Kabush remains undefeated at Fontana, while Gould three-peats
Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain-Maxxis) and Georgia Gould (Luna) took home impressive wins at the opening round of USA Cycling’s Pro Cross-country tour (ProXCT), held at Southridge Park in Fontana, California. The race was also the second round of the Kenda Cup West, the West Coast half of the ShoAir-Specialized U.S. Cup series.
With the victory, Kabush maintained his perfect record at Fontana dating back to 2006 when the venue was integrated into the National Mountain Bike Series. Gould extended her Fontana win streak to three (’07, ’08, ’09), with her teammate Shonny Vanlandingham as the only other person to have won at the SoCal venue.
In his first race of the 2009 calendar, Kabush was forced to go head-to-head with the ShoAir-Specialized team of Max Plaxton and Sid Taberlay and Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale-Monavie). The four sprinted into the top positions after a chaotic and dusty start that saw Olympian Todd Wells (Specialized) snap his chain and slip into the rear.
Both ShoAir riders came into the Fontana even with races in their legs – Australian Taberlay won the U.S. Cup opener at nearby Bonnelli Park on March 1st, and Plaxton finished tenth at last weekend’s Continental Championships in Santiago, Chile. Both took turns attacking Kabush, but the cagey Canadian said he didn’t lose his cool.
“I was dealing with a bit of team tactics from the Sho Air guys but I felt pretty in control; I just wanted to ride a smart, smooth race, which is my trademark,” Kabush said.
On the third of five laps, Kabush put in an acceleration that dropped Taberlay. On the final ascent the Canadian again punched it at the top and shed Plaxton. The younger Plaxton, who joined the California-based ShoAir team just last month, said he was pleased with his second-place finish.
“I just went for it today,” Plaxton said. “Geoff was the strongest guy today, period.”
Behind Plaxton, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski picked his way into third place after getting stuck behind Wells during his early mishap. Horgan-Kobelski’s Subaru-Gary Fisher teammate Sam Schultz took the fourth spot, with U.S. champion Adam Craig rounding out the podium.
Riders tackled a new route at Fontana. Organizers shortened the loop from seven to five miles after local conservationists deemed part of the course habitat for a protected species of sand fly. The course opened with an ultra-steep, loose section that forced most of the riders off of their bikes.
The Fontana course is located on a section of rocky, unpopulated hills in the heart of the San Bernardino Valley, a major urban center. Housing developments and industrial centers border the course on all sides, and the trails are predominantly loose sand and powdery dust.
“It reminded me of (the Continental Championship course) in Santiago, Chile,” said Horgan-Kobelski, who, like the 113 other elite men, crossed the line covered in dirt. “I actually like the new course: the dusty ruts are a challenge.”
Gould said she preferred the older course, citing the hike-a-bike as a section that slowed her down. From the gun the American sprung to the front of the women’s field with her Luna teammate Pendrel, who won the Continental Championships last weekend in Chile. Pendrel dropped Gould on the steep opening climb, but not by much.
“I just tried to keep her in sight, because I’d catch up a bit on the downhills,” Gould said. “I think I was riding the flats better than her too.”
Gould caught Pendrel on the third of four laps and pulled away for good. Gould finished with a 1:36 advantage on her Canadian teammate. Behind the two, the remains of the women’s field fought for positions. Subaru-Gary Fisher teammates Heather Irmiger and Willow Koerber finished third and fifth, respectively, with Canada’s U23 champion Emily Batty notching her best-ever national-level finish in fourth.
The ProXCT continues with the April 19 Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California. The Kenda Cup west continues with the Sagebrush Safari in San Diego, California on April 5.