By Shannon Boffeli
April 28th 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.”
The challenging course seems to be a hit with racing locals as participation grew by close to 200 riders in it’s 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 racecourse.
The men’s 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 Rooster’s/Biker’ 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 don’t 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 3rd position 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 fifth.
The women’s 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 Utah’s perennial top-rated cross country racer Kathy Sherwin (Stan’s 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 ever 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 wasn’t 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 men’s race and 5 deep in the women’s.
• The fastest men and women in both the sport and expert classes also took home big checks for their efforts.
1, Keegan Swenson Cannondale 1.00.03
2, Nick Fischer Rooster’s 1.02.39
3, Ben Aufderheide Hub 1.03.15
4, Brent Pontius Rooster’s 1.03.17
5, Will McDonald Cole Sport 1.04.25
1, Erica Tingey Kuhl/Rocky Mountain 1.13.15
2, Kathy Sherwin Stan’s NoTubes Elite 1.14.17
3, Jen Hanks Epic Brewing/MTBRaceNews.com 1.15.53
4, Emma Garrard Specialized 1.16.25
5, KC Holley 4Life/Mad Dog 1.18.42
6, Susan Minneci 1.24.10
7, Jenelle Kremer Revolution/Peak Fasteners 1.25.47