“I like the one-day. It’s more exciting. This is like the world championships. No other country does their national championships based on a series. I’ve always complained about that, for years, and I think it’s great we’re finally doing it like the rest of the world.
Dunlap, on her weekend sweep of the XC and STXC races: “It’s been good for me. I really struggled in the middle of the summer, and I came back at Schweitzer and really suffered. Every race has gotten better and better. World’s was great, and I’ve had good training, my legs have really come back. It’s hard to believe after the whole summer, and how crazy it was.”
Gretchen Reeves, Rocky Mountain-Business Objects
Winner, national 100km cross-country marathon championship
“I think it’s about time we had it, because every other country has it. We need it because it really shows what a person can do on a one- day event. It’s a lot harder to win one-day than it is to win a series. You have to really be able to get it together, mentally, to win a one-day race.”
Reeves, on racing the marathon the day before the cross-country race: “I don’t think I would have done it if I didn’t think I could have won. It was the title I was going after. I was even thinking that I wasn’t feeling well I might have had to pull the plug to save something for the cross-country race, but I’m really glad I stayed in and did it. It was awesome to be on the podium with [Dave] Wiensie. He’s one of the last mountain-bike heroes still racing”
Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, RLK Ralph Lauren
Winner, national cross–country and national short-track cross-country championships
“I think it’s a great idea. I think it creates a lot of excitement, and it’s just in line with the rest of the world. It’s really fun to come out here and race against just Americans. It’s a different dynamic. I think it’s great to have a series, to show who’s the most consistent throughout the year, and then to have a one-day race to show who can go for one day. I think it would be better to have it in the middle of the season. That would be one thing that could be improved on.
JHK, on his 2004 season-end fitness versus the end of 2003: “It really helped taking a break after Athens. That was the big race and then I was hopefully trying to keep something in the tank for the rest of the season. I’m definitely a little bit surprised, but it goes to show that if you just keep training and stay motivated, it can work out. I’m especially happy because last year I melted down a bit at the end of the season. Going into this year I knew that it was going to be long, and I knew this race was going to be late, and just tried to concentrate. It’s a great way to end the year. I’m so happy.”
Ryan Trebon, Kona-Clarks-Les Gets
5th, national short-track cross-country championships
“If USA Cycling would be like every other country in the world and use a set date in June or July, then it would be good. But making us race at 9000 feet, which is what it’s going to be next year, too, at the end of September, that’s not good idea. One day is good, but this late in the year, and this high up, it’s not good.”
Eric Wallace, Maxxis
“I argued and fought long and hard to get a one-day. It’s good that we’ve got one, but it’s the wrong time now. We need to work now to get it into July like the rest of the world. We need to have it. It’s the way the national championships are supposed to be rewarded. July is when it’s supposed to be. Every other country does it that way. The world championships are done that way, the Olympics are done that way. Every major prize out there is done that way.
Ned Overend, Specialized
7th, national cross–country championships
“I think it’s good. That’s the way everyone else in the world does it. It lets the press focus on it. It could be a good opportunity to grow the sport, to get TV for it, to make a big splash. And the NORBA series, I like the idea that they’re growing it. It should be more of a regional event, I think, the points series — it should try and impact different parts of the country.”
Sue Haywood, Trek–VW
3rd, national cross–country championships; 4th, national short-track cross–country championships
“The time has come. I’m all for it, but not in the third week in September. No way. Even the promoters seem tired. Also, I don’t think any venue should have a monopoly on the national championships. If you spread it around it’s better for the sport, and you can reward those promoters. There’s lots of great promoters around.”
John Tomac, Kenda-Tomac
Winner, Kamikaze downhill (former world cross-country champion and downhill World Cup series winner)
“The new format makes for a good weekend of racing, but I always prefer championships to be decided over a series. But you know, probably my favorite races over the years have been the world championships because there is so much on the line and it’s a one-day event. It’s a tough call. I think the true champions are the season long champions, if I had to pick between the two. Typically the rider that can do the best throughout the year should be rewarded as the champion. But the one-day events are special.
Todd Wells, GT-Hyundai
6th, national cross–country championships; 4th, national short-track cross–country championships “I like it a lot, it’s so much more exciting. A lot of times, at the end of the season, it’s anti-climactic, because the guy has it locked up, or whatever. Anybody can win at this format, but it’d be nice to see it a little earlier in the season. You see ‘cross nationals, or road nationals, draw so many people. The one-day events, once they’re established, seem to draw a pretty good crowd.”
Wells, on his disappointing XC performance: “I was riding as hard as I could, but I was going about half the speed I should have been going. Usually I’m good at altitude. Sometimes coming back and forth from Europe… sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t. If I had ridden that slow at world’s I would have ended up 60th, instead of sixth [at Mammoth]. I thought I was feeling good. I’d been home training and doing some good riding, but it was just one of those deals where you think everything’s going work out right and it doesn’t. Other times, you think you’ll suck and you end up doing well.”
Carl Swenson, RLX Ralph Lauren
16th, national cross–country championships; 17th, national short-track cross–country championships “I think it’s good for us. It’s adding another high-quality race. So it’s nothing but good. We still have the NORBA series, and that seems to be pretty solid; that’s not going to go away. I think the one-day works out better. The people who should have won this year won, that’s for sure. It’s only an addition. It’s fun to race with just the Americans one time. And with the UCI points the way they are, those are points we were just throwing away before. So I really don’t see any drawback to having this at all.”
One racer that surely appreciated the new format was downhill winner Chris Del Bosco, whose best prior result was 10th at the Durango NORBA. While he finished 18th overall in the NORBA series last year, it took just one perfect run for the 22-year-old ski racer from Vail, Colorado, to take the stars-and-stripes jersey. Look for more on Del Bosco with our full Mammoth nationals coverage in VeloNews issue 18, hitting the bike shops and mailboxes on October 9th.
A finally, a heads-up some on bike racing coming up on the tube here, folks. All times listed are Eastern Standard Time.
For starters, the Outdoor Life Network is airing its T-Mobile International coverage this Saturday, October 2, from 4:30-5:30 p.m,, and again on Wednesday, October 6, from 12:30-1:30 p.m.
The Nature Valley Grand Prix stage race will be also be featured on the OLN on Saturday, October 2, at 5:30 pm Eastern Time.
The Nature Valley Grand Prix men’s race saw a battle between Tour de France veteran Henk Vogels (Navigators Insurance) and up-and-comer Ben Jacques-Maynes (Sierra Nevada). Although John Lieswyn (Health Net-Maxxis) won the brutal Stillwater Criterium in impressive style on the last day, Jacques-Maynes was able to come from behind to take the overall title, notching the biggest win of his career. Adding to the drama, McGuire Real Estates’s sprinter Dave McCook won three consecutive stages and the Salsa Cycles Sprint competition after a four-year draught without a major win.
In the women’s race, Lyne Bessette (Quark) claimed the leaders jersey at the Mesabi Trail prologue time trial, and then she and her teammates defended it successfully through the Stillwater Criterium. Gina Grain (Victory Brewing) claimed the women’s Salsa Cycles Sprint competition.
The NVGP program will be rebroadcast on Tuesday, October 5.
On Friday, October 8, the Mighty Tour de Nez airs at 11 a.m., and lastly, the network has also upped its Vuelta a España recap show from one hour to two hours, to air Saturday, October 9th from 3-5 p.m. EST. Note that a one-hour highlight show will still air (as previously scheduled) on October 27th at 1 p.m.
I guess all those letters and emails complaining about the OLN’s lack of daily Vuelta coverage got us something, eh?