Brian Head Finals, presented by Trek VW
Round 6, August 29-31, 2008
Brian Head , Utah (Sept. 1st, 2008) — The 2008 National Mountain Bike Series concluded with a weekend of drama at high altitude, where Trek VW presented a racing program that was hosted by Utah’s Brian Head Mountain Bike Park.
Trek VW team manager, Zach Vestal reported that “we were leery of the weather going into Sunday, because of the 9,500-11,000 ft altitude of Brian Head, and the forecast that was for snow, lightening and 40 mph winds. There was some rain overnight and strong winds on Saturday, but Sunday dawned clear. There was a stiff, cold wind that made the racing tactical, but conditions were good.”
Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) and Georgia Gould (Luna)claimed the Kenda Tires and Tubes Cross Countryseries titles, Brad Benedict (X-Fusion) and Darian Harvey (SoBe/Cannondale) took home the Fox Racing Shox Downhill series trophies, Petr Hanek (Totally Wired) and Melissa Buhl (KHS) won the Fox Racing Shox Dual Slalom/Mountain Cross series, and Barry Wicks (Kona) and Katerina Nash (Luna) triumphed overall in the Kenda Tires and Tubes Short Track series. Carl Decker (Giant) and Michelle Rivera (StevenKSD) won the Super D.
Kenda Tires and Tubes Cross Country – Men
Jeremy Horgan Kobelski (Subaru- Gary Fisher) , of Boulder, Co., won his third national in as many races at Brian Head. He revelled in the rarified air of the 28-mile course that climbed to 11,000 feet, and after an early attack rode for most of the race in the sole company of Jeremiah Bishop (Trek-VW), of Harrisonburg, WV. Bishop, who had beaten Horgan Kobelski by a mere six seconds in the American Mountain Classic stage race a few days earlier, sustained a slow flat in the closing miles and dropped back to 14th, handing an easy win to the four-time national champion in a time of 1:46:28, 1:40 ahead of Bishop’s Trek VW team-mate Ross Schnell, of Grand Junction, Co. Kabush finished third at 2:28.
“I put Brian Head on my radar early in the year. I thought ‘what a great way to end the season it would be to win there,’” said Horgan-Kobelski. One of the very few pro men to finish every race in the series, he took second overall, with 767 points, behind the Canadian Geoff Kabush (862). Barry Wicks, of Santa Cruz, Ca., finished third in the series with 699 points.
For Kabush, this was a whirlwind finale. After a frustrating ride in the Olympics on August 23, where he was dogged by mechanical problems and ultimately dropped to 20th place, he went to Canberra, Australia, for the UCI world cup race on August 31, where he redeemed himself with a third place finish and moved into second overall in the world cup standings. Immediately after that race he climbed aboard a plane, taking advantage of the time differential, and arrived at the Brian Head cross country, also on August 31, 25 minutes before the starting gun!
Kabush tells the story of his race: “I was just happy to get there in one piece. There was a neutral start with the women, which was kinda nice, and although I was only looking for 27th place to win the series, once we got racing the competitive instinct took over and I soon found myself in the top 10. A couple of guys had some problems and I moved up some more. Then there was a long climb, about 20 minutes frm the the finish. Colin Cares (U23 National Team), Boulder, Co., was in front and Andy Schultz (Kenda-Titus), Durango, Co., was behind me. Jeremiah Bishop was dropping back with a slow leak and we passed him. I caught Colin on a false flat and cracked him, then just stayed on the limit all the way to the end.”
“It is great to win the series again,” said Kabush, who records his fourth NMBS series win to tie him with the great Ned Overend. “It’s nice to be on the same page as a rider like Ned. One more NMBS Cross Country win, and I’ll tie John Tomac. He had 14,” explained Kabush.
Kenda Tires and Tubes Cross Country – Women
The friendly rivalry between the Luna chix Georgia Gould, of Ketchum, Idaho, and Katerina Nash, of Truckee, Calif., continued at Brian Head, where Gould came into the race needing to finish fourth or better if Nash won it.
Having recently returned from an 8th place at the Olympics in Beijing on August 23, Gould admitted she was below her best. When the race mounted the first climb of the 28-mile single lap course, she soon found herself slipping back and crested the climb in seventh place, thinking “I’ve ruined it!” Meanwhile Nash powered away from the front of the field and went on to easily win the race with a time of 2:06:33.
Another rider who struggled in the first part of the race was Boulder, Co., resident, Heather Irmiger of the Subaru-Gary Fisher team. Irmiger had crashed hard in Saturday’s Short Track and rode on Sunday with seven stitches in her right elbow. At the halfway point she reported being back in seventh place. “I was really struggling to get my form. Then the course hit 11,000 feet and I started passing people,” she said.
Gould had started moving up a little earlier and went into second place with a good chunk of the 28-mile course remaining. But she recalls that it wasn’t only Nash who was making her work hard for her second consecutive series title. “I was up in second place, but a group of three or four women came back to me, then I had to turn it on at the end,” recalled Gould.
At the finish, Gould was 2:28 behind Nash, and Irmiger was at 3:12.
While the season did not deliver as much as Gould might have hoped for, she was far from disappointed. “I had a couple of setbacks this year. My heatstroke in May unbalanced me for about six weeks, then I hurt my shoulder at the Wyndham race, one week before nationals. Then I got sick a week before leaving for Korea, where I was preparing for the Olympics, but then I ended up having a solid ride.
“It is really important to win the national series. I’m hoping next year goes much like this year, I’m hoping to continue getting better and having fun!” said Gould.
Gould’s points tally for the series was 890, relatively close to Nash’s total of 871. Heather Irmiger finished third in the series with 745 points.
Kenda Tires and Tubes Short Track – Men
Barry Wicks went two better than his third place in the Cross Country series by securing the win in the Short Track after proving the most consistent rider of the year.
“It was my goal to ride consistently from start to finish in the series, and I think my result shows I’ve achieved that goal,” said Wicks. “After three or four races I realized I could do it, so I made the effort to keep going… It’s definitely the best season I’ve had, but next year I’ll hope to do even better.”
Going into the final round of this fast, unpredictable event, the series looked wide open, with Ryan Trebon, of Bend, Or. and Carl Decker, also of Bend, Or. close behind Wicks on points. If Kabush had shown up, he’d probably have won the series, but on Saturday he was enjoying an 18-hour flight back from Australia. In the end, Wicks took the series with 739 points, only 1 point ahead of Trebon. Decker placed a close third, with 733 points.
The series final was arguably the toughest race for Wicks. While the winner, Ross Schnell (Trek VW), of Grand Junction, Co., was mixing it up with the front-runners, Wicks hung in and finished as high as he could, which was 15th. Fortunately for him, Trebon could only manage 7th place, and Decker 8th.
Schnell was happy to claim the first NMBS win of his career. With a time of 23:03, he finished six seconds ahead of a group of four that included Colin Cares, Jeremiah Bishop, Sam Jurekovich (U23 National Team), of Colorado, and Franklin McConnell (Team Devo) of Taos, NM.
Kenda Tires and Tubes Short Track – Women
The day belonged to Lea Davison (Trek VW), of Jericho, Vermont, who like her team-mate Ross Schnell scored her first career NMBS win by outsprinting series winner Katerina Nash in a very close-fought finish in which the east coast rider defeated the Czech national by only 0.56 of a second in the race of 22 minutes, 39 seconds. Kelli Emmett (Giant), of Colorado Springs finished third, less than one second ahead of Georgia Gould.
Heather Irmiger got a good start and rode with the front runners on the first lap, but hit a rock badly and went down hard on her right elbow, sustaining a gash that required seven stitches. Irmiger rode on to finish the race and took fifth in the series. “I hit a sneaky rock and there was no time to react before being thrown to the ground. I remounted and finished the race for the series points,” said Irmiger.
Nash won the series with 944 points, comfortably ahead of Gould on 844. Nash won four rounds and did not finish lower than second place throughout the season. Canada’s Mical Dyck (Trek/Terrascape) finished third in the seiries, with 722 points, and Davison’s result lifted her to fourth place. “This is my fourth national series title in Short Track, I believe, and I am very excited about winning it. It was important for me to take this again. I also wanted a good Cross Country series, and I was really happy to finish second in that. I had a couple of wins, which was good,” said Nash.
Fox Racing Shox Downhill – Men
On a course that had benefited from a little rain a few hours before the race, and which the downhillers loved, the new wave of young US riders took the top three places. Brad Oien (ODI-Southridge), 19, of Fountain Valley, California fastest down the hill with a time of 3:15.84. Second was Logan Binggeli (KHS), 19, of St George, Utah, with 3:19:98. In third place was Brad Benedict, 22, of Auburn, California, who posted a 3:21:54.
Benedict’s third place was more than enough to clinch the series for him, which he won with a total of 798 points, with Brad Oien second with 730 and Britain’s Waylon Smith third with 626 points.
For Benedict, that was the early realization of a dream. “I’m really stoked, I’m proud of myself for staying consistent. It’s my first full season racing pro, I didn’t know what I was getting into!” he said, adding “I made a few mistakes that cost me some places, but I’m getting better.”
Benedict said he gained a lot in bike handling from training with Amiel Cavalier in Australia, and said that Scott Sharples has been a big help with psychological training.
Fox Racing Shox Downhill – Women
While Melissa Buhl, of Chandler, Arizona, won the day, second-placed rider Darian Harvey, of Durango, Colorado, claimed her first NMBS win. Tasa Herndon (Tore Up Racing), of Stateline, Nevada, fnished third.
Harvey’s total of 823 points put her comfortably ahead of the pre-med student, Buhl, who finished with 768 after missing two rounds. Even though Buhl won every downhill she entered in the series, Harvey’s consistency proved the decisive factor. Chuse Mariska (Dark Horse Racing), of Nevada City, Ca., finished third with 692 points.
Fox Racing Shox Dual Slalom – Men
Petr Hanak (Totally Wired), of Winter Park, Colorado, won both the final round and the series by beating Mike Haderer (Fox Shox-Yeti), of Concord, California, in the final of the Dual Slaom. The indefatiguable Eric Carter (Mongoose), 38, of Winchester, California, finished third in the series after taking ninth place at Brian Head.
Hanak’s series total was 818 points, not far ahead of Haderer on 794. Carter fnished with a total of 756.
Fox Racing Shox Dual Slalom – Women
Melissa Buhl (KHS), once again steamrolled her competition, winning each of the five NMBS events she entered. Leslie Slagle (Aggro Bikes), of El Cajon, California, went up against her in the final round.
Buhl’s perfect score of 910 put her well out of reach of Darian Harvey, who ended up second overall in the NNBS on 592 points after finishing third at Brian Head.
Buhl was happy with the way her season went, and said she had missed the Deer Valley round (4) of the NMBS due to an injured thumb. “I only rode the dual slalom at that race. I didn’t want to put my thumb through the extended pounding of a downhill course,” she explained.
Kenda Tires and Tubes Super-D – Men
Carl Decker finished the series on a high note with his first Super D win for the year, earning enough points to put the title even farther out of reach of Jon Wilson (Northstar-Giant), of Carson City, Nevada. Decker amassed 768 points to Wilson’s 647. Ken Burt (Jamis-Hayes), of Sparks, Nevada, took third place in the series with 574 points.
Kelli Emmet (Giant), of Colorado Springs, Colorado, won the women’s Super D race, her second win of the series, which gained her sufficient points to claim third place with 501 points. Michelle Rivera of La Puente, California, scored 647 points to win the series ahead of Portland’s Sue Butler (Monavie-Cannondale) on 623.
source: Paul Skilbeck