The first round of the National Mountain Bike Series presented by Maxxis was held March 27th-30th in Fontana, California. The event was well attended with the parking lot overflowing in the Southridge Park under the trees, with pleasant weather greeting the
racers. The downhill was internationally represented
with world cup riders from New Zealand, Australia, Spain and the UK joining the US racers making it quite a competitive event. In the end, the southern hemisphere riders dominated the top five men’s downhill with two Aussie’s and three Kiwi’s on the podium.
Donny Jackson, Southridge Racing promoter, had a nice treat for the downhillers delivering the best Fontana race course of the season. Winding down the neighborhood hill, Jackson added more turns and challenging rock sections to meet up with the “Wall”, a long, flat, vomit inducing pedaling section that, according to Jackson, “The racers either love it or hate it, but always have something to say about it.”
Rennie says, “It’s a good course and it’s unique and it’s hard; it’s really a complement to itself. It’s dry and dusty, and the upper sections make you really concentrate to do it properly. Then when you hit the wall you can finally let it go, and arrrggghhh…for 20 seconds you suffer, then right, left, and it’s getting black, then you’re across the line.”
Practice was ruled by Kovarik, and Rennie comments, “It looks like he’s raced here before!” Rennie quickly got his lines dialed and blasted rocky sections in practice to the whoops and hollers of spectators. It looked like it would be a two horse race, Kovarik in his new, white Chain Reaction Cycles kit, and Rennie, the dark horse in his stealthy, black Troy Lee Designs kit. In fact, the two Aussie’s must have been thinking alike as they ran their qualifier with just 1/100th separating them.
The finals played out just as it looked it would from observing practice. Kovarik cracked into the ‘teens with a 2:19.6, the only rider to do so. Rennie was on his tail with a 2:22.2, but the experience Kovarik has at Fontana bested his best friend by 2.6 seconds with a decisive win on this physically demanding track.
Justin Leov was third with a 2:24.6, followed by teammate Sam Blenkinsop at 2:25.1, and fellow Kiwi, Cameron Cole took fifth with a 2:25.3.
Rennie was satisfied with second place to Kovarik and says this about his run, “I’m pretty tired now. That is a gnarly thing to do, that pedaling, you start to pass out, at least I do! The last five pedal strokes I don’t think I was even pushing on the cranks.”
Kovarik agrees, “I started to pass out too, everything starts getting black at the end. I shouldn’t have had a breakfast burrito an hour and a half before my race.
When I was done I vomited, but I’ve had training doing the Fontana ‘Vomit Series’ all winter.”
Nigel Page, Chain Reaction Cycles team manager says, “I’m pleased that Chris’s hard work all winter is going to pay off not only here, but for the world cup season. He’s now back on top where he always belongs, so we should have some good results this year. I’d like to thank Chris for all his hard work.”
Donny Jackson was pleased with the spectator turnout, “There were so many people on the side of that mountain like I’ve never seen before!”
In the pro women’s class Melissa Buhl crushed the nearest competitor by 8.3 seconds!! Her strength and fitness is a stand out amongst her peers and shows that her training program is working. Lisa Myklak took second place with Joanna Petterson in third.
Claire Buchar raced her new Intense to a 4th place finish and Fionn Griffiths managed a podium position after crashing in her race run.
Kovarik wins first round of the NMBS at Fontana