Todd Wells does the double, Gould takes XC, and Compton wins SXC
Race report and images by Eddie Clark
(July 16-18, 2010) Granby, Colo—Plenty of National Championship jerseys were awarded over an excellent extended weekend of racing. Sunny skies, dry dirt, and plenty of hot sun leveled the playing field to give racers an equal chance at glory.
Most racers showed up early in the week to get familiar with the new cross country course. The new course was a big hit with spectators and media personnel alike as it sent racers through the main base area four times as they completed two figure eight loops. The biggest change was an addition of new climbing singletrack, and a technical downhill that claimed several wheels and tires with a jagged rock garden.
“We came out here to pre-ride it a couple weeks ago, but they changed up the new section so it was good to get some extra time on it the last couple days”, said newly crowned junior 17-18 national champion Skyler Trujillo. Racing for Niner bikes, Trujillo noted, “It feels so good to win one, I’ve been second four times and third three times at Nationals”.
Friday’s competition was for junior racers, and the U23 classes, which made for some incredible racing. “I’m crazy excited”, said a very jubilant and victorious Tad Elliot (Specialized/Sho-Air) of his second U23 XC national championship win. Sage Wilderman of Team Tottaly Wired became the new US U23 women’s national champion with a solid ride from start to finish.
With plenty of crowds and paparazzi, the pro women took the xc start line on Saturday afternoon for one short lap and four long laps on the same course as the juniors and U23’s. Trek/Subaru pro ladies Will Koerber and Heather Irmiger dropped some hammers at the start, and only Georgia Gould was able to match their pace leading into the first bit of singletrack. Defending champ Heather Irmiger rode a perfect race, but unfortunately for her, Georgia Gould had just enough extra to create a gap and take the victory.
The pro men lined up next for a highly anticipated race which included some of the very fastest XC racers in North America (excepting a few Canadians). Once again, it was a Subaru/Trek dynamic duo comprised of JHK (Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski) and Sam Schultz that blew the race wide open with a blitzkrieg on the opening short lap climb. Specialized world cup heavy hitter and Durango Colorado resident Todd Wells was the only one capable of matching their pace.
On the second lap it was almost déjà vu all over again as Wells rolled into the pits and got off his bike (Wells was leading last years’ race going into the last lap when a mechanical forced him to concede defeat and walk his bike across the finish). Luckily, it was just a loose bolt which was quickly tightened by his mechanic. Once repaired, Wells calmly remount his steed, set the climbs on fire, and reclaimed the lead and victory from JHK for this year’s XC national championship.
A stacked field of pros took the line for an early Sunday morning start of the Super D race. On a mission, Mike West of Maverick bikes gave it all he had on the short climbs to take the lead which he held until the bottom.
It wasn’t an easy affair though. Wests’ rear tire started going flat with the finish line in sight. From a distance it looked as though West was moto-flat track racing as he slid sideways through the last corner into the finish line stretch. West narrowly beat a rapidly closing Kevin Soller by a mere bike length to claim the super-d national championship. Giant Bike’s Kelli Emmett also rode a solid race, and took home the women’s super-d stars and stripes jersey.
Short track racing featured a course with less climbing and shorter, more spectator friendly laps. Undeniably, the most impressive display of raw speed, tenacity, and desire for the whole National Championship weekend was displayed by Katie Compton of Planet Bikes. Compton rode a blistering pace to lap all but three of the other professional women who finished behind her on the podium. It was truly an amazing show of dominance that had to be seen to be believed.
The Pro Men’s short track racing was equally entertaining. Starting with the racer call-up, defending champ of Giant/Rabobank, Adam Craig, showed he indeed has the wheelie gene by riding a slow wheelie 50 meters to the start line. Resembling the previous days’ XC race, the Subaru/Trek duo of Schultz and JHK set the initial race pace, and once again Todd Wells proved he was the fastest by securing his second national championship jersey in as many days.
“It was the pecking order of the weekend”, noted second place finisher JHK. “I was feeling them out on the first couple laps. Once I saw them start to weaken I nailed it… because when you feel good you have to hit it when you can”, said Wells. Two national championship victories in two days undoubtedly must feel pretty darn good!