September 18, 2005 – The 2005 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships concluded on Sunday as Shonny Vanlandingham (Durango, Colo.) avenged her late-race crash in Friday’s cross country race to collect the pro women’s short track national title and Adam Craig (Bend, Ore.) earned his first major championship with a win in the men’s event.
In the women’s race, Vanlandingham roared to a convincing win ahead of Dara Marks-Marino (Flagstaff, Ariz.) and Sue Haywood (Davis, W. Va.) after putting forth a late-race attack.
The first half of the race saw a large group ride together until the pace eventually quickened and the three leaders emerged as the contenders.
Once the field was pared down to just three, Vanlandingham made the decisive move.
“It was a little windy out there so I didn’t want to go to soon,” Vanlandingham explained, “and then after 12 minutes or so, I noticed a had a little gap and thought ‘well, I’ll just time trial it in and see if I can hold the gap or make it bigger.'”
Vanlandingham’s victory came after a disappointing cross country race on Friday that saw her suffer a flat tire and crash in the closing miles while holding a likely insurmountable lead. That mishap provided the 2005 NORBA National Mountain Bike Series champion with extra incentive Sunday despite not considering herself a favorite in the short tack.
“I didn’t really come here thinking I was going to win the short track. That wasn’t my main goal, so after thinking I had it the other day and having a flat tire with two minutes to go, I was really motivated today.”
The women’s short track event also marked the end of a stellar career for one of America’s most decorated professional cyclists as Alison Dunlap (Colorado Springs, Colo.) ended her career at the same venue at which it began 13 years ago. The two-time Olympian, 2001 world champion, 2002 world cup champion and 13-time national champion was presented with a special jersey from her Luna Chix team commemorating her achievements before taking to the dirt for the last time as a pro.
After sticking with the lead group for much of the race, Dunlap fell off the pace and placed eighth.
“You’re always looking to win,” Dunlap said after the race. “It’s wonderful to take home another jersey, but you know I’ve got 13 of them at home and I’m not disappointed in the least. It’s just phenomenal to finish out my career here. I actually did my very first mountain bike race here in 1992 at a world cup, so it’s kind of fitting to end my career here.”
In men’s competition, today’s stars and stripes jersey signifies a significant achievement for the 24-year-old Craig and marks a fitting end to a season that saw him post several impressive results both domestically and on the international mountain bike circuit.
In the 20-minute event, Craig, Todd Wells (Durango, Colo.) and defending champion Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Boulder, Colo.) established themselves in a lead group halfway through the race before Horgan-Kobelski dropped out of contention with a front flat tire. In the head-to-head battle that ensued between Wells and Craig, Wells was on the attack first and opened up a considerable gap over Craig.
Several laps later, Craig regained contact with Wells and had the luxury of sitting on while teammate Carl Decker (Bend, Ore.) worked hard from behind to catch the leaders.
“Once the separation with Jeremy and the flat happened I got back up to Todd and then I was just kind of waiting on Carl,” Craig explained. “There was no reason for me to work hard and pull if Carl was trying to come back up.”
On the final lap, it was obvious that Decker would not close the gap and a relatively fresh Craig attacked Wells on the course’s sole incline on the final lap. Fatigued from his earlier breakaway effort, Wells could not respond and Craig hung on to take the national title by a slim margin over Wells.
Craig’s title on Sunday was the second national championship of his career after Saturday’s victory in the super D, but his first major title in a traditional endurance event.
“Yesterday was fun, you just race downhill as fast as you can,” he explained, “but this was a serious race. I was hoping to be able to win this one, so I’m glad it worked out.”
Friday also featured downhill racing as Cody Warren (Apline, Calif.) and Melissa Buhl (Chandler, Ariz.) captured the pro men’s and women’s titles respectively.
Tabbed as one of the pre-race favorites, the 20-year-old Warren clocked a time of four minutes 5.88 seconds to beat Chris Van Dine by eight seconds to claim his first national title.
Buhl beat Kathy Pruitt by six seconds with a time of 4:46.39 to also claim her first stars and stripes jersey.