Team Sho-Air / Cannondale wrapped up this past weekend’s National Championships with five podium finishes in the US and Canadian cross country and short track events.
Bear Creek Mountain near Allentown, Pennsylvania hosted the American championships this year. With the weather hitting near-record heights, the riders were looking forward to a scorcher. While the temps cooled down and even threatened rain for Saturday’s cross country events, it was the racing that heated up the action.
In the women’s event, Monique “Pua” Mata got off to a good start and joined the leading group on the first lap. From there, she settled into second place early on and rode steadily to hold her position and claim the silver. “It was awesome. I got second, my best XC pro national ever. It was a real mountain bike course. We started out together… Lea was super strong and I just couldn’t make up the time,” said a beaming Pua after the race.
In the men’s race, Jeremiah Bishop and Alex Grant toed the start line aboard their Cannondale Scapel 29er’s, ready to face an elite field in the fight for the title. Bishop and Todd Wells (Specialized) renewed their rivalry by distancing the field early. They both seemed to pay for their efforts by lap four when eventual winner Stephen Ettinger (BMC) caught first Jeremiah and eventually Wells, whom he later gapped on a descent on the final lap to claim the win. Jeremiah held on for a very respectable third place, with Alex in fifth.
“It was a really rough course, I started well and the legs were decent,” said Bishop, post-race. “But I couldn’t handle the heat. It became a race of attrition. In the first lap, Todd and I were just jockeying for position. He put a nasty pace on and the heat just got to me. With this humidity it was just impossible to cool down. Once I got some cold bottles at the start / finish, I rallied a little bit and even closed the gap a little bit when Ettinger went by. It just wasn’t my day. I was suffering a little bit from the crash in Wisconsin last week. I want to thank my Sho-Air / Cannondale team and all the fans out there because they were rowdy and a lot of fun!”
Alex Grant raced well and got a personal record fifth place. After a good start that saw him in the top ten, he steadily worked his way through the pack. “This is a career best at cross country nationals,” said Alex. “I raced a lot of cross country races earlier this year and did more XC-specific training. That definitely helped, along with the course being technical, which I like. That might have been one of the hottest races I’ve ever done. Todd and Jeremiah got a gap on us right from the start. I dropped back to eighth and kept moving up steadily. Getting married must be a good luck thing, I keep racing better. Maybe we’ll get married every year and I’ll keep stepping it up!”
Elite men cross country
1. Stephen Ettinger (BMC) 1:35:17
2. Todd Wells (Specialized) 0:00:49
3. Jeremiah Bishop (Team SHO-AIR / Cannondale) 0:02:20
4. Spencer Paxson (Kona) 0:05:28
5. Alex Grant (Team SHO-AIR / Cannondale) 0:05:39
Elite women cross country
1. Lea Davison (Specialized) 1:35:00
2. Pua Mata (Team SHO-AIR / Cannondale) 0:02:48
On Sunday, the short track events continued the podium count, while the elusive victory remained just out of reach. Pua fell just off the podium in sixth place, just 0:33 behind Davison, while in the men’s race, Jeremiah took third behind Wells and Ettinger, 0:47 back. Alex Grant finished his weekend off with seventh place in an event that is admittedly not suited to his long-distance strengths.
In the Canadian Cross Country National Championships held just north of Toronto, Team SHO-AIR / Cannondale’s Max Plaxton finished third behind Geoff Kabush (Scott – 3 Rox) and his teammate and winner Derek Zandstra (Scott – 3 Rox). Most of the decisive action took place in the first lap, as the Scott – 3 Rox team played to their strength in numbers perfectly, forcing Max to chase down an early attack by Cameron Jette. Once joined, Kabush countered while Max chased again. By the time Zandstra counter-attacked and distanced himself, Max had nothing left to bring him back. “They were just smart,” said Max of the team tactics. “I mean, if I had three or four teammates, we would have done exactly the same thing. It was a big effort to pull Geoff back, but I was feeling good. With a lap and a half to go, I wiped out in an off-camber corner and laid it down, and unfortunately that was it.”
Elite men cross country
1. Derek Zandstra (Scott – 3 Rox Racing)
2. Geoff Kabush (Scott – 3 Rox Racing)
3. Max Plaxton (Team SHO-Air / Cannondale)
The team next heads to Vermont for the final round of the Pro XCT series, where Jeremiah Bishop will do battle with Todd Wells and the series title. Many may recall the herculean chase Jeremiah made after a messy start caused by poor course markings in the Wisconsin round. Jeremiah promises to give it his all in his chase for the title.