Brian Lopes and Anneke Beerten grab titles, shake up season standings at second race of Jeep King of the Mountain 2007 Mountain Biking World Professional Championships in California.
Grand Finale on Sept. 1 in Beaver Creek, Colo. to Determine Men’s and Women’s World Professional Champions.For Laguna Beach’s Brian Lopes, who just wrapped up his record sixth UCI World Cup Championship, heading back to California for the second race of the Jeep® King of the Mountain series proved to be a very rewarding homecoming. Not only did the 25-time World Cup titlist earn the victory at The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, but in the process he moved into a tie for first place in the overall season standings and moved closer to bringing home the elusive crown of World Professional Champion.
Joining Lopes on top of the podium was none other than the red-hot Anneke Beerten of the Netherlands, who is vying for her own UCI World Cup Championship with two wins already in the 2007 season. She kept her form in San Luis Obispo, and the payoff was her second-ever Jeep King of the Mountain victory and a jump to the top of the overall standings heading into the final race of the season.
Thousands of race fans filled the stands and lined the racecourse in San Luis Obispo, providing a home court atmosphere for the seven invited Golden State athletes battling for a share of the record $100,000 cash purse and the season-ending reward of a new 2008 Jeep Liberty. The scene is likely to be similar at the Jeep King of the Mountain grand finale on September 1 in Beaver Creek, Colo., when the points will be worth double value and every heat counts in deciding the new World Professional Champions.
Lopes, ranked number one in the world and a three-time World Champion and nine-time National Champion, started his day with a sweep of San Luis Obispo’s own Travis Collins, before bringing down Cody Warren of Alpine, a former U.S. National Champion and multiple NORBA titlist, in the semi-finals to reach the Championship Heat. There, he faced off against Rich Houseman of Temecula, a 2006 NORBA Champion who has raced strong in his first year of Jeep King of the Mountain competition. Houseman opened with a two-race win over open qualifier Chris Del Bosco of Vail, Colo., a former USA Cycling National Champion and professional ski racer. In the semi-finals, he ran into savvy veteran Wade Bootes of Australia, the 2004 Jeep King of the Mountain World Professional Champion, 2006 Australian National Champion and former World Champion. In one of the day’s tightest match-ups, Bootes won the first race before being disqualified for running over a gate. Houseman topped Bootes in the second race and moved into the finals based on time differential. In the Championship Heat, Lopes swept Houseman to claim his second Jeep King of the Mountain title in three years in San Luis Obispo, and third overall. In the Consolation Heat, Bootes defeated Warren to earn third place.
“I really like the grade of the slope here at the Madonna Mountain, and I’ve been able to have some success with two wins and a second place finish in the past three years,” said Lopes. “I knew that it was going to be very fast all the way down, and so it was especially important to stay right with the person you were racing against and to go for the jumps to gain that additional time. Fortunately I was able to make it work.”
In the women’s competition, Beerten earned a bye in the first round based on her top spot in the time trials, before racing past five-time British National Champion Fionn Griffiths of the U.K. in the semi-finals to reach the Championship Heat. Meeting her there would be Melissa Buhl of Chandler, Ariz., the recently crowned U.S. National Champion and former NORBA Champion, Buhl’s day included a first round win over open qualifier Leana Gerrard of Bellingham, Wash., a collegiate National Champion and NORBA titlist, and a semi-final defeat of rival Tara Llanes of Los Alamitos, Calif., the 2006 USA Cycling Downhill National Champion and two-time national four-cross champion. In the finals, Beerten won the first race but lost the second race, winning the title on a close time differential. The pair now stands tied for first place in the overall season standings. Griffiths held off Llanes in the Consolation Heat to place third.
“I felt really good out there, and this course really suited my riding style,” said Beerten. “In the finals, I knew that after winning the first race, it was critical that I stay with Melissa (Buhl) in the second race, even if she got ahead. I was able to get the win, and this is going to be a great focus for me heading into the last race of the season as I really want that title and will give it 100 percent.”
The Jeep King of the Mountain series will now head to the Beaver Creek Resort in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Saturday, September 1, for the grand finale, where the men’s and women’s World Professional Champion will be named. World Professional Champions are crowned based on a system of cumulative points earned throughout the season. In Beaver Creek, the point totals will be worth double value, meaning any of the top contenders has a chance to capture the crown.
Each race of the 2007 Mountain Biking World Professional Championships will be televised to a national broadcast audience on CBS Sports, representing the most expansive coverage of professional mountain bike racing in recent history. The race from San Luis Obispo will air on CBS Sports on September 23 from 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. EST (check local listings).
About the Jeep King of the Mountain Series
The Jeep King of the Mountain was established in 1993. Jeep is the title sponsor for the Jeep King of the Mountain Series. The Mountain Biking World Professional Championships are the sister competition to wintertime’s Skiing & Snowboarding World Professional Championships, now celebrating its 15th season. Other marketing partners for the Jeep King of the Mountain include Bike Magazine, Columbia Sportswear Company, Edge Advanced Shave Gel, John Paul Mitchell Systems, Madonna Inn, Mopar, Nalgene, San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, San Luis Obispo County Visitors Bureau, Utah Sports Commission and Voler. During each race of the World Professional Championships, the athletes will be competing for the right to don the coveted John Paul Mitchell Systems black leader’s jersey, while also accruing points toward a cash bonus at season’s end.
JEEP® KING OF THE MOUNTAIN
2007 Mountain Biking World Professional Championships
August 18 Race Results – Race 2 at The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
1. Brian Lopes – Laguna Beach, Calif.
2. Rich Houseman – Temecula, Calif.
3. Wade Bootes – Australia
4. Cody Warren – Alpine, Calif.
5. Eric Carter – Temecula, Calif.
6. Chris Del Bosco – Vail, Colo.
7. Dale Holmes – Murrieta, Calif.
8. Travis Collins – San Luis Obispo, Calif.
1. Anneke Beerten – The Netherlands
2. Melissa Buhl – Chandler, Ariz.
3. Fionn Griffiths – UK
4. Tara Llanes – Los Alamitos, Calif.
5. Joanna Petterson – Kauai, Hawaii
6. Leana Gerrard – Bellingham, Wash.
7. Neven Steinmetz – Boulder, Colo.