The Women of Mountain Biking :: Bonelli Pro XCT / US Cup Triple Crown

Story: Tonya R. Bray
Photos: Corey J. Keizer

The US Cup Triple Crown and USA Cycling Pro XCT Tour mountain bike races kicked off at Bonelli Park in San Dimas, California last Saturday and for most of the Pro women of mountain biking, it was the first race of the season. The southern migration delivered the peloton into a subtly warm day perfect for first hard efforts of the year.

With a start list of only 20 Pro women, the chances of getting on the podium for up and comers were good. And a few of these ladies were here to take advantage and bask in the Southern California sun.

 

A quiet moment before the race (Stan's No Tubes Elite team). Photo: Corey Keizer www.coreykeizer.com

Several new teams have popped up on the circuit for 2011 including¬† Stan’s No Tubes Elite Women’s Team headed up by long-time Pro Shannon Gibson and supported by Kricket Lewis. Seasoned Pros Zephanie Blasi, Kathy Sherwin and Nina Baum are joined by newcomer Kaila Hart– who raced her first Pro race at Bonelli.

 

Focus for Kaila Hart's (Stan's No Tubes) Pro debut. Photo: Corey Keizer www.coreykeizer.com

The favorites on the day were naturally current US National Champion Georgia Gould (Luna), Emily Batty (Subaru/Trek) and Heather Irmiger (Subaru/Trek). Noticeably absent from the start list were local Pro Allison Mann (Rock n Road) who is out on injury and Willow Koerber (Trek). After a stellar Bronze Medal performance at World Championships in 2010, Willow was transferred to the Trek World Cup team, meaning she won’t be racing as many domestic races but will race major UCI (Union Cyclistse Internationale, the international governing body of cycling) races in an effort to gain points and placing for her Olympic bid.

 

"First to the buffet," Judy Freeman (Kenda) is anxious to get this show on the dirt. Photo: Corey Keizer www.coreykeizer.com

Former California resident Carolyn Popovic was on hand to represent yet another new team to the Pro women’s peloton, Team CF (Cystic Fibrosis). The team’s mission “is to use cycling as a platform to promote fitness for those with CF, to increase awareness of CF, and to raise money for CF research” according to the web site. The team is comprised of amateur and professional cyclists of all disciplines, including individuals suffering from Cystic Fibrosis. Popovic made this her second appearance in Southern California in 6 months. Her last visit was for the SoCal Cross Krosstoberfest UCI races in San Dimas last October where she placed 4th in the back to back races. And while she has been focusing on cyclocross, this year Popovic makes the commitment to get back on the mountain bike scene.

 

Judy Freeman (Kenda) knows fast. Photo: Corey Keizer www.coreykeizer.com

The third major newcomer team to the women’s elite peloton is Team BMC developmental mountain bike team. Erika Zaveta, last year’s collegiate champion, is joined by mountain bike star Chloe Forsman. Forsman provides leadership with her International experience, and at 24 years old she is the oldest on the team. Chloe, originally from Boulder where she began her mountain bike career, lives and trains in Tucson, Arizona now, trading snow for sand and Aspens for Saguaro. Chloe raced the 24 hours in the old pueblo for the first time and plans to throw the Whiskey Offroad 50 into her Pro XCT calendar. “I’m excited to win something this year,” says Chloe aglow from her 5th place podium finish. And Chloe loves her new bike the BMC Team Elite One. “It’s 3 pounds lighter than any other race bike I’ve been on, a real treat!”

“I thought it was fun” Forsman said of the short course format. “More like a European World Cup course, that type of racing suits me well, I loved it!”

Lea Davidson made the jump from Trek to Specialized in 2011. The young rider spent 2010 in rehab from a hip injury sustained in the gym and proved that even with a full season off the bike, determination, dedication and spirit are all it takes to succeed. Lea found herself in second place to Gould at the end of the day- an incredible finish for such a hiatus from racing.

 

Lea Davidson (Specialized) gets some face time with an iPhone camera. Photo: Corey Keizer www.coreykeizer.com

Georgia was victorious in the end running away from the field with a solo time trial for the entire race. It only took Georgia a matter of minutes to establish her dominance, and she rode the entire race off the front with no challengers.¬† Emily Batty (Subaru/Trek) had tire troubles taking her out of contention for the top 3, but finished easily in fourth ahead of BMC’s Chloe Forsman.

Krista Park (Incycle/Cannondale) had a great race ending up in 3rd place. “I don’t know where that came from!” she exclaimed. Krista is on form after spending the early season racing in Cyprus, and she exuded the energy she gained from being in Europe. Although Krista is focusing on Europe this season, she decided to make the quick trip back to the States to test her early season fitness against her American counterparts.

 

Current US National Champion Georgia Gould animates the race for a young admirer. Photo: Corey Keizer www.coreykeizer.com

A little chat after the race for BMC Developmental riders Erika Zaveta (l) and Chloe Forsman (r). Photo: Corey Keizer www.coreykeizer.com

At the end of cross country, the ladies of mountain biking were relaxed and seemingly relieved the finish line was left behind. Heather Irmiger (Subaru/Trek) was especially happy as she suffered from a stomach bug during the race due to her travels– which took her out of contention. But Irmiger always peaks late in the year, and we’re excited to see if she can best her amazing 6th place 2010 World Championship finish.

Next stop on the Pro XCT Tour is Fontana, which is a UCI 1 event, and the field is expected to be one of the largest Fontana has seen.

Stay tuned for our photo gallery by Corey Keizer and more stories about the women of mountain biking.

Women’s XC Results

1. Georgia Gould (Luna) at 1:40:44.80
2. Lea Davison (Specialized) at 1:42:57.71
3. Krista Park (Incycle/Cannondale), at 1:47:58.77
4. Emily Batty (Subaru-Trek) at 1:48:32.88
5. Chloe Forsman (BMC Development Team) at 1:49:06.89
6. Judy Freeman (Kenda/Felt) at 1:51:34.69
7. Daniela Campuzano Chavez (Mexico National Team) at 1:54:53.04
8. Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt) at 1:55:53.03
9. Zephanie Blasi (Stan’s No Tubes Elite Women), at 1:59:10.96
10. Lydia Tanner (Tokyo Joes) at 1:59:17.46
11. Sarah Kaufmann (Elete Electrolytes) at 1:59:46.15
12. Carolyn Popovic (Team CF) at 2:00:03.52
13. Kelsy Bingham
14. Erica Zaveta, BMC Development
15. Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Trek)
16. Deyanira Guerrero (World Cycles)
17. Kaila Hart (Stan’s No Tubes Elite Women)
18. Shannon Gibson (Stan’s No Tubes Elite Women)

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