Snowshoe Mountain, W. Va. (August 20, 2005)-A shakeup atop the leaderboard in the 2005 Shimano NORBA National Mountain Bike Series occurred on Saturday as Shonny Vanlandingham (Durango, Colo.) and Canadian Geoff Kabush overtook the top spots in the overall standings with just one event remaining.
Vanlandingham won her fourth NORBA national cross country race of the ’05 season on Saturday to take a commanding 100-point lead over Sue Haywood (Davis, W. Va.) after the seventh stop of the eight-race, season-long pro mountain bike tour.
Vanlandingham completed the 16-mile race in a time of one hour, 47 minutes and 42.41 seconds to finish ahead of Willow Koerber (Ashville, N.C.) by one minute, 44 seconds.
Kabush took advantage of an early-race crash that forced previous series leader Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Boulder, Colo.) to abandon on the first of three laps in the 24-mile race.
Despite Horgan-Kobelski’s stroke of bad luck, the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team member and current U.S. National Cross Country Champion sits only 33 points behind Kabush, making the series finale next weekend in Mount Snow, Vt. a definite make-or-break situation for anyone with series championship aspirations.
Kabush clocked a time of 2:19:10.58 over a slick and muddy course to beat Jeremiah Bishop (Harrisonburg, Va.) by just over two minutes to claim his third win on the NORBA cross country circuit this year.
Adverse weather at the 4800-foot Appalachian Mountain resort earlier in the week left the single track sections of the eight-mile course a muddy quagmire – a departure from the otherwise dry and dusty conditions characteristic of many of the earlier stops on the ’05 NORBA series. Entering this weekend’s event, the consensus was that strong technical riders would rise to the occasion at the Eastern United States venue – a theory that came to fruition early in both the men’s and women’s contests.
Koerber, a North Carolina native, took the lead from the gun in the women’s race, an advantage she held throughout most of the day before yielding it to Vanlandingham in the closing miles. At the end of the first lap, Koerber held a five-second buffer, which she expanded after Vanlandingham crashed on the second and final lap.
“Willow is so good in that stuff,” Vanlandingham said of Koerber’s abilities on the slick and tricky terrain. “I just thought I’ll go behind her in the woods on the final lap and try to stay with her but I just went down hard.”
Vanlandingham recovered nicely to make up any lost time on Koerber and passed her halfway up the final ascent that led back to the finish line to clinch her fourth win in the last five NORBA cross country races.
Haywood, the hometown favorite and series leader on paper heading into Snowshoe, finished sixth. But after the point calculations which allow a rider to throw out her lowest score of the first seven events, Haywood dropped to second overall behind Vanlandingham and now faces a 100-point uphill battle in the series finale.
Vanlandingham had virtually no room for error after scoring zero points at the series opener back in March. The goose egg in Texas was surely to be her throw-out score as she had to ride a solid string of seven consecutive races, avoiding series crashes, bad luck and mechanical failure to remain in contention for the overall title.
“I felt a little pressure coming into this because I have zero points from the first round,” admitted Vanlandingham. “I knew I had to have a good race today.”
Of her chances on winning a second consecutive NORBA series championship, Vanlandingham said, “You just never know until the end. It’s pretty tight. Sue, Willow, and Dara (Marks-Marino) have been riding great all year. It’s definitely coming down to the end. It’s pretty comfortable gap, but you never know.”
In the men’s race, Bishop, a Virginia native comfortable on the technical single track, took the early lead, but later fell victim to a flat tire on the final lap.
“The plan was executed to perfection,” explained Bishop. “I planned to ride lazy off the front and try to get time on the technical sections and let those guys work hard to catch me, and I knew that if I had the benefit of maybe thirty seconds or so coming into the climb off the lake, I’d have a really good chance at winning. At that point my tire started going flat.”
Losing precious time, Bishop resorted to tossing his bike on his back and running about a mile until he found the means to inflate his tire.
Kabush took advantage of the mishap, passing Bishop just before the final ascent to solidify the victory and officially overtake the series lead from Horgan-Kobelski.
Unlike the women’s overall standings, the men’s remain close. Horgan-Kobelski sits just 33 points behind Kabush while third place finisher on the day, Adam Craig (Bend, Ore.) is 67 points off Kabush’s lead.
Also on Saturday, gravity riders competed in their second of three events on the weekend as Katrina Miller (AUS) and Jared Graves (AUS) claimed wins in the dual slalom.
Miller’s win complimented her victory in the mountain cross event on Friday and Graves’ win clinched another Australian sweep of gravity events after Mick Hannah captured the men’s mountain cross yesterday.
In the final, Miller was paired against Melissa Buhl (Chandler Ariz.) who slid out in the final run ensure Miller’s win.
Graves bested Christopher Herndon (Etowah, N.C.) who was competing in his first-ever dual slalom final.
The seventh round of the 2005 NORBA National Mountain Bike Series continues on Sunday with six pro events, the men’s and women’s short track cross country, downhill and super D.
1. Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis)
2. Jeremiah Bishop (Trek/VW)
3. Adam Craig (Giant)
3. Barry Wicks (Kona – Les Gets)
5. Chris Etough (Trek/VW)
1. Shonny Vanlandingham (Luna Chix)
2. Willow Koerber (Subaru – Gary Fisher)
3. Alison Dunlap (Luna Chix)
4. Sue Haywood (Terk/VW)
5. Heather Irmiger (Tokyo Joe’s )