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What's In Store for NORBA 2000?
Pre-Olympic Season Preview

• Norba #1: May 19, 2000

The racers are primed, the snow is melted and the schedule set. With each winter's thaw into summer, the best racers in the U.S. (and abroad) gear up for this country's professional championship series, and this year there is more on the line than usual. With the World Championships in June and the Olympic Games in September...this should be an interesting season of racing.

Five of America's best mountain resorts will come alive this summer for one weekend of professional and amateur racing, when the U.S. National Championships of mountain biking strikes out for a new century of competition. With the World Cup already two months into its season, the U.S. National Championships are getting off to a late start. But, with the Olympics and a mid-season World Championships to consider in the schedule, it was unavoidable and shouldn't detract from a summer of big action.

As the oldest pro circuit and national series in the sport, the NORBA series has long been providing a fun weekend away for amateurs and spectators — while serving up plenty of torture for the hundreds of pros who campaign its season-long series.

The NORBA series bestows not only the national championship title (based on season-long performance), but will also determine the U.S. national teams for the World Championships in June and, for cross-country racers, the Olympic Games in September. The formula for success will be consistency, timing and — as always — some sheer luck.

So 2000 is underway at last, and none too soon. The season unofficially began a couple months ago in the Arizona desert when Tinker Juarez (USA, Volvo-Cannondale) and Ann Trombley (USA, Koulius Zaard) won the AMBC Hedgehog Hustle, an important Olympic team qualifier. This season is a bit shorter than most, at five races, but the venues are (except for Crystal Mountain, WA) tried and true, and should provide solid courses and a good base of participants.

In cross-country racing it's easy to know who to watch, as the World Cup season has been underway for five rounds of competition. In the downhill it's a bit harder to tell, as you never know who's going to shine until they're pointed, well, downhill.

Alison Dunlap (USA, Team GT) is by far the brightest star of the U.S. program — cross-country or downhill. She's ranked number one in cross-country World Cup racing and is an odds-on favorite to medal at the Olympic Games. But behind her are several other women, such as Ruthie Matthes (USA, Trek Volkswagen) and Ann Trombley (USA, Koulius Zaard) who also want to line up in Sydney and have their shot at the national title.

But while the U.S. national title is only open to Americans, the NORBA title itself is open to all nationalities and will be in the crosshairs of talented riders like teammates Mary Grigson (AUS, Gary Fisher/Saab) and Chrissy Redden (CAN, Gary Fisher/Saab).

Generally speaking, men's cross-country racing is the U.S.'s weakest asset in the sport. But within our universe, men racing for the title will include veteran racer Tinker Juarez (USA, Volvo-Cannondale) — who always seems to be the top U.S. man in World Cup competition, while Steve Larsen (USA, L.L. Bean/Mongoose) will also be looking to regain his title. Travis Brown (USA, Trek Volkswagen) is the defending champion, but a broken leg in the early World Cup season has hampered his chances to repeat his title.

Downhill and dual slalom's ranks are full of talented men and women, although their chances are hard to gauge at this point. Women such as former World Champions Leigh Donovan (USA, Schwinn/Toyota) and Missy Giove (USA, Foes/Azonic) are always a safe bet, as are men like Brian Lopes (USA, Volvo-Cannondale) and Eric Carter (USA, Team GT).

Racing kicks off the weekend of May 18th in Big Bear, a small lakeside town up in the San Bernardino mountains where the courses are typically dry, dusty and hot. From there the circuit heads back east to Mount Snow, Vermont — home of roots, rocks and big black flies.

Deer Valley, Utah is the third stop, where the downhill and cross-country courses are steep and dusty as well. Then Crystal Mountain — just outside of Seattle — hosts the fourth stop for its first time. The finals take place in one of the sport's originating venues, Mammoth Mountain and it's sky-high elevation and large spectator draw.

The 2000 Season Schedule:
May 20-21
#1 Snow Summit, CA

June 24-25
#2 Mt. Snow, VT

July 29-30
#3 Deer Valley, UT

August 5-6
#4 Crystal Mtn., WA

September 9-10
Finals, Mammoth, CA

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