July 31, 2004 – The sixth stop of the NORBA National Championship Series continued today with the Pro men’s and women’s cross-country races that saw five Olympians take to the trail.
Posting a win in the men’s race was Ryder Hesjedal (CAN), who will be a definite
medal contender for Canada in this year’s Olympic Games. Willow Koerber (Gunnison, Colo.) repeated her break-out success in Vermont with her second-ever NORBA cross country win.
The men toed the line first for three laps of the 10.6 mile loop. Early in the
race, Ryan Trebon (Corvallis, Ore.), Geoff Kabush (CAN), and Ryder Hesjedal made a break on the first climb up the dirt service road leaving the village. By
the time the riders rolled through the start/finish, Hesjedal had taken a strong lead over the others. Kabush, Trebon, Todd Wells (Murrieta, Calif.) and Adam Craig (Corinth, Maine) followed, but were spread out from each other.
Riders who rode right behind others really paid the price today, as the dust was
out of control on this trail. Faces were covered in dirt by the end of lap one.
Lap two saw U.S. Olympian Todd Wells move into third position behind race leaders Hesjedal and Kabush. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Boulder, Colo.) had a strike of bad luck on lap two, as he rolled through the feed zone with a rear flat tire and abandoned the race.
As the racers disappeared from sight going into lap three, it was obvious who the first would be to cross the finish line. Sure enough, Hesjedal finished first well ahead of his nearest threats. Kabush proved to be a tough rider with his second place finish, as he rode almost all of lap three with only a spindle for a pedal. Wells hung onto his third place spot, and rounding out the podium in fourth and fifth were Ryan Trebon and Adam Craig.
In the women’s race, Series leader Shonny Vanlandingham (Durango, Colo.), Willow Koerber, and Heather Irmiger (Boulder, Colo.) led the pack up the first
climb. About half way through the first lap, the crowd received word that Argentine
Olympian Jimena Florit, her teammate Willow Koerber, and Kelli Emmett had broken off from the group and formed a substantial gap. Riders such as Shonny Vanlandingham and Dara Marks-Marino tried to bridge that gap. As the women rolled through the start/finish, Koerber was in the lead with Emmett chasing her down. Florit and Vanlandingham rode in together.
Emmett and Koerber swapped the lead position several times during the day. Emmett took the lead for a while on lap two, only to have it taken away again by Koerber. With only about 20 seconds separating all of the lead women from
each other, the crowd knew it could be anybody’s race. Fans anxiously awaited for
the women to ride out of the woods and up the final climb into the village.
It was Willow Koerber that emerged from the trees in first place to put her stamp on the NORBA Series and prove that Vermont wasn’t just a fluke.
With two consecutive NORBA cross-country wins, and a third place finish in a World Cup, Willow Koerber now has the confidence she was missing before. “That was the thing missing for me,” Koerber commented after the race. “Believing in myself makes all the difference.”
Koerber was followed by teammate Jimena Florit. It was a career day for Kelli Emmett, as she finished in third. Vanlandingham and Dara Marks-Marino were fourth and fifth respectively.
1. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN)
2. Geoff Kabush (CAN)
3. Todd Wells (Murrieta, Calif.)
4. Ryan Trebon (Corvallis, Ore.)
5. Adam Craig (Corinth, Maine)
1. Willow Koerber (Gunnison, Colo.)
2. Jimena Florit (ARG)
3. Kelli Emmett (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
4. Shonny Vanlandingham (Durango, Colo.)
5. Dara Marks-Marino (Flagstaff, Ariz.)