Written by: Shannon Boffeli
Saturday saw the first round of the Utah State Championship
Series, a dirt circuit cross country in Alpine, Utah. The unique race uses a
short cross country circuit of just over 3 miles. Each lap includes two
significant climbs, several technical singletrack descents and lots of imbedded
rocks. Before the race Cannondale rider Keegan Swenson referred to the course
at Lambert Park as, "world cup style racing, right here in Utah.Ē
The challenging course seems to be a hit with racing locals
as participation grew by close to 200 riders in itís second year, hosting a
total of 330 racers.
Amateur categories started in the morning followed by the
pros in early afternoon. The male and female professionals completed 4 laps of
The menís event included most of the top competitors in the
state including Keegan Swenson fresh off his world cup podium in Houffalize,
Belgium. Also on hand was the Roosterís/Bikerí Edge super team of Brent
Pontius, Nick Fischer, and Quinn Bingham.
Off the line Bingham shot to the front but was overtaken by
Swenson heading into the first descent. Swenson began to inch away throughout
the first lap until hitting the main climb at the start of lap two when he
really began to open a gap over the chasing Fischer and Pontius.
Now clearly out front the Cannondale rider exhibited his
all-around skill as a mountain bike rider attacking both the climbs and descents with unstoppable
speed and quickness.
Fischer held a firm grip on second while his teammate Brent
Pontius waged a back-and-forth battle with Ben Aufderheide (The Hub). A native
of Jackson, Wyoming, Aufderheide proved you donít need a fast start to be in
the mix in cross country. The Jackson rider was dead last on the opening climb
but used his ascending strength to slowly pick off one rider after another.
The final two laps saw Aufderheide surge into 3rdposition on the climbs only to have Pontius reclaim the spot on the
techy-descents. Unfortunately, for Pontius the race ended with an uphill
sprint, which pushed the advantage back to Aufderheide.
In the end it was Keegan Swenson taking a commanding win
followed by a very fast Nick Fischer. Ben Aufderheide took the sprint for third
over Pontius while Will McDonald (Cole Sport) turned in a strong ride for
The womenís race was equally exciting as Erica Tingey
(Kuhl/Rocky Mountain) made an appearance after finishing in the top-15 at the
Sea Otter Classic just one week before. Tingey would be challenged by Utahís
perennial top-rated cross country racer Kathy Sherwin (Stanís No Tubes). XTERRA
professional Emma Garrard (Specialized) was also on hand as well as Jen Hanks
(Epic Brewing/MTBRaceNews.com) who has been on the podium at every race she has
done after missing all of 2011 being treated for breast cancer.
Tingey was the first to attack as she powered off the start
line determined to hit the singletrack in front. Hanks followed close behind
before Sherwin squeaked into second wheel just before the descending started.
Tingey continued to power her way through the rocky course showcasing
some new found skills on the technical portions of the course. Riding with
confidence on the tight, rocky, and demanding singletrack the Kuhl rider built
on her lead over Sherwin who admitted after the race she wasnít having her best
day on the bike.
Sherwin was able to put some distance between herself and
third placed rider Jen Hanks who was enjoying the challenging terrain and power
climbs spread throughout Lambert Park.
By the end of 4 laps Erica Tingey had pulled ahead by just
over a minute with Sherwin crossing the line in second. Hanks took third,
securing a spot on yet another podium while Emma Garrard finished fourth
followed by KC Holley (4Life).
The next round of the Utah State Championship Series takes
place in Park City, Utah, June 23rd. There riders will compete on a
more traditional cross country course before the series finishes with two
50-mile events July 21st and September, 15th. To find out
more about the Utah State Championship Series visit http://www.RaceUSCS.com.
∑ The winners of both pro classes took home over
$200 and cash went 7 deep in the menís race and 5 deep in the womenís
∑ The fastest men and women in both the sport and
expert classes also took home big checks for their efforts