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Norba #1 Race Preview
Snow Summit, CA: May 19, 2000

• Cross-Country
• Short Track Cross-Country
• Dual Slalom
• Downhill

Rolling into Big Bear Lake, California, it's obvious what's about to happen. Storefront signs read, "Welcome Mountain Bikers!" Nearing Snow Summit, packs of pedalers outnumber cars yet every automobile is toting a bike. I spotted some campers; their tent was pitched on pavement (roadside) with bikes strewn about - now that's core. Why the fuss you might ask? NORBA, of course.

Within the past week, Snow Summit at Big Bear was given the official nod (permit granted) by the USFS, allowing it to host the first stop of the 2000 NORBA National Championship Series (NCS) tour on its maze of trails. Without the precious permit, the race would have taken a detour from the past 11 years - not necessarily a change in venue, just a different trail system.

However, thanks to some fast and furious work by Team Big Bear, mountain bike talent from every corner of the States and abroad, is here in Southern California - riding the tasty trails and weaving through the city of factory tents that has popped up in the past few days - preparing for the official start of the year 2000 (drum roll please).

This is the first stop, but ultimately the tour crowns a national champion and perhaps a nomination to strut in Sydney (Olympics) for the Stars & Stripes - now that's a plate full. While the elite shine - the races aren't just for the pros...

NORBA (National Off-Road Bicycle Association) is grassroots if you will. It organizes races for the masters, juniors, and even the youngin's get a shot at the podium. In fact, as I neared the cross-country track this afternoon, a pair of grade-school speedsters hammered past me on their mini-mountain frames, looking back to ask, "Is this the beginner's track?" I shrugged - sure, why not?

With athletes competing in cross-country (enduro laps on a seven mile course), short-track cross-country (speedy, three-quarter mile laps but don't fall behind or you're benched), dual slalom (side-by-side gates, berms, whoops and jumps), and downhill (brakes aren't required but helmets are), the mix of talent makes for some fine spectating. Competitors are out in full force and have been since the beginning of the week - gasping in the thin air, picking their lines, and taking spills while it doesn't count.

So far, I've seen a few face plants, a downhill frame crack like an egg, lots of smiles, but no Big Bears. However, tomorrow's another day - be sure to check back...

Lucas Kane - Dehydrated and lost in the high alpine for

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