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Olympians pace endurance races

Steve Benson
XXX XXX of Argentina blazes through a section of the Big Burn Cross Country course Saturday during the 26-mile cross country race at the Snowmass NORBA National Championship Series over the weekend. XXX, who won the women's pro race, is headed to the Athens Summer Olympics. Aspen Times photo/Devon Meyers.
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A trio of 2004 Olympic mountain bikers, including the two Coloradans who make up the U.S. men’s team, dominated the National Off Road Biking Association (NORBA) Snowmass National Championship Series cross-country races at the Snowmass Ski Area over the weekend.On Saturday, Durango’s Todd Wells and Boulder’s Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski finished first and second, respectively, in the 26-mile men’s pro division cross-country race. Wells and Horgan-Kobelski leave for the Athens Summer Games on Sunday, with the Olympic race slated for Aug. 28.Wells cranked out two laps and 6,000 feet of climbing on the Big Burn Cross Country course in 1 hour, 57 minutes, 59 seconds, with Horgan-Kebelski in at 1:59:11. Geoff Kabush of Victoria, British Columbia, was the only other man to finish in under two hours (1:59:33).”It’s a great way to end our campaign in the U.S., for sure,” Horgan-Kobelski, 26, said about the American duo’s one-two finish.Jimena Florit, who lives and trains in San Diego but is representing her native Argentina in the Olympics, won the pro women’s cross-country race (on a shorter course) in 1:46.5. Durango’s Shonny Vanlandingham was second (1:47.4).”This is a great course for me,” Florit said. “It’s really a climber’s course, I love it.”

Florit said the cross-country course in Greece will be more of a “power” course, and she’ll be spending the next week in San Diego preparing.The NORBA National Championship Series concludes with its seventh installment of the summer season in Durango, Aug. 26-29, where overall winners will be crowned.And with Florit in Greece, it may open the window for Vanlandingham.Vanlandingham has been battling Florit for NORBA National Series points all season, and she feels good about her chances of winning the series championship.”It will be nice to be at home, training and racing on my hometown course,” she said. “Traveling and flying takes a lot of energy out of you.”Willow Koerber of Gunnison took third (1:52:23).

In the men’s pro division short track cross-country race Sunday, on a course resembling a bent up coat hanger at the base of Fanny Hill, it was the Canadian, Kabush, who was victorious.Kabush held off the 28-year-old Wells by 10 seconds – after about a half hour of criterium-style racing – to claim his second cross-country podium of the weekend. Corinth, Maine’s Craig Wells took third and Horgan-Kobelski fourth, with the nation’s top nordic skier, Carl Swenson of Gunnison, in sixth (up from eighth in the traditional cross-country race Saturday).Woody Creek’s Alex Hagman finished 23rd in the short track, down from an impressive 11th in Saturday’s cross-country race against the top pros.For Wells, if this was a last-minute gut check, he answered with a career-best weekend of National Series racing with the one-two results.”Anytime you can win an event like this, or even be in the top five, it’s great for your confidence,” he said. “Because anytime you win you have to have a little luck, too – not to flat or crash – and you need that on your side, too.”Neither Wells nor Horgan-Kobelski, last year’s National Series overall champion, have earned many NORBA points this season due to near-constant training and racing abroad.

“[The Olympics] are going to be a lot harder than this weekend,” Wells said.In the women’s pro division short track cross-country race, Alison Dunlap of Colorado Springs improved her fourth-place result from Saturday’s regular-format cross-country race with a victory with a five-second edge on Olympian Florit. Durango’s Vanlandingham was third.Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.comTim Mutrie contributed to this report.


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