Moab Rocks 2014 kicked of with a vengeance just after sunrise this morning. Just as the sun crested the majestic red rock cliffs around the world’s first mountain bike mecca 94 riders took the start with all eyes on conquering the 17-mile, 5,000 vertical foot climb up Sand Flats road.
In contrast to 2013, this year’s Moab Rocks stage race started with the toughest 17 miles of the racing first.
The race’s first stage travels from the valley floor, 5,000 feet up to the Upper Porcupine Singletrack (UPS) trail. From there riders descend UPS and Lower Porcupine Singletrack, before finishing with a punishing run down Porcupine Rim.
An amazing test of mountain bike skill and fitness Moab Rocks drew a hardy group of dirt fiends from all across North America and even Europe.
Race organizers provided quite a treat on some of the toughest trails found anywhere.
Massive exposure and expansive views greet the riders on the UPS trail – Photo by: Townsend Bessent
Despite the difficult terrain close racing was the standard for the day. After a mass start the lead group slowly thinned out as the climbing got steeper and steeper. Travis Brown (Trek) took the lead and began pushing the pace around mile 10. Nate Miller (Honey Stinger/Planet Foods) matched Brown’s accelerations and the two opened up a gap toward the apex of the climb.
Brown was first to hit the UPS singletrack with a clear path in front of him. Miller did his best to stay close but quickly started to feel the negative effects of riding a hardtail over the unrelenting rocks of the Porcupine Rim.
Canadian Eric Tourville (Hype) was the first to catch and pass Miller as he displayed his mastery of the technical trails. Tourville moved from outside the top-5 on the climb to first on the downhill. In posting the fastest enduro downhill time of the day Tourville overtook race leader Brown just before the finish crossing the line just 1 second in front.
Brown took second followed by Peter Watson (Balance Point) and Chris Holley (Kuhl). Miller held onto fifth keeping Holley and Watson in sight.
The scenery never disappoints in Moab – Photo by: Townsend Bessent
For the open women it was Jen Hanks (Epic Brewing/MTBRaceNews.com) applying the pressure at the front of the race. Hanks surprised herself by climbing comfortably with a handful of men and reaching the top of Sand Flats in the lead position.
Going into Moab Rocks Hanks wasn’t sure what to expect. This time last year she had just completed chemo therapy and was just starting radiation treatment for breast cancer. Saturday morning she was just happy to be on the start line at Moab Rocks. A podium finish would be an unexpected surprise.
Jen Hanks leads some of the men on Porcupine Rim – Photo by: Townsend Bessent
The Epic Brewing rider entered UPS in first, feeling comfortable and trying to stay smooth. The climb had taken a toll on the leader however. She struggled to stay efficient in the early miles of singletrack. That allowed Margie Smith (Wilson Sports) of Banff to catch the leader and take sole possession of first place.
Once out front Smith continued to shred the descent putting time on all her rivals.
The Canadian riders seemed to have the upper hand on the rough and rocky descent as Jennifer Schulz (Balance Point) was the next to set her sights on Hanks finally catching her just before the finish.
Schulz currently sits 1st overall in the GC for the open women as Margie Smith is racing in the 40+ women’s category.
Hanks sits in second on GC and is the only American in the top-5 with three Canadians following her. Pepper Harlton (Devon Bicycle), Katy Curtis, and Tannille Stickley complete the top spots in the GC.
Tomorrow’s stage is new for 2014. Just over 32 miles stage 2 takes place on the Klondike Bluffs trail system. While still technical with plenty of slickrock Klondike Bluffs lacks the prolonged climbs of stage 1 and includes much more singletrack than day 1.
With just seconds separating the top riders stage 2 is guaranteed to produce a ton action with lots of changes in the GC on tap.
Tune in to MTB Race News tomorrow for full results, report, and photos from Moab Rocks.
As any veteran of the 24 Hours of Moab will tell you, fall racing in Moab is as much about surviving the environment as it is about conquering the trails. Today’s stage 2 of Moab Rocks proved that to be true.
Moab has an endless number of challenging weather conditions it can throw at you. Today Moab chose: Wind. A gusting 20-25 mph wind strafed riders throughout the day, at times making it difficult to hold your line on the tight singletrack of Klondike Bluffs. Although it could have been worse as abundant slickrock kept blowing dust to a minimum and the winding trails meant the wind was never in your face for too long.
Although some ominous clouds blew through just before the start riders were treated to warm sun and near perfect temperatures throughout day 2.
Racing got off to a mellow start, as no one wanted to lead on 4-mile road start straight into the teeth of the wind. Once off the road, Travis Brown (Trek) led a group of 20 riders along a sandy doubletrack section until a wrong turn by the leader shuffled him to the back of the group.
The slickrock started almost immediately after and never stopped for the next 20 miles.
Brown, an experienced champion, didn’t let the early mishap unravel his day as he quickly worked his way back to the front before stage 1 winner Eric Tourville (Hype) could build on his 1 second GC advantage.
Tourville was having issues of his own, puncturing his arm on a surly juniper tree early in the race and then cutting his hand and tearing the nail off his pinky finger during an awkward crash.
The top-5 stayed close throughout the race with just 2 minutes separating first and fifth place on the day.
Travis Brown wouldn’t be denied his stage win, taking the endure prize for the day and crossing the line 40 seconds up.
Tourville held on for second.
Jonathon Firth (Planet Foods/Honey Stinger) jumped into third today followed by 2 more Canadians Patrick Chartrand (Rocky Mountain) and Peter Watson (Balance Point).
The women’s event was a different story as Jen Hanks (Epic Brewing/MTBRaceNews.com) and Pepper Harlton (Devon) were determined to make up time lost on stage 1.
Harlton had flatted on Porcupine Rim and Hanks was frustrated after giving up the lead just before the finish on day 1.
The two stuck together from the very start with Hanks leading the way on the road and Harlton staying glued to the Utah rider’s wheel.
It stayed that way for much of the day until a fateful moment when race leader Jen Hanks got stopped on a technical section of downhill and the Canadian Harlton blew past her, getting off course almost immediately.
“I got stopped and had to get off my bike”, Hanks said after the race. “Pepper flew right past me but must have turned off the trail right away because by the time I got back on she was out of sight.”
This left Hanks solo out front. With just the Dino descent left. The final 4 miles literally flew past as the powerful winds pushed riders down the fast and flowing Dino trail.
Hanks crossed the line in first, putting over 3 minutes on overnight GC leader Jennifer Schulz (Balance Point). Hanks will be taking over the pink leader’s number plate for tomorrow’s finale at Mag 7.
The final stage features another hearty helping of singletrack as riders contest 30 miles on the Magnificent 7 trail system. Riders can expect more ledges, rocks, and bumps with 3,500 feet of climbing mixed in.
A lot can still happen with less than a minute separating Travis Brown and Eric Tourville and big time swings happening each day for the open women.
The international feel is evident at Moab Rocks like no other event in U.S. Riders from Spain and Canada out number riders from any of the western states. The international feel is boosted even more as each night as parts of the awards ceremony are in French.
Tune in to MTB Race News for full results, report, and photos from tomorrow’s stage 3.
As a fitting end to 3 days of high-paced, bar-to-bar racing, the final stage of Moab Rocks was determined on the final climb of stage 3. After a gusting wind battered racers yesterday Monday’s weather couldn’t have been better.
Warm temperatures and sunny skies greeted riders and no wind could be felt. The great conditions meant the riders would have only each other to battle on today’s 30-mile final stage through the Magnificent 7 trail system.
The highlight of the final day was a showdown looming between former national champions: Travis Brown (Trek) for the Americans and Eric Tourville (Hype) representing the Canadians. Each rider had won a stage and just 30 seconds separated the two at the start, with Brown being the overnight race leader.
The Canadians had a clear plan that started off with a suicide attack by Patrick Chartrand (Rocky Mountain) as soon as the start gun fired. Chartrand buried his head and powered away getting a 30 second lead before starting the first climb.
The Rocky Mountain rider was a threat to take first on GC if his lead continued to build. That meant Travis Brown had to do all the work of chasing Chartrand and protecting his race lead.
Brown did his job bringing Chartrand back with Tourville close behind. After making contact with the lead duo Tourville attacked again and again. “I attacked Travis about 20 times today. He was really impressive. Each time I went he was able to catch back up,” Tourville said after the race.
The group of three shredded the 9-mile descent wheel to wheel and entered the finishing climb together. So close that Brown and Tourville registered the exact same time for the enduro segment.
After 3 days and almost 100 miles of racing the 2014 Moab Rocks title would be decided on the very last climb of the race. Just miles from the finish line.
The trio began the final climb together but Brown made it immediately clear that he had the legs to finish off his day in first place and maintain first overall in the GC.
Tourville powered his way in for second followed by Chartrand. Those three took the top spots in the final stage race results.
Peter Watson (Balance Point) finished fourth followed by Jonathon Firth (Planet Foods/Honey Stinger).
The women’s race became a battle between two race leaders and a challenger looking for a stage win. Overnight open women’s GC leader Jen Hanks (Epic Brewing/MTBRaceNews.com) took the lead on the first climb out of the Gemini Bridges parking lot and was joined shortly after by 40+ leader Margie Smith (Wilson) and yesterday’s top challenger Pepper Harlton (Devon).
Harlton was determined to make up for a weekend of bad luck by taking a stage win at Magnificent 7.
The three riders stayed together throughout the first half of the race climbing the rock-strewn trails in unison.
Right around the midway point the racecourse plunged down a steep Jeep trail littered with blind drop offs. The two Canadians, Smith and Harlton, fearlessly charged the treacherous trail opening an immediately opening a sizable gap to Hanks. The enduro segment downhill was next and the two leaders pushed the limits demonstrating their mastery of rough trails.
That’s when bad luck struck Harlton for the third consecutive day. This time coming in the form of a flat tire for the Canadian cyclocross phenom.
The flat allowed Hanks to rejoin Harlton and the two played cat and mouse on the final road section approaching the base of the final climb. Hanks put in an acceleration on the early slopes of the climb. When she looked back a small gap had opened and the Epic Brewing rider went into full attack mode sensing a stage win in hand.
The final push to the line would prove anti-climactic as Pepper Harlton flatted again on the final descent and Hanks cruised home with stage win and open women’s title in hand.
Riders congregated at the finish reliving their stories of a fantastic three days of racing in one of the most challenging and majestic race venues in the United States.
The final awards ceremony was held, as it was every night, in Swanny City Park with great prizes, a slide show of the day’s race, and free beer provided by Moab Brewery.
Report by Todd Nutter
Another cross country mountain bike series closed its books for 2014 this past weekend. The nationally recognized Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS), sponsored by Trek, held its finale on Sunday in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The Sheboygan Bicycle Company MTB Challenge has been the closer for WORS for many years and remains a favorite for hundreds of participants. With perfect weather and trail conditions, racers prepared for what would prove to be a fast and exhilarating competition.
Strigel had been the overall series winner for the past several years, but did not compete in enough races this season to overtake Dendel in series points. Dendel actually had enough points that she could not have been caught, even before the finale in Sheboygan.
For her the race was about having fun and spending one last day tearing up the trails with her friends. While spending a lot of the race battling with Strigel, Cooper was able to break away on the slick rock section that precedes the famous “Equalizer” climb.
The Equalizer is a spectator hot spot that faces riders against the forces of nature while they try to climb without falling backwards. It is the mountain bike equivalent of a dirt bike trials run, where successful climbers get a fresh $5 bill at the top as long as they do not put a foot down.
Dendel opened the gap and a snafu left Strigel farther back than she would have preferred. Finishing second was Leia Schneeberger (Magnus). A recent addition to the Cat 1/Pro field, Schneeberger proved herself quite worthy after recently moving up from Women’s Open Class in her last race. This was her best finish to date, even beating out Lori Sable (Pedal Moraine), a regular to the podium, who finished in third.
The Belgioioso Pro Men’s race was a heated battle for a spectacular-friendly final event of the season. An early lead was taken by Cole House (Intelligentsia Coffee/Broken Spoke) with Tristan Schouten (Rolf Prima/Attitude Sports) hot on his wheel.
Following closely were Nathan Guerra (Vision Cycling/Attitude Sports), Brian Matter (KS Energy Services/Team WI), Joseph Maloney (KS Energy Services/Team WI) and Justin Piontek (Adventure 212/Specialized).
According to House, several of the leaders were taking turns attacking the group for a break away. Matter sat back for the first few laps, following at around fourth place. House and Schouten got tangled up in what was most likely a failed pass attempt.
The incident left Schouten unable to finish with what appeared to be a separated shoulder. Further mishaps left Guerra dropping from the lead group after flatting in a water crossing.
This left a much smaller lead group. Matter, much like Dendel, already had the series victory clinched before arriving at the venue. But, the Sheboygan local had never before taken the top spot on his own home course.
This was the only WORS race that he had yet to conquer. Knowing that Cole House is a very dominant sprinter, Matter’s strategy was to put some gap on him before arriving at the finish line. House has out sprinted Matter on this course before and Brian did not want to repeat history. House was right there to grab the second step of the podium while Matter’s teammate, Joseph Maloney finished in third. Justin Piontek came in fourth
The WORS season is never over until they have their famous awards banquet. The last stop before off season training is a fantastic dinner and social gathering for all of the series racers.
New Faces Join Seasoned Veterans to Tackle 2015 Calendar
Sho-Air International today presented the Sho-Air/Cannondale Professional Mountain Bike Team at the team’s headquarters and Cannondale flagship store, Sho-Air Cyclery in Orange, California. The team will face the 2015 campaign with a stacked lineup, welcoming newcomers and bringing a former member back “home.”
Canadian National Champion Max Plaxton returns to Team Sho-Air/Cannondale after being on loan to Cannondale Factory Racing during the 2014 season. In addition, up and coming women’s athlete Evelyn Dong also joins the team; this is Dong’s second full year as a pro rider. Over the past two years Dong has shown significant growth in the pro ranks to merit considerable attention and a factory ride.
“We’ve been impressed with Evelyn’s rapid advance to the front of the women’s races,” said Sho-Air owner Scott Tedro. “It was easy for us to name her as our choice to battle it out in the women’s events. She has a never-give-up attitude that is inspiring to fans, both men and women alike, and I personally can’t wait to see her continue to grow in the sport.”
Complimenting these two will be two young professionals who have already achieved national championship status. These athletes include 2013 US Cross Country National Champion and 2014 Short Track National Champion Stephen Ettinger as well as 2014 U23 Cross Country National Champion Keegan Swenson. Together, these riders form a formidable cross country team ready and able to take on a world class cross country calendar.
“This is a powerhouse team,” said Tedro. “With all the great things happening in American cross country racing, I’m proud to see this group of racers fly our colors. It’s going to be an incredible season and I can’t wait for it to get started.”
“Mountain biking is growing across the United States,” said Dave Manchester, Cannondale’s senior vice president of sales and marketing for North America. “We’re looking forward to be at the forefront of the sport in America and are excited to be partnering with Sho-Air Cycling Group as US mountain biking expands.”
With 3 HC races and an additional 6 UCI events between the U.S. Cup and PRO XCT series, as well as the Pan-American Games and two North American World Cup events, the UCI points on offer in North America in 2015 are more than enough to qualify the maximum number of Olympic riders as well as provide premium start positions at the World Cup races and World Championships without ever leaving North America.
During today’s team presentation, Sho-Air Cycling Group also announced the creation of the Ridebiker Alliance, which is designed to create sustainable club teams in partnership with bicycle retailers across the United States. In addition, the Ridebiker Alliance will provide an exciting privateer program for six aspiring pros, three men and three women, to be part of a turnkey self-promoting, revenue-generating program.
The six riders selected will join the existing four Ridebiker National Professional Representatives, Tinker Juarez, Alex Grant, Kimber Tedro, and Sam Schultz to form a ten-person Ridebiker Alliance Professional Program. The six riders will be chosen from applications submitted via ridebiker.com. These selected Ridebiker professionals will receive a minimum $2,500 in direct sponsorship, five custom-designed race kits, and special pro discount pricing on equipment from participating Ridebiker Alliance sponsors such as Cannondale, Kenda, SUGOI and GU among others.
They will also receive free entry to all U.S. Cup events, along with personalized website and social media support from Sho-Air Cycling Group. Full application details, qualifications, and rules will be posted on ridebiker.com on December 1st, with the final selection announcement slated for December 15th.
The 2015 USA Cycling U.S. Cup schedule is as follows:
- Round 1: March 14 – Bonelli Park, San Dimas Calif. (UCI Category C1)
- Round 2: March 21 – Fontana, Fontana City, Calif. (UCI Category HC)
- Round 3: April 11 – Bonelli Park, San Dimas, Calif. (UCI Category HC)
- Round 4: April 18 – Sea Otter, Monterrey, Calif. (UCI Category C3)
- Round 5: June 27 – Colorado Springs, Colo. (UCI Category HC)