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By Chris Stein
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After battling top domestic and international pros on the rolling hills of Southern California’s Bonelli Park, Max Plaxton (ShoAir-Specialized) and Kelli Emmett (Giant MTB Team) were crowned the respective winners of the men’s and women’s pro cross-country field at the inaugural Triple Crown All Mountain series race in San Dimas.
Even after withering attacks from Sam Schultz (Subaru- Gary Fisher) and Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis- Rocky Mountain), Plaxton was able to break away from the lead group on the last lap, leaving teammate Sid Taberlay (ShoAir) to block the pursuing racers before attacking and finishing in second place.
“I saw an opportunity when I noticed that Kabush was spinning out on the pavement sections,” Plaxton said. “I wouldn’t say I’m the strongest, but I knew when to attack.”
For a while, it looked as though Kabush was the strongest rider in the field. The Canadian Olympian had attacked early and was able to stay on the front for most of the race, even after he flatted and had to swap out a wheel on the last lap. However, after the attack by the ShoAir riders, Kabush lost a sprint at the finish line to Schultz, finishing the race in fourth place.
“Kabush was riding super strong,” Schultz said. “After Taberlay attacked, I was able to lock onto his wheel and then come around.”
In the women’s field, Emmett successfully outsprinted Lene Byberg (Specialized Factory Racing) for first, while Pua Sawicki (Okole Stuff.com) crossed the finish line a minute later after being dropped in the fourth lap.
“I came into the race with tired legs, so I didn’t really have any burst,” said Sawicki, who won the 24 Hour Solo National Championship in 2008. “But it’s the first race of the season so I can’t complain.”
The cross-country field attracted a total of 60 male and 11 female pros. The same racers will be eligible to compete in short track and Super D races Sunday to earn points toward the H20 Overdrive Triple Crown All Mountain Series, which aims to crown the best all-around racer at three different race weekends spread throughout the nation.
The next Triple Crown event will be the Chalk Creek Stampede, held from May 14 through May 16 in Nathrop, Colorado. Meanwhile, the first event of Pro XCT series, where racers will be eligible for UCI points, will be the Fontana City National held in Fontana, California from March 27 to March 28.