By Chris Stein
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After the dust settled Sunday at the Fontana Pro XCT short-track race, Willow Koeber (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Sid Taberlay (ShoAir-Specialized) had ridden their way to victory on the rocky Southern California terrain.
Besides a technical half-mile course featuring sharp corners, rocky climbs and sandy descents, racers had to contend with another feature to this competition — a shortened race time. Rather than the traditional length of 20 minutes plus three laps, promoters decided to shorten both races to fifteen minutes plus one lap, guaranteeing that competitors would be forced to give an all-out effort for the entire race.
“There’s a tendency to play a lot of cat and mouse [in longer races],” said event promoter Tom Spiegel. “Well, there’s no cat and mouse now.”
Halfway through their race, Koeber and her teammate Heather Irmiger managed to open up a gap on a tricky descent, taking turns pulling each other around the course and leaving Leni Byberg (Specialized Factory Racing) and Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) behind.
“Heather was right there and I felt really good,” Koeber said. “We had the legs.”
The duo stayed together for the remainder of the race, until Koeber surged ahead on the final lap, leaving Irmiger to take second place.
Though Gould spent much of the first half of the race sitting in with a number of other racers, she attacked later on, passing Byberg and taking third place.
“I decided not to get sixth place, so I put in a hard effort on the climb,” said Gould, who won the national short track championship last year.
In the men’s race, Taberlay, the Australian short-track national champion, and Ryan Trebon (Kona/FSA) attacked on the course’s narrow corners almost immediately, gapping the 53-rider field by several seconds.
“Ryan put the hammer down the first couple of laps, then I took the front and kept the pace going,” Taberlay said.
A chase group consisting of Max Plaxton (ShoAir-Specialized), Todd Wells (Specialized Factory Team) and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) attempted to track down the leaders, but Plaxton’s presence ensured that they never succeeded in catching his teammate.
Taberlay and Trebon stayed together for most of the race, until Trebon fell slightly behind on the last climb, allowing Taberlay to sprint to victory.
“[Taberlay] had a small gap on the climb, and I stayed 10 feet behind him, but I couldn’t close it,” Trebon said.
Promoter Scott Tedro awarded both Trebon and Taberlay the Most Aggressive Rider award for their performance in the short-track event.
USA Cyling’s Pro Cross Country Tour will continue on April 18 at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California, which will feature cross-country and short-track along with numerous other events.