Sunday, March 13, 2011

Peaks Athletes Shine at US Pro XCT Opener: Jeremiah Bishop Wins & Sam Schultz Takes 8th

Bishop takes victory on final lap, Plaxton, Wells round out top three
By: Ty Kady

Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale Factory Racing) took the win at the opening round of the US Pro XCT in Bonelli Park in California, on Saturday afternoon. He won the first major American cross country race of the season ahead of Max Plaxton (Specialized) and Todd Wells (Specialized).

Sid Taberlay (Kenda/H2O Overdrive) looked like the man to beat until the very last lap, when Bishop caught him and took over the lead. Taberlay was spent and after Bishop sped past, and Plaxton and Wells got by him, too.

"My training has been going really well this winter. I knew I still had the gas to do cross country efforts after the sensations I had at the Ice Man [Cometh] late last year," said Bishop.

The men's pro race was nothing short of a barn burner with over 80 men on the start line. The last lap proved to be a wild one, with multiple position changes that left the scoreboard turned upside down.

Taberlay had what looked like an insurmountable lead, but it wasn't to be after the Australian came "unglued" on the last lap and was swallowed up by a rejuvenated Bishop, Plaxton and Wells, who all closed over a minute on Taberlay in the last lap.

In the end, it was surprise winner Bishop who took the win.

How it unfolded:

Early on the first lap, it was Todd Wells, followed by Sid Taberlay, Max Plaxton, Jeremiah Bishop, Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain/Maxxis) and 75 other men. The togetherness didn't last long as Australian Sid Taberlay, coming off a summer season Down Under, quickly went to the front and set a blistering pace.

For the next six laps, Taberlay put on a clinic as he put time on North America's best riders, slicing the Bonelli course apart.

Bishop and Wells were in hot pursuit with Plaxton, and others in tow. Taberlay appeared to be on a mission as he put time on the leaders every lap.

With Taberlay off the front, it was a see-saw battle between Wells, Bishop, Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain), Plaxton, Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek), Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Trek) and Raphael Gagne (Rocky Mountain).

On lap three, Bishop dropped a chain and lost contact with the main chase group.

Then on lap four, Plaxton suffered a flat and dropped off the group, while Bishop slowly clawed his way back onto the chase group.

Out front, Taberlay was on autopilot and looked to have the race in the bag with over a minute lead; however that would soon change.

Behind Taberlay, Bishop was back on the train with Wells, Kabush, and Gagne. Plaxton passed Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant), and Gagne and the others were trying to get into the chase group.

And then all hell broke loose. Heading into the last lap, everything changed. Wells surrendered his second place to Bishop, who was riding out of his skin. And to everyone's surprise, Bishop went off solo in search of Taberlay.

Behind him, Wells was about to be caught his new teammate Plaxton, who was laying down the gauntlet in an effort to get back on.

Kabush faltered and was slipped back off the chase group, while teammate Gagne was making a surge of his own now closing in on fifth.

Bishop had Taberlay in sight on the course's first climb and by the time they reached the rocky descent, Bishop was all over the Aussie. On the second bridge crossing, Bishop punched it up a steep climb to take the lead before heading into the new pro section.

"I just never gave up and took matters into my own hands," said Bishop, who complimented the US Cup on this year's Bonelli Park course. The things they added compared to last year made this a first class venue and a real cross country course."

From that point on the Harrisonburg, Virginia resident rode comfortably in the race lead, and took a 20-second win. This was Bishop's first national cross country win since Sugar Mountain in North Carolina many years ago.

Plaxton made an attack on the last climb of the day to secure second over Specialized teammate Wells.

"I was feeling good out there until about two to go," said Wells. "This course is deceiving and takes its toll on you lap after lap. But it's early in the season, and a top three was a good start."

"I was up there early on and was feeling super smooth on my S-Works Epic," said Plaxton. "I liked the course and the more technical sections suited me well. But I flatted on lap four, I think, and spent the rest of the time suffering to get back on. That last lap was weird as it all came back together after Sid had issues."

Taberlay kept it together to hold on for fourth after leading the whole day, while 24-year-old Canadian Gagne rounded out the top five.

Kabush, Horgan-Kobelski, Schultz, Craig and Stephen Ettinger (BMC) filled the fifth through 10th places.

Next up is the super D followed by the short track on Sunday. The best two scores on the weekend will determine the weekend's Pro Triple Crown All Mountain winner.
Full Results

Elite Men Results:

1 Jeremiah Bishop (USA) Cannondale 1:40:15
2 Max Plaxton (Can) Specialized 0:00:19
3 Todd Wells (USA) Specialized 0:00:24
4 Sid Taberlay (Aus) Kenda/H2O Overdrive 0:01:12
5 Raphael Gagne (Can) Rocky Mountain 0:02:04
6 Geoff Kabush (Can) Rocky Mountain 0:02:13
7 Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA) Subaru-Trek 0:02:37
8 Samuel Schultz (USA) Subaru-Trek 0:03:12
9 Adam Craig (USA) Rabobank/Giant 0:03:48
10 Stephen Ettinger (USA) BMC Development Team 0:04:04
11 Troy Wells (USA)

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